Remembering JIMMY Riley

JIMMY Riley, the lovers rock singer who died Wednesday in New York, came from an impressive batch of Jamaica vocalists who emerged in the 1960s.

Riley, who was 61, died from cancer. He had been diagnosed with the disease two years ago.

The Kingston-born Riley started his career in the late 1960s with the Sensations and Uniques, two successful harmony groups. The latter was led by Keith ‘Slim’ Smith, his schoolmate and mentor.

The troubled Smith, one of the most influential reggae singers, died in 1972. Riley took the Uniques’ soulful sound into his solo career which thrived during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Most of his hit songs from that period, including Love And Devotion and My Woman’s Love, were produced by Sly and Robbie.
“Jimmy was a soul singer like David Ruffin and Teddy Pendergrass.When we worked with him we always went for a Motown kinda feel,” said drummer Sly Dunbar.

Riley recorded for different producers in the 1980s and 1990s, including Willie Lindo. That combination hit big in 1992 with It’s Gonna Get Rough, originally done by Smith.

He also recorded for Donovan Germain’s Penthouse Records. Germain hailed Riley as someone who paid his dues. “He was around from the days of the Uniques and did some great songs. He made his contribution,” he said.

Prior to his illness, Riley performed regularly. In a 2013 interview with the Sunday Observer, he credited that resurgence to the popularity of his son, singer Tarrus Riley.

Jimmy Riley’s last album, ContradiJIMMY Riley, the lovers rock singer who died Wednesday in New York, came from an impressive batch of Jamaica vocalists who emerged in the 1960s.

Riley, who was 61, died from cancer. He had been diagnosed with the disease two years ago.

The Kingston-born Riley started his career in the late 1960s with the Sensations and Uniques, two successful harmony groups. The latter was led by Keith ‘Slim’ Smith, his schoolmate and mentor.

The troubled Smith, one of the most influential reggae singers, died in 1972. Riley took the Uniques’ soulful sound into his solo career which thrived during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Most of his hit songs from that period, including Love And Devotion and My Woman’s Love, were produced by Sly and Robbie.

“Jimmy was a soul singer like David Ruffin and Teddy Pendergrass. When we worked with him we always went for a Motown kinda feel,” said drummer Sly Dunbar.

Riley recorded for different producers in the 1980s and 1990s, including Willie Lindo. That combination hit big in 1992 with It’s Gonna Get Rough, originally done by Smith.

He also recorded for Donovan Germain’s Penthouse Records. Germain hailed Riley as someone who paid his dues.

“He was around from the days of the Uniques and did some great songs. He made his contribution,” he said. Prior to his illness, Riley performed regularly.

In a 2013 interview with the Sunday Observer, he credited that resurgence to the popularity of his son, singer Tarrus Riley. Jimmy Riley’s last album, Contradiction, was released by VP Records three years ago.ction, was released by VP Records three years ago.
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