Barry Llewellyn of The Heptones Passed Away

Barry Llewellyn

Photo: repeatingislands.com

Barry Llewellyn of the hugely influential harmony trio, the Heptones, has passed away. Reports started surfacing before Thanksgiving but I waited till there was more info to post. It’s sad that yet another true genius and revered performer has gone to the great stage in the sky.

News report have been filed on sites big and small including The New York Times, Trojan Records, The Gleaner, Spinner, Irie FM and the BBC.

The Irie FM piece is nice in that it includes sound bites from Earl Morgan and Leroy Sibbles talking about various aspects of working with Barry throughout the years.

Rob Kenner of the NY Times mentioned in his obituary that he died on Nov. 23 in St. Andrew, Jamaica, aged was 63 of pneumonia.

Founded by Mr. Llewellyn and his schoolmate Earl Morgan, the Heptones rose from singing on the streets of Trenchtown to take their place alongside the Wailers and the Maytals as one of the island’s most important vocal groups. As Jamaican popular music shifted from the hard-driving ska beat to a dreamier sound known as rock steady, the Heptones were among the most consistent hit makers in reggae, with romantic records like “Sweet Talking” and “Party Time.”

Barrington Llewellyn was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on Dec. 24, 1947, began singing around the age of 14, and formed the Heptones with Mr. Morgan shortly afterward. Inspired by American R&B groups like the Drifters and the Impressions, the Heptones progressed from lighthearted love songs to weightier themes on records like “Equal Rights” and “Sufferers Time.” During a prolific five-year run with Clement S. Dodd’s Studio One label, they created a deep catalog of hits that has been re-recorded over and over by successive generations of musicians.

They went on to work with the visionary producer Lee (Scratch) Perry at the height of his powers, and released the classic album “Night Food” on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records label in 1976.

The band soon split but got back together over the years including stints recently. Barry was working on many different fronts including a movie similar in tone to Harder They Come called Rude Boy.

I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.