Reggae pioneer Delroy Washington dies


George Ruddock (The Voice) reported that Jamaican-British reggae pioneer Delroy Washington died on Thursday, 26 March 2020. The recording artist, who was a big advocate for British reggae, was one of the first to sign for major record companies such as CBS, Island, and Virgin.

The Times (UK, 28 March 2020) explained that Delroy Washington, died of coronavirus, at age 67. David Brown writes: “He was one of the first British reggae artists to be signed by a major record label and worked with artists including Bob Marley and Aswad. Winston Francis, a fellow reggae star, tweeted: ‘My bredrin delroy washington, this one has really shocked me. People this #corona is serious. Please, please stay home protect yourselves, protect others.’”

Ruddock writes in The Voice:

BRITISH REGGAE pioneer and singer, Delroy Washington, one of the first artists to be signed to major record companies such CBS, Island and Virgin, has passed away in London on Friday, March 27 after a short illness.

He was also the founder and CEO of the Federation of Reggae Music UK, the Reggae Trade and Development association, which for many years had at its forefront campaign, the recognition of the London Borough of Brent as the Reggae Capital of the UK and Europe because it was from here that Island Records, Jet Star and many other producers, artists and musicians emerged.

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent, paid the following tribute on news of his passing: “My deepest condolences goes out to Delroy’s family, friends and fans. Delroy was a great musician and a friend. He played with Bob Marley and the Wailers and was never short of a story or two. “Delroy cared passionately about reggae music and I am pleased that he was a part of making Brent the reggae capital of Europe and I am sure Brent will launch the reggae tours in his name. Brent will honour Delroy and I will miss a friend.”

Discovered by Reggae legend Bob Marley, Delroy Washington was signed to Johnny Nash’s JAD Cayman Music along with Marley in the 1970s. He worked with Bob Marley and The Wailers and was taught rhythm guitar initially by Reggae Ranny ‘Bop’ Williams and subsequently by Marley, Wailers bassist and multi-instrumentalist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett who also taught him to play bass guitar. He also worked with reggae legend Alton Ellis who introduced him to Major 7th chords on guitar. His ‘I-Sus’ and ‘Rasta’ albums for Virgin are Reggae landmarks.

Delroy was a big advocate for British reggae and helped scores of artists to launch careers in the music business including Boney M’s Liz Mitchell, Junior Giscombe, David Grant, Phil Fearon and Hi-Tension. He supported the careers of UK Reggae stalwarts Aswad and Steel Pulse, Soul II Soul’s Caron Wheeler, Queen of Lovers Rock Carroll Thompson and coached Bob Marley’s children The Melody Makers in Jamaica in their childhood.

Delroy was always rooted in his community, not only in Brent, but further afield. As an activist he worked with Lord Paul Boateng to help scrap the Sus Law and also helped create and develop major community initiatives such as 12 Tribes of Israel, HPCC Bridge Park, I & I Idren of Israel in Wales. He is also the original creator of the UK’s One Love Festival, a popular weekend reggae music outdoor festival.

“Delroy cared passionately about reggae music and I am pleased that he was a part of making Brent the reggae capital of Europe

He was also instrumental, along with Nubian Jak Community Trust and Brent Council, in getting a Blue Heritage Plaque erected for Jamaican Reggae legend Dennis Emmanuel Brown at his second home in Harlesden, north London in April 2012.

At the Commemoration ceremony, Washington had said: “This is an historic day and we give thanks as this celebration is part of a wider project of Reggae 2012, the celebrations is also liked to  Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence from Britain and the recognition that Ska came out of Jamaica 50 years ago.”


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[See photo above by Felix Foueillis, and an interview with Washington at]

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