December 10, 2023

Renowned Jamaica producer Winston Riley dies at 65

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Winston Riley, an innovative reggae musician and producer, has died of complications from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 65.

Riley died Thursday at University Hospital of the West Indies, where he had been a patient since November, when he was shot at his house in an upscale neighborhood in the capital of Kingston, his son Kurt Riley said Friday.

Riley also had been shot in August and was stabbed in September last year. His record store in Kingston’s downtown business district also was burned down several years ago. Police have said they know of no motives and have not arrested anyone.

Kurt Riley told the Jamaica Observer newspaper that the family did not know what motivated the attacks.

“Unfortunately, Daddy didn’t wake up so we could talk to him to find out if there was something he was not telling us,” he was quoted as saying. “He was a straightforward man who was allergic to hypocrisy.”

As a teenager, Riley founded an influential harmony group, The Techniques, which recorded for pioneer producer Arthur “Duke” Reid. Riley also toured with Byron Lee and later gained fame for producing songs such as “Double Barrel” by Dave Barker and Ansell Collins.

He worked with musicians including Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Osbourne, Sister Nancy and Buju Banton.

Musicologist Kingsley Goodison, who knew Riley for more than 40 years, said he was one of the people responsible for introducing reggae to England.

“Winston Riley is an unsung hero,” he said. “He was one of the hardest workers in the business.”

Riley also is credited with creating the stalag rhythm, which later influenced hip-hop and dancehall. Unlike his contemporaries who shunned dancehall music, Riley embraced contemporary reggae and had several big hits during the 1980s.

One of his biggest productions was singer Tenor Saw’s “Ring The Alarm”, which has been sampled by several hip-hop artists.

Riley is survived by several children and grandchildren.

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