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Winston Rodney, OD (born 1 March 1945), also known as Burning Spear, is a Jamaican roots reggae singer and musician. Burning Spear is known for his Rastafari movement messages.
Rodney was born in Saint Ann's Bay, Saint Ann, Jamaica, as were reggae singer Bob Marley and political activist Marcus Garvey who both had a great influence on Rodney's life: Garvey in his philosophy, which Burning Spear greatly took to, and Marley in directly helping Burning Spear get started in the music industry (by some accounts) by introducing him to Clement Dodd. Rodney met Marley at the latter's farm in 1969, and having told him that he wanted to get into the music business, Marley advised him to start at Dodd's Studio One label. Reggae singer Larry Marshall claimed that it was he, while visiting St. Ann's Bay with Jackie Mittoo, who was approached by Rodney, and gave him this advice, and arranged the introduction.
Burning Spear was originally Rodney's group, named after Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister and President of an independent Kenya, and including bass singer Rupert Willington. This duo auditioned for Dodd in 1969, and recorded the debut single "Door Peep". They were joined by tenor Delroy Hinds (brother of Justin Hinds). The trio recorded several more singles for Dodd, and two albums, before they moved on to work with Jack Ruby in 1975. Their first recording with Ruby, "Marcus Garvey", was intended as an exclusive track for Ruby's Ocho Rios-based Hi-Power sound system, but was released as a single, giving them an immediate hit, and was followed by "Slavery Days". These recordings featured the backing band The Black Disciples, which included Earl "Chinna" Smith, Valentine Chin, Robbie Shakespeare and Leroy Wallace.
The group worked with Ruby on their third album, Marcus Garvey (1976), which was immediately successful and led to a deal with Island Records to give the album a wider release. Island remixed and altered the speed of some of the tracks, much to the annoyance of fans and the group, leading Rodney to set up his own Spear label for future releases where he would have full control, although further releases followed on Island including a dub album (Garvey's Ghost) and the Man in the Hills album. In late 1976, Rodney split from both Ruby and group members Willington and Hinds, and from that point on used the name Burning Spear for himself alone. Dry and Heavy followed in 1977, self-produced but still on Island, and with a sizeable following by now in the United Kingdom, he performed in London that year with members of Aswad acting as his backing band for a sold-out show at the Rainbow Theatre, which was recorded and released as Live!. Aswad also provided backing on his next studio album, Social Living (1978), which also featured Sly Dunbar and Rico Rodriguez. A dub version of the album, Living Dub (1979), was mixed by Sylvan Morris. His profile was raised further by an appearance in the film Rockers, performing "Jah no Dead".
In 1980, Rodney left Island Records, and set up the Burning Spear label, which he signed to EMI, debuting on the label with Hail H.I.M., recorded at Marley's Tuff Gong studio and co-produced by Aston Barrett. A Sylvan Morris dub version followed in the form of Living Dub Volume Two. In 1982, Rodney signed with Heartbeat Records with a series of well-received albums following, including the 1985 Grammy-nominated Resistance. He returned to Island in the early 1990s, releasing two albums before rejoining Heartbeat.
Burning Spear tours extensively, and several live albums have been issued. His 1999 album, Calling Rastafari brought his first Grammy Award in 2000, a feat which he repeated with Jah Is Real in 2009.
In the mid 1990s, he set up the Burning Music Production company, handling his own bookings, and in 2002, he and his wife, Sonia Rodney who has produced a number of his albums, restarted Burning Spear Records, giving him a greater degree of artistic control. Since the mid-1990s, he has been based in Queens, New York.
Burning Spear was awarded the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer on October 15, 2007.
The Track "We Are Going" was featured in cycling documentary "Roam" by The Collective.