Michael Rose, Puma Jones, and Duckie Simpson
The Classic Black Uhuru Line-Up
Black Uhuru has become nothing more than a bad cover band.
The once roots-heavy collective, backed by musicians such as Sly Dunbar, Robbie Skakespeare, Uziah “Sticky” Thompson, Mikey Chung, Bubbler Waul, and Dougie Bryan, are now sporting talent show winners and newspaper ad-responders.
And the power trio? Well, it’s been reduced to two on one night, one on the other, maybe you get three if you are lucky. But hey, who doesn’t enjoy going to a Uhuru show and watching Andrew Bees do his worst Michael Rose impersonation?
Michael Rose with Black Uhuru, 2004
I hate to bring negativity to such a positive blog, but someone must rip the band-aid off of this wound and reveal it for what it really is: a bloody, infected mess with a risk of becoming gangrenous.
- Claim to Fame: Waterhouse roots-reggae group which won the first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, with Anthem, in 1984.
- Classic Line-Up: Michael Rose, Duckie Simpson and American Puma Jones.
- Original Line-Up: Duckie Simpson, Garth Dennis, and Don Carlos (1972)
- Critically Acclaimed Albums: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Red, Anthem, Brutal, Now
- Steven Van Zandt (of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and later of The Sopranos) wrote and recorded the original version of Solidarity for Anthem.
- Many critics blasted Uhuru for abandoning their hardcore sound on Anthem.
- Toured with The Clash, The Police, The Rolling Stones
- Rose left the group following the Grammy success of Anthem. He was replaced by Junior Reid, another Waterhouse singer.
- Junior Reid and Puma Jones departed in the late 80s and the original line-up rejoined and recorded modern roots reggae classic Now in 1991.
- Puma Jones passes away in 1990.
- Andrew Bees is enlisted after Don Carlos and Garth Dennis depart in the mid-90s.
- Uhuru releases only 2 studio albums between 1994 and 2012: 1998’s Unification and 2001’s Dynasty, both critical and commercial failures.
- Duckie Simpson plans the release of As The World Turns in 2008. The album never materializes.
Junior Reid, Glastonbury, 1986
© Andrzej Liguz
Gone are the days of the original, roots heaviness we all remember from the 80’s. Welcome to the days of uninspired performances, marginal musicians, and struggling vocalists.
Word is that Duckie Simpson is still captaining this sinking ship, but he was nowhere to be found the last time I witnessed this atrocity on stage. Oh, they put a “Duckie Simpson” on stage. The problem is the Duckie they put on stage was not the Duckie that helped found this group. It may have been Duckie’s son. It may have been some other performer who vaguely resembles Duckie; but it was not Duckie.
Duckie Simpson 2011
© Floyd Celluloyd
I am reminded of the time I went to see Shabba Ranks at The Boathouse in Norfolk, VA in 1991. I paid for Shabba. I waited for Shabba. I cheered for Shabba when he took the stage. Problem is, it wasn’t Shabba. It was a Wesley Snipes look-alike with a coarse voice and Jamaican accent. I guess Shabba was “sick” that night.
I have been a die-hard FANATIC of Black Uhuru for more than 20 years.
I was there when Michael Rose departed just as they were peaking.
I was there when they struggled through Positive, a very lackluster record released upon the heels of multiple Grammy-nominated albums.
I was there when Puma died.
I was there when the phoenix rose from the ashes and virtually saved roots reggae with Now.
I continued to go see them perform throughout the 1990’s.
The Police on stage with Black Uhuru 1982
© Lynn Goldsmith
Then Duckie Simpson did the unthinkable.
He enlisted a bad Michael Rose impersonator, dropped an abomination of an album in 2001’s Dynasty, tried to recapture Puma’s magic by enlisting several different sub-par female vocalists, and now it appears that he has given up on the collective completely.
He is allowing a bad band to use the Black Uhuru name.
A terrible band.
A band with poor and uninspired performances.
I am therefore not torching Black Uhuru. I am torching the collection of meager musicians who are using Uhuru’s name, all at the behest of Duckie Simpson. I guess.
I am not even sure that this version of “Black Uhuru” even has a recording contract. They have not released an original studio album since 2001’s abysmal Dynasty. They have no website. They don’t seem to have a regular tour schedule. They show up at various festivals and small music halls and steal admission fees from fans who wrongfully believe that they are seeing Black Uhuru perform.
I tried to contact Black Uhuru’s last known management group to inquire about the status of the album, but I could not seem to locate No Joke Entertainment.
I was not a fan of Andrew Bees when he signed on, and I am even less a fan now. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, as is Duckie Simpson, but the performances are just plain awful.
I was not a fan of the Sly and Robbie tour a few years back, where they laid down classic Black Uhuru riddims while Andrew Bees proceeded to butcher it for the fans.
Classic Black Uhuru w/ Sly and Robbie
I was not a fan of Duckie Simpson’s plan to release a solo album under the Black Uhuru moniker.
And I am surely not a fan of being told that ‘that guy’ on stage is Duckie Simpson.
Please Duckie, if you’re out there, do the fans a favor and retire the Black Uhuru name. The jig is up.
Garth Dennis and Don Carlos 1996
The men who rescued roots reggae from the onslaught of late 80s dancehall slackness and invented a new genre, “modern roots reggae”, with the 1991 release of Now.
For a detailed biography and discography, please visit Wikipedia.
For all fans of the classic Black Uhuru collective, I have included a live performance download and classic interview from 1984. The interview was conducted by Jack Barron during the 1984 Anthem Tour through Europe.
Click here to read this interview, exclusively shared on The Midnight Raver blog.
This classic performance, superbly recorded by an audience member on August 13, 1982 at the Santa Cruz Civic Center, is presented here in pristine lossless (FLAC) audio.
1. [05:31] Shine Eye Gal
2. [06:10] Plastic Smile
3. [06:18] Puff She Puff
4. [07:37] I Love King Selassie
5. [05:44] Mondays
6. [05:45] Youth Of Eglington
7. [06:57] Chill Out
8. [10:18] Darkness
9. [06:25] Happiness >
10. [06:23] World is Africa
11. [05:33] Sponji Reggae
12. [07:51] Sensemilla
13. [08:08] Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
I have included their legendary performance in Essen, Germany 1981:
Black Uhuru Live From Essen