Damn. John Holt died yesterday. Outside of reggae circles, he's best known as the person who wrote "Tide Is High", the song that was a massive hit for Blondie. That's in about half of the headlines about his death. He was so much more than some guy who wrote a song that happened to stick. He was a reggae lifer, and when I say that I mean the guy started singing in talent shows at the age of twelve. His first record, recorded by Leslie Kong, was released by Island in 1962 when he was only fifteen. Within a few years, he a member of the Paragons, recording for Duke Reid, followed by solo recordings for Coxsone Dodd, and later Bunny Lee and others.
Dude made the rounds, for good reason, he had a silky smooth voice and was particularly adept at covers, sometimes a little too smooth for my tastes, but if you put those in the light of a reggae version of the Wall of Sound, or as close as reggae got, then it's easy to dismiss the cynicism. As much as we might dig them rawer, there's no denying that even Holt's slickest stuff are exceptional records, regardless of genre, Even after going rasta he sang with a symphony. Go figure. But, he had that voice. I told you, silky smooth.
Here's a few of his from over the years. Go on a real hunt. Go buy something. Early stuff, late stuff, I haven't heard a stinker yet. And the guy covered everybody. Even Slade. And for those of you already familiar with Holt's work, and the Paragon's "Tide Is High" and "Wear You To the Ball", and U Roy's versions toasting over them, you'll dig the last cut below "SWS Kill Your Sound Tonight", a semi-recent reworked version of "Wear You To the Ball" with a much older Holt and U Roy, going off, swapping lines, I know, huh? It is, it is that good.
~ NOTE: ALL MEDIA IS HOSTED BY THE BLOGS & SITES NAMED BELOW ~Listen:
John Holt - I Cried A Tear (streaming) at YouTube 1962, first 45, age 15
The Paragons - The Tide Is High mp3 at Boogie Woogie Flu
The Paragons - Wear You to the Ball mp3 at DJNoDJ
The Paragons - Happy Go Lucky Girl mp3 at Brobots!
John Holt - A Love I Can Feel mp3 at ATumblr (?)
John Holt - Help Me Make It Through the Night mp3 at Wireframes Antamix (?)
John Holt, King Tubby & Augustus Pablo - Ali Baba Riddim Dub mp3 at Fredeeky
John Holt - Police In Helicopter mp3 at Le Blog de la Grande Chose
John Holt and U-Roy - SWS Kill Your Sound Tonight mp3 at Dancehall Music
John Holt at Wikipedia