R.I.P, the Liquidator, Harry J Image

by Biko Kennedy

Veteran Jamaican producer Harry Johnson, better known as just Harry J, passed away on Wednesday, April 3, after battling diabetes for several years; according to The Jamaica Observer. He was 68.

Harry J's work stood prolific in the late 1960's and early 1970's with his most notable works being 'Liquidator' by the Harry J All Stars and the Nina Simone cover 'Young, Gifted and Black' done by Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths.

Liquidator's opening guitar riffs later became the inspiration for The Staples Singers' classic 1972 hit 'I'll Take You There'. He was also instrumental in the single 'Breakfast in Bed' vocalised by Lorna Bennett.

Upon hearing the new Bennett tweeted "So my producer Harry J passed on. Many memories of that era when I recorded 'Breakfast in Bed' and spent many hours at the studio. Marcia Griffiths and Bob Andy comes readily to mind as being there."

Harry Johnson's first hit single came with Lloyd Robinson's 'Cuss Cuss', the success of which would launch the Harry J imprint label in 1966, and inspire him to recruit the cream of Jamaica's session musicians. Including the mighty Winston Wright on keyboards and Boris Gardiner on bass to form the Harry J All Stars.

Bob Marley and the Wailers recorded their first four Island Records studio albums, Catch A Fire, Burnin', Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration, at the Harry J studios in Kingston. With Natty Dread, in 1974, being the first album to be released as Bob Marley and the Wailers (as opposed to The Wailers) and the first recorded without former bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. It is also the first album recorded with the I-Threes, the female vocal trio that inclusive of Bob's wife, Rita Marley, along with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt.

"Harry Johnson had the vision to step up the technology of his studio. To record on 16-track was a big thing back then," said Steven Stewart, Johnson's longtime sound engineer, who's nowadays responsible for Harry J Recording Studio. "It's really sad and tragic, that he passed so sudden. He was a true visionary and I will always remember his unique way of producing sessions – he knew exactly what he wanted and he always found a way to bring it to his productions".

As a top reggae producer Harry Johnson left an imprint on Reggae music as we know it today. He was a pioneer in his own rights. Rest in peace brother.

Young, Gifted and Black – Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths

Harry J All Stars – Liquidator

Lorna Bennett – Breakfast in Bed

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