Marcia GriffithsText by Harry Hawks
Female reggae singers are rare and successful female singers are even rarer... Marcia Griffiths is the most successful Jamaican female singer ever. She is unquestionably Jamaica's First Lady of Song.
Marcia Griffiths' entire career has been inspirational: a role model for all who have followed in her footsteps her reputation rests on a solid, assured body of work that will last for as long as reggae music is listened to.
Marcia Llyneth Griffiths was born 23rd November 1949 and grew up in Kingston, Jamaica in "a home full of music, love and faith" and as a young girl she sang in her church choir and would entertain her neighbours by singing and reciting passages from the Bible. One of her neighbours knew Phillip 'Boasie' James of The Blues Busters who enjoyed massive success in the early sixties with hit records such as 'Wide Awake In A Dream' and 'There's Always Sunshine' for Byron Lee. Phillip was so impressed by young Marcia that he introduced her to Byron Lee in the spring of 1964 and, not long afterwards, Marcia made her professional debut singing Carla Thomas' 'No Time To Lose' at the Carib Theatre, Kingston in a Byron Lee Easter Stage Show. That same night she appeared on JBC television "doing two of Nancy Wilson's songs" and a contest began between Ronnie Nasralla, Byron Lee's manager, and Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) from Studio One to sign Marcia. Because Marcia was so young her father's signature was required on the recording contract and, as he already knew Coxsone's Down Beat Sound System, Mr Griffiths decided that Marcia should go with Studio One.
Due to her tender years her father, or her mother, accompanied Marcia on all her recording sessions and stage shows. Bob Andy also took a special interest in Marcia. She remembered Bob from watching him rehearse in their Western Kingston neighbourhood with the original Paragons and Bob was now established as one of Studio One's top solo singers and songwriters. He helped guide and protect her and a relationship started to develop between the pair. Marcia regards herself as extremely fortunate to have met Bob at this stage of her career and his understanding and experience of the male dominated Kingston music business proved invaluable to her.
Marcia's initial recordings at Brentford Road were slow ballads and included 'Oh! My Darling' a beautiful 1967 duet with Bob Marley credited to The Summertairs when it was released on Coxsone in the UK. In 1968 she enjoyed her first hit with Jackie Mittoo's vibrant rock steady into reggae 'Feel Like Jumping' a tune of enduring popularity that can still crowd a dance floor today. She followed this up with a series of classic hit records including 'Truly', 'Tell Me Now', 'Melody Life' and a loving, moving duet with Bob Andy 'Always Together'. Marcia has nothing but praise for the time that she spent with Mr Dodd and, like so many others who passed through Studio One, she regards it as her musical college. A collection of her greatest hits for the label can be found on the faultless 'Marcia Griffiths At Studio One' album.
She then recorded 'Young Gifted & Black' with Bob Andy for up and coming record producer Harry 'Harry J' Johnson(Harry Johnson). Released in the U.K. on Trojan with an added string arrangement courtesy of Johnny Arthey it soared to Number 5 in the U.K. National Charts in March 1970. Bob and Marcia travelled to London to promote the record and subsequently toured the UK and Europe. The follow up 'Pied Piper' reached Number 11 in the U.K. National Charts in the summer of the following year. The pair were signed to CBS but, unfortunately, at that time no one really knew how to manage or promote either reggae music or reggae artists: there were no further crossover hits and the association did not last.
The duo then went their separate ways and Marcia resumed her Jamaican solo career in 1974 with the 'Sweet Bitter Love' album produced by the legendary but still under rated Lloyd 'Charmers' Tyrell. Later that year Marcia asked her fellow female vocalists, Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, to sing harmonies for her at a stage show. Bob Marley heard the trio and asked them to become a part of The Wailers and sing harmonies with him after the departure of Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh from the group. Marcia sung as one of Bob Marley's I Threes from 1974 to 1981 as the group took the sound of young Jamaica to the world. Their contribution to the Bob Marley legend is immeasurable and, up until now, Marcia says that not a day goes by when she does not think about Bob, Rita and Judy.
In between the international tours and recording sessions with Bob Marley & The Wailers Marcia somehow found the time to record for Sonia Pottinger's High Note label resulting in two superb solo albums, 'Naturally' and 'Steppin'', and a selection of singles including her interpretation of 'Dreamland', the stirring 'Steppin' Out Of Babylon' and the self explanatory 'Peaceful Woman' which are rightly regarded as classics of the genre. In 1977 she reunited with Bob Andy for the 'Kemar' (aka 'Really Together') album. She recorded an album's worth of material for Bunny Wailer's Solomonic label in 1981 but only a handful of singles from the sessions were released. 'Electric Boogie' was a Number One hit in Jamaica in 1982 and it became a massive hit in the U.S.A. in 1991 where its accompanying line dance 'The Electric Slide' was a nationwide sensation. Her reputation as a woman for all seasons was cemented when she teamed up with Donovan Germain's Penthouse Records. In an inspired move Germain not only recorded her in a solo capacity but also teamed her up, in combination style, with rising deejays Buju Banton, Cutty Ranks and Tony Rebel. This resulted in a slew of hit singles that included the mixing and matching of Bob Andy's prophetic 'Fire Burning' to his 'Feeling Soul' rhythm and which culminated in the incredible 'Indomitable' album in 1993.
In 1994 Marcia Griffiths received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for excellence in music. She continues to record and tour as a solo artist, as part of The Wailers Band and occasionally on Revival Shows with Bob Andy and intends to keep on making music for a long time to come...
***See Bob Andy and Bob & Marcia
Date Added: Nov 16, 2010 / Date Updated: Nov 07, 2012