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Owen Gray is one of Jamaica's foundation singers as he was one of the first to achieve stardom and recognition for producing something other that calypso music.
Born in Kingston in 1939 he showed an early affinity for music as he began singing at a young age, winning his very first talent contest at age nine. This came from practice at his local church where he sang first tenor. By the time he was a teenager he was an experienced performer and was attending the Alpha School that was known for honing youngsters' musical talents.
Gray's breakthrough came in 1960 when he recorded a track titled "Please Don't Let Me Go" with the Caribs, for a then young Chris Blackwell who would later go on to become a popular producer. The song was released in Jamaica and hit the number one spot on the local charts. It was also released in England where it sold surprisingly well as Gray's music was unlike anything currently being produced in the Caribbean. This gained him instant popularity and Gray continued to work hard as he started infusing his music with rock 'n' roll and R&B.
He caught the attention of local producers, most importantly Coxsone Dodd who released Gray's next single "On The Beach". He worked with Dodd to produce the first LP by a solo artiste in the island, featuring Jamaican popular music. The album didn't sell as well as he would've hoped in London, but it gave him an audience. So he began working with various London labels, releasing singles with them, building a following overseas. He then moved to London in 1962 to focus on his work.
Gray was soon established in London and he began to tour Europe in 1964, singing mainly soul music. In the two years that followed he built his reputation so that he was well known in England for his ska and reggae music. He soon began performing rocksteady music as well, building his repertoire. he released two popular singles with Trojan records titled "These Foolish Things" and "Always". He even began singing with a group who called themselves the Maximum Band who released "Cupid" in 1968 which charted.
In 1968, Gray moved to the Pama Label releasing songs such as "Groove Me" and "Woman A Grumble". By 1972 however he was back with Island Records and there produced the songs "Tumblin' Dice", "Jealous Guy" and "Hail The Man" which was an instant success with the growing Jamaican Rastafarian community. It was in the 70's that Gray finally achieved the success he was looking for on both sides of the Atlantic while working with producer Edward "Bunny" Lee, as he became the mainstay for the roots reggae music movement.
In his decades-spanning career, Gray has released over 25 albums and over 5 compilation albums as he has large followings in Jamaica and England. Gray however, continues to release music, with his last album titled "Shook, Shimmy & Shake" being released in 2004. He currently resides in Miami.