May 24, 2023

Reggae pioneer Leonard Dillon dies in Jamaica

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Leonard Dillon

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — The leader of the pioneering reggae group The Ethiopians has died in Jamaica. Leonard Dillon was 68.

Daughter Patrice Dillon says her father died Wednesday at her home of lung and prostate cancer.

She says Dillon had been diagnosed with cancer in June and underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor earlier this year.

Leonard Dillon began his career using the stage name Jack Sparrow in the early 1960s. He recorded a series of ska songs, including “Bull Whip,” which featured a young Bob Marley on backing vocals.

Dillon later formed The Ethiopians, a trio whose best known hits were “Train to Skaville” and “Everything Crash.”

Dillon is survived by seven children.

Patrice says: “I was prepared, when I found him this morning, I knew I saw my dad for the last time. I am just happy that he died here. He will be missed, I know it will take one day at a time to go on,” she said about the father of seven who has always been there for her.

He could be aggressive at times to us kids, but there was no doubting his love for us,” said Patrice.

Singer Lloyd Parks found out about his friend’s death after getting a phone call from a promoter in Australia wanting Dillon to perform.

He contacted Patrice intending to pass on the information when he got the shocking news.

Commenting on his colleague’s death, Parks said Dillon will be missed. “He was really talented and had great ideas. A lot of people might not know it, but he was a cornerstone internationally.”

Parks shared that Dillon was a humorous person and always had him cracking up.

Ethiopians album cover

According to the bio posted on Dillon’s Facebook page: The Ethiopians were one of Jamaica’s most influential vocal groups. The duo, which featured Leonard Dillon and Stephen Taylor, was at the forefront of the transition from ska to rocksteady. Moreover, Dillon’s style and use of Rastafarian-themed lyrics also paved the way for the socially conscious roots reggae era.

In 1964, Dillon met Peter Tosh, who admired his original material and introduced him to the other members of the Wailers. In turn, the Wailers brought Dillon to Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One, where he made his first recordings under the name Jack Sparrow.

Since these first recordings, Dillon has gone on to record with the likes of Vincent Chin, Prince Buster, Joe Gibbs, Bob Andy, Rupie Edwards, and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

In 2009, he returned to the studio with the legendary Jamaican vocal team The Silvertones to record his album Original Hitmakers From Jamaica, Volume 1: Leonard Dillon The Ethiopian.

The Ethiopians were known for songs such as Hong Kong Flu, Fire Deh A Muss Muss Tail, Everything Crash, Nyah Nuh Want Nuh Baptism, and I’m Gonna Take Over Now.



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