Justin Hinds @ 70: A retrospective with memories from family, musicians & peers
This year marks fifty years of Jamaican independence. Let us commemorate properly by recognizing that one of the foundation artists of the first four of those decades is Justin Hinds (1942-2005), whose 70th birthday was in May. As a ska and rocksteady singer in the sixties, Hinds was an early and innovative practitioner of things that would famously pervade reggae music in the 1970s and beyond – communicating lyrically through Rasta imagery, spiritual revelation and proverbial wisdom.
When we delve into the Justin Hinds songbook, we trod into many dimensions of Jamaica and what it means to be human. Culture gets embedded in many a verse. “After a Storm” is a Biblical parable with a reversal of fortune for a “snake in the grass”: “you think you were wise but now you realize … there must be a calm after a storm.” One of Justin’s biggest numbers holds that “the higher the monkey climb is the more he expose” – an observation about social climbers which the singer follows with this preacherly caution beginning with a passage from the New Testament (Luke 14:11):
“He that exalteth himself shall be abased
grief always comes to those who love to brag
meekly wait and murmur not
you better hold on to what you have got.”
“Jump out of frying pan [only to] jump inna fire” is a proverb used in a ska tune (“Jump Out of Frying Pan” on Treasure Isle, 1965) which quotes heavily from the traditional African American spiritual “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.” Justin was a master at making old things evergreen.
The trajectory of Justin Hinds’ life finds parallels with that of the island. He was born on May 7, 1942, in Steer Town, a village nudged on Jamaica’s north central coast. This was not long after the island-wide strikes of 1938 which produced Jamaica’s two modern political parties. Jamaica gained its independence from colonial England in 1962; Justin’s first song came a year and a half later, the immortal “Carry Go Bring Come.” When Justin was born, Ocho Rios was a lovely albeit anonymous town. At the time Justin began singing on the beaches in Ochi and Mammee Bay in his late teens, Ochi was newly becoming a magnet for foreign visitors. After that, of course, the town went on to become an overripe locus of resort tourism having a renown, like reggae and like Justin, the world over.
Hinds’ recordings in the post-independence years of ska and rocksteady were done exclusively for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle and associated labels. The great producer’s decline and death were mirrored by the Justin’s own dropoff in output and early retirement. During reggae’s boom in the mid-seventies Hinds recorded a small but memorable body of new work and then retired a second time. He cut two more albums but remained largely under the radar until the mid-1990s, when he staged a resurgence as a solo artist and as member of Jamaica All Stars and Wingless Angels.
Today, Justin’s presence in Steer Town remains palpable. Many members of the Hinds family and circle of friends live in the area, and they speak plainly of how much Justin is still loved and missed.
The third of three children, Justin Hinds was born to Edith Macbean, who had Maroon heritage, and Alphonso Hinds, a lumberjack, balmyard healer and Revival preacher at his own Steer Town Macedonia Revival Church. Hinds’ youth was filled with music, beginning with the songs he heard in his father’s African-Christian church.
Hinds’ youth was filled with music, beginning with the songs he heard in his father’s African-Christian church. At Chalky Hill Elementary School, students engaged in devotion and songs in both the morning and afternoon. Justin danced the jonkanoo, which is associated with the African-derived festival of the same name. And, at the nearby Lauriston Presbyterian Church (now Lauriston United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman), every three months there would be a Sunday evening cantata, a program of poems and songs in which Justin occasionally took part.
With the original Dominos, Egorton ‘Junior’ Dixon (b. 1942) and Dennis Sinclair (d. 1992), Hinds enjoyed success with Treasure Isle, recording great and lasting songs, starting with “Carry Go Bring Come” in 1963. The song, whose title refers to gossip-mongering, used images of Zion and oppression to make its lyrical point and is an early example in Jamaican popular music of the emergent Rasta ideology. Rollicking in the new ska style with backing by The Skatalites, “Carry Go Bring Come” was an immediate hit on the soundsystems and radio.
Justin Hinds & the Dominos cut more than 50 sides for Reid in the next decade, moving fluidly from ska to rocksteady and reggae. These years produced an astonishing amount of lasting music, and much of it was overtly churchical in cuts such as “Cornerstone,” “Holy Dove,” “Jordan River,” “King Samuel,” “Mighty Redeemer (pts 1 & 2),” “Prophecy Must Fulfill,” “Satan,” “Sinners Where You Gonna Hide” and “The Ark.” Justin frequently drew from his culture’s reservoir of proverbs in his songs, but unlike most of his peers, he didn’t record any cover versions of American tunes. The time he came the closest was in reworking Wade Flemons’ 1958 R&B hit “Here I Stand,” but Justin transformed the song lyrically. What was once an ode to a girl now became a powerful declaration of faith, of “stand[ing] predominant” amid misfortune and isolation by his supposed friends. And, like the rest of his Treasure Isle catalog, the beat was unstoppable.
In 1965’s “Holy Dove,” Justin sings of the sounds of a holy dove in a high mountain, an image any Jamaican can easily imagine and a setting into which he threads the question, “do you remember Zion holy mountain.” This is representative of Justin’s Rasta-conscious lyricism: it is serene, natural, mystical. By the next decade, Rastafarian artists’ lyrics would become strident and political and apocalyptic, qualities which were shaped out of and in response to Jamaica’s tumultuous political and social climate. Justin gave voice to a vision which, though less conspicuous, is just as much a part of the culture as the fiyah burn rhetoric.
Justin’s Rasta I-sight emerged more forthrightly in “Lion of Judah” and “Fight for Your Rights” in 1966, which was also the year of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie’s galvanizing visit to Jamaica. While Justin carried the influence of the Revival church and his rural roots, he & the Dominoes were also very capable with a ballad, such as the soulful “On a Saturday Night” or the ultra rare R&B-infused “Joanne.”
Justin’s recordings from 1969-73 are fewer, though every bit as good. He was running a nightclub at his home in Steer Town and raising a growing family; also, Duke Reid’s decline in health apparently affected Justin’s own output. No new recordings appeared at all for a couple of years. Justin reappeared in 1975 to record for Ocho Rios producer and soundsystem operator Jack Ruby. This second career was short-lived. By the time “Natty Take Over,” one of those Jack Ruby productions was culled for the soundtrack to the popular underground Jamaican film Rockers (1979), he had two albums out on the mighty Island label, Jezebel and Just in Time. each with genre-defining songs and musical contributions from the finest talent in Jamaica. But owing to the “rat race” of the industry and his own, quieter disposition, Justin withdrew from the music scene for a second time.
In the early 1980s, Nighthawk Records’ Robert Schoenfeld and Leroy Pierson of St. Louis, Missouri, coaxed Justin Hinds into doing new work. Again he would have stellar backing – including members of the Wailers Band and Tommy McCook, his old Treasure Isle spar from The Skatalites and The Supersonics. Recorded at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong in Kingston, Travel with Love (1984) re-introduced Hinds as one of Jamaica’s singularly gifted and compelling singers. Though there would be another, self-titled album on the little Jwyanza label in Jamaica (remixed and released in 1992 by Nighthawk as Know Jah Better), the eighties through the mid-nineties were largely wilderness years for the artist. The music was changing, and the Rasta vision was receding in the dancehalls.
Still, Justin mounted small regional tours in the United States, relying on pickup bands anchored by American brothers-in-arms such as Jonathan Arthur in New Mexico and Michael Stone in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1992 and ’93, he also made his first trips to the UK and continental Europe through the coordination of Floyd Lloyd Seivright.
In 1992, Hinds was part of the short-lived group Chain Gang, which also featured keyboardist Pablo Black and guitarist Michael Stone. They cut Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” for Chicago’s D.J. International, a famed indie house music label. A rare release, “Chain Gang” was issued in five mixes on 12” and seven mixes on cassette and CD. The music strays too far afield for some roots music listeners. Nevertheless, the recording is ahead of its time and it took Justin’s voice into places he’d never been. Moreover, it presages jungle, drum-and-bass, dubstep and any of the other electronica branch-offs that feature Jamaican voices.
Justin Hinds’ performance at the 1996 Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in California spurred new interest. He was a foundation singer in early middle age, still vigorous and increasingly keen on putting his music and message out to a wider audience. Busy on the concert circuit for the next several years, he toured North America several times with a horn section that included roots reggae legends Vin Gordon (trombone) and Deadly Headley (saxophone), also Jonathan Arthur for a third horn, as well as his sons Maxwell and Carlton on percussion. Justin was fond of bringing along other members of the Hinds family, adding an extra layer of Steer Town livity to the tour experience.
By this time, his longtime friendship with Keith Richards was bearing fruits. In 1997, Island released a remarkable self-titled album by the nyahbinghi group Wingless Angels, comprised of Richards, Hinds and several local Rasta singers and players. The Rolling Stone had owned property on the north coast since the seventies, and after jamming informally with his Rasta compatriots for years, Richards at last recorded an album at his home. The debut was followed by an Ocho Rios studio session in 2003 which put Hinds’ voice squarely in the lead and Richards’ guitar in the foreground. Both recordings were released in multiple formats in 2010 as Wingless Angels Vol. I & II on Richards’ Mindless Records.
In the early 2000s, a call from France came from film director/music producer Pierre Marc Simonin, who was assembling Jamaica All Stars, a group that coalesced around Hinds and old-time foundation figures like Skatalites trumpeter Johnny Moore, Bunny & Skully and Sparrow Martin. Touring widely with the ensemble across Europe and into Morocco and Japan, his contributions to JAS are documented on two albums and a concert DVD.
Active musically until the end of his life, Hinds died of cancer on March 16, 2005. His body was interred in a mausoleum on the Steer Town property where he had grown and where his father had conducted healing and church services. He is survived by Peaches, his common-law wife of many years, and nine children.
In the years since his death, Justin Hinds’ profile in the annals of world music has not grown in relation to his talents and musical achievements. There are at least two reasons. One, the majority of his music is out of print. Furthermore, he has never been the subject of an anthology which spans the whole of his career, a situation that leaves his contributions to Jamaican music ghettoized; fans must seek out Justin’s ska, rocksteady and early reggae on whatever label is reissuing Treasure Isle, his reggae on Island and Nighthawk and nyahbinghi on Mindless. New music has trickled out since his death, such as the fine “My Love is Like a Burning Fire” backed by France’s Tu Shung Peng. Two albums of unreleased studio recordings have also appeared in the last few years, albeit without fanfare, Cheer Up (1st Street) and Zion Bells (Humal). There was also a bump in name recognition when Keith Richards’ label released the two-volume set of Wingless Angels in 2010 and when the 4-LP version received a Grammy nomination for Best Reissue Edition in 2012.
The Hinds legacy, meanwhile, carries on. There is a nascent Justin Hinds Foundation established by the family in Steer Town, and several of Justin’s children are involved in music, including Donald Hinds, Carlton Hinds, Maxwell Hinds, Andrea ‘Every’ Hinds, Archibald Hinds and Randy Hinds. Footage of Justin Hinds performing in 2002 will appear in Brad Klein’s forthcoming documentary Legends of Ska, set for release later this year. (In the meantime, whet your appetite with this sparkling performance by Justin in Maranhalo Brazil in 2001.) Maxwell Hinds reports that more unreleased music of his father’s should emerge in the years to come.
JUSTIN HINDS: MEMORIES and REFLECTIONS
The following comes from interviews of mine in 2011-12 except the bit at the end from Keith Richards, which is culled from an interview with reggae historian Roger Steffens in 2010 for Wingless Angels.com.
Abigail Hinds Llewelyn
[Growing up] It was three of us, David, Abigail and Justin. Justin was not really very bright as we were. He used to read but not as serious as we used to. He used to come home in the evenings and he would take [a length of pan] and he would take two pieces of stick and he would knock his drums. He was always musically inclined, singing his songs. Singing hymns like we go to church with Papa and then he would knock the wackle, the stick we would call it, knock the big drum and sing. He was not a rude boy, would never do a lot of things that would upset the family. All his mind was on music, singing hymns. We were a Christian home.
He didn’t carry hatred for anyone; even if somebody saying something bad about Justin, Justin would just laugh and say, ‘I am going to be an artist and a star, and stars don’t mingle with those things.’ And he would say, ‘Rastafari!’
Abigail Hinds, born in 1939, lives in Steer Town. Now retired, she worked for many years in tourism and marketing.
Justin’s mother had been such a loving person. She loved everybody’s child. Pleasant and loving and courteous. Principled in every way. Justin got that kind of bringing-up from his mother to be courteous and mannerly and everything else that is good. Justin’s father was a reader [in the church]. I don’t know if you know what that means in this context. He would wrap his head and put a glass of water on the table nicely spread with mint in it. He would open to the book of Psalms and would do automatic writing.
Dennis Higgins of St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, has known the Hinds family for decades. He is chair of the St. Ann Heritage Foundation and has handled business matters on behalf of Justin Hinds.
Wife & mother
Him just see me and love take unto it. I met him in 1961. We are from the same village here, you know. Every evening he come home from work, he always want to see me. Some time he come to the gate and whistle and give sign that mek mi know that it was him. He have a beautiful smile. His teeth were so white, everybody love to see him laugh. That’s one thing that attract me very much. He was very attractive and beloved by people. A lot of girls, they just love him, but he was attracted to me more.
He had a sound system here before he start to sing. He make his first song in 1963. The first child I had for him was 1963. He keep parties and play outside and thing like that. My cousin Bancroft White, used to call him Banny, did have a sound system. Justin used to operate my cousin’s sound system and play out around the place, dances right here and parties and ting like that. He had a dance up by my mother’s place, and I can tell you that the crowd that come make the place block. I can tell you seh, three goat he kill and sell it. People, people, people, people, people. That time he just sing ‘Carry Go Bring Come,’ and anywhere that song play, everybody want to go to that dance.
Peaches (Blondie Russell) is Justin Hinds’ common-law wife and baby mother. She still resides at the home they shared for many years in Steer Town.
Junior Dixon Singer
I used to work at Dunn’s River a long time ago, I used to be at the canteen at the falls and the beach. That’s where I started my career, singing on the beach in my little canteen, playing a piano and the counter of the canteen. Guys like Blue Busters used to come around, you know, like Lord Tanamo, used to come around. Lord Tanamo used to work at the Silver Seas Hotel doing calypso after still working with the band The Skatalites. His part-time job was at the Silver Seas Hotel. Used to come on the beach, every Wednesday they have beach parties. So I was there on the beach in my canteen; they selling hot dogs and hamburgers and ice cream and you name it, all kinds of nice things for the tourists deh you know. Lord Tanamo would come around and he’d say, “I like the way you sing. You want to be in the business?’ ‘Yeah, mahn. I love the business.’ It’s a long story.
Justin used to work at the Arawak Hotel in which a man called Ernest Smatt, he owned the Watersport Enterprises. Justin used to work with him, and I also used to work with the man, too, but I had to leave there and go to Dunn’s River Falls. Justin came around one day and say, ‘Hey, I like the way you sing, man, let us form a group.’ I say, ‘No problem, mahn.’ That’s how it started.
Egorton ‘Junior’ Dixon (b. Nov. 23, 1942) is the last surviving original member of Justin Hinds & the Dominoes. He lives in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica.
[When Justin was not making albums or performing] My father would go to the studio, and he do a lot of farming, you know, and a lot of fishing too. Most of the time he is writing with his guitar, planting some food and stuff, spending time round his family. Agriculture, is like he is into that kind of vibration.
My father was upfront singer for the band [Jamaica All Stars] and he was also part of the arrangement of the music. He make sure we pray together, he keep unity together. He always make sure we happy. He don’t like time going by where we’re sad. Sometime we were very cold because we have to travel from there to there, overnight, no show tonight, Paris to Italy and from Italy to Belgium, overnight, no sleeping taking place and man feel uncomfortable. He keep a vibe going, man, vibration like ‘It’s hard what we doing now, but it’s for our future. Do it from our heart and pray to the most high God, and each time we do something, we bless the most high God and pray everyday that we can see more happiness in life.’
Drummer Maxwell Hinds performed frequently with his father on tour in the 1990s and 2000s.
Growing up, our father would teach us to pray when eating food, pray to the Almighty Father above for our food and everything that we have. He teach us to respect each other and to love each other. He was a kind person.
My first time on tour with him was 1999. It was great. We got to have time together. We cook for him, me and my mother. Pumpkin soup and so on, yam and potato and dumpling. My father love to have tea and carrot juice. He like fish. So we cook those things for him.
Andrea ‘Every’ Hinds is a singer. Her lead vocals can be heard, along with two of her siblings’ songs, on the posthumous Justin Hinds album Cheer Up (1st Street).
[ coming soon ]
Carlton Hinds played percussion in his father’s touring band and was MC for many of the concerts. He is a recording and performing artist.
Justin was my best friend. I never, ever got tired of Justin Hinds’ music. The music was always the highlight. But all the traveling got me to where I didn’t know if I’d dreamed things, or what town we were in. It got kind of fuzzy there and I wasn’t doing things to distort myself. I had too many responsibilities. I was entrusted with being driver and road manager, wearing many hats, on a few of the tours. That part was not so spectacular. I was always the guy getting the least amount of sleep and then trying to stay awake to drive us safely.
California was always a fun part of the tours. We played a show by Eureka, a little town called Arcata, and following night we were supposed at Mariner’s Hall in San Francisco to be part of a pretty large show that included the Cool Ruler Gregory Isaacs. Before we got very far outside of Eureka, I stopped for gas and about four of the people on my bus saw a Wal-Mart and went shopping … for four hours. And I was freaking out…
We got to San Francisco, and I could no longer even reach the promoter to get better directions on how to find the place. So I’m wandering around the streets of San Francisco. We’re late as heck. All of a sudden, I am getting to realize that I am going back across the Golden Gate bridge. And I really didn’t want to do that, so
I was trying to see if I could wait for a slow moment and back out of that entrance ramp, and all of a sudden I hear a voice from on high saying, ‘Sir, you are committed to the bridge.’
It became the joke of the tour. You should have heard all the Jamaicans imitating that voice.
I had to go over the bridge and then come back. And even though Justin said, ‘Jonathan, if any man say anything to you, jus mek them talk to me,’ I said, ‘Justin, they’re gonna come talk to me because I’m responsible.’ And sure enough, I heard dicey language directed my way for being so late. But that was just part of it.
Saxophonist/vocalist Jonathan Arthur, who lives in Paradise, California, recorded and performed with Justin Hinds from 1989-2000. He plays in three bands – Sapphire Soul, The Karma Kings and The Harmonics – and is preparing the release of a new album titled All over the Map.
Roy McPherson Publishing Administrator
I’m an admirer of Justin. Love Justin’s music. I remember being 12 when ‘Carry Go Bring Come’ hit and how it floored everyone, which is what the good sounds always do, from old, middle age to young. Everybody were dancing and enjoying it; it was just the song of the moment.
I was a youngster up in the hills of Montego Bay. Real country. By then we had two radio stations, of course; JBC had come on board. In those days there were few houses in the whole village of maybe a thousand people with a radio. A long bamboo pole stapled to the side of the house and sticking up in the air so you could get transmission. At certain times you would get local music and of course that would be one place you depended on for music and news and everything. That was it. It was a happy time, good music. That was my introduction to Justin. And of course after, maybe in 1966, ’67, jukebox came and so you could go and punch your tune and of course Justin was in the mix.
It wasn’t until the nineties when Robert Schoenfeld [of Nighthawk Records] contacted me about booking some of his acts and named several, including Justin. I choose to work with Justin and it simply had to do with my fond memories that I had of 1963 and that early period, you know? And then I think it was four years in a row he did two U.S. tours per year, each one of them lasting two months.
I was surprised to find that Justin Hinds really never toured the U.S. per se. He did some dates in Colorado and around the place and Madison, Wisconsin, where he had friends, but never any full-fledged cross-country tours. So the challenge then was to chart a course and put him on the road. From the Pacific Northwest, he toured along the west coast through Oregon and California and back east through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, etc. And I remember on a few occasions when we were able to go out in the Vancouver area and play places I didn’t know exist before. They did Vancouver, they did Victoria on many occasions and then going out into some of the islands like Nanaimo, Whistler, Salt Spring and other unheard of places, you know? Well-received and sharing good music.
So it was a task getting this done, but we were able to work together to make it happen. He enjoyed it, too, and was always excited about hitting the road and taking the music to the people. It was, you know, some hectic times but some fun times too. And I believe within my position that Justin is really one of Jamaica’s unsung heroes.
Roy McPherson of DanDeLion Productions booked tours for Justin Hinds and others in the 1990s and is administrator of Justin Hinds’ music catalogue.
One of my favorite Justin moments was when I finally got his approval that I was okay, that he would allow me to do stuff for him like get bookings. I’d go out and make a great effort to make it happen and it would happen, and he said, “wha, you should probably play with us, too.”
The turnouts were soft, the money was soft, the times were hard.
We booked a show at this concert event center in Fish Creek, Wisconsin and it just so happened the same night, I had a show right across the street. We decided to do Justin’s big show at the event center and have an after-party at the park. The event center show did not go so well because the ticket price was really high. There was one-third capacity. The after-show across the street was jam packed, you couldn’t get into it, and we had Headly [Bennett] and Vin [Gordon] play with us.
They weren’t very happy about it. ‘Why you nah come out and hear Justin Hinds? You come hear Tony Brown.’ ‘Justin, thing is, this is my home plate. These people know more about me than they do about you. And I know more about you than I have discovered about myself.’ He liked that. ‘That’s a good way to look at it. You pay my boys good.’
Tony Brown of Madison, Wisconsin, has performed and recorded reggae music in the US and abroad since the 1970s. He befriended Justin Hinds in the 1970s and played guitar in his band in 2000.
Pierre Marc Simonin
I’ve known quite a lot of artists. I have never seen such a difference between the enormity of his talent and the humility of his personality. Even onstage, even if Justin didn’t have the career he should have, his personality is responsible for that. Onstage he was not a huge ‘stage man’. He was a very shy person.
Sometimes I would try to manage him, ‘Hey, Justin, just move the people to dance.’ He was shy onstage, very shy. I think that is one of the reason that he didn’t hit the crowd the way he should have … I mean, after his 70s period, I’m talking about eighties and nineties. He was not looking for anybody to help him. It was time for me to come to Jamaica and to check him and see his family and to build up something with the Jamaica All Stars.
With the quality of his writing, he should have been bigger, much much bigger.
Justin felt very comfortable because he trusted me, he saw that he could trust people, and he knew that, you know, it was a chance for him. And of course, as you can guess, it was a chance for me. I got a kick when I heard him singing what he was singing onstage, but most of all, I was able to look at his songbook, Justin, you’re going to sing this and this and this and that. Just because they were great songs. And he would say, ‘well, I didn’t sing these songs long ago.’ He never sang ‘Army Man’ onstage, and ‘Army Man’ [a Treasure Isle single re-recorded for JAS] is a big hit.
French director Pierre Marc Simonin (Portraits of Jamaican Music) is the producer behind Jamaica All Stars, with whom Justin Hinds appeared on two albums and a DVD. Now featuring Bunny & Skully, Vin Gordon and Sparrow Martin, Jamaica All Stars have a new album and are on tour in summer 2012.
Floyd Lloyd Seivright
[ coming soon ]
Floyd Lloyd Seivright is publishing administrator for some of Justin Hinds’ catalog. He arranged for Justin Hinds to perform in England and Europe in the early 1990s, and, a decade later, produced the Justin Hinds live recording Let’s Rock.
We used to gather up at Keith’s house in the nights, and we’d just jam. Keith had some drums which they always used to keep up there. Justin and Locksey and Jackie and Maureen and Neville would come. ‘Brian, come up and play some bass.’ [Wingless Angels] wasn’t really a band. It was all our friends hanging out up there, playing for hours and hours. It was trance-like stuff, playing for hours on end, never thinking we were gonna record them.
Skip to years later , Keith is back in Jamaica, resting after a Stones tour, and he said, ‘Man, come down to the house, let’s do some more jamming.’ At that time right below Keith in a place called Shaw Park, which is a botanical garden in Ocho Rios, my friend had a studio. At this time, one of the Wingless had passed; Jackie [Ellis] had died. They are getting older now and they live a rough life, and the Wingless Angels are going one by one. Little did we know Justin was sick at that time. You would never know from his voice. From the early sixties to when he died, his voice never changed. You never had to lower any keys for him, he was always there, always spot-on. Me and Keith would say, ‘Man, this is one of the purest voices there is in Jamaica.’ Not like an urban voice. Is like a country voice, no flaws, total innocence and naivete, but it evoke so much images when he sings.
We didn’t even rehearse the songs; we just said, let’s go down to the studio. Unlike the first album where we did it in Keith’s living room with maybe two mikes, this time we were in a proper studio so we could mike the individual drums and then also mike Justin’s voice. He was the lead singer and everybody else would join in.
Over about three days we recorded. The sessions, they started at four o’clock in the evening and went on to maybe four o’clock the next morning. We’d stop and maybe eat some food, smoke, chat, laugh. It was really like a family gathering.
Brian Jobson co-produced and played bass on Wingless Angels Vol. II.
Steer Town was a Rasta town in those days [childhood]. Almost everybody in town was a Rasta, Where we lived we had to pass through town we had to pass through Steer Town before we were able to get to the beach. So every time we drove through the town as kids, my parents were like, ‘Hide, hide,’ all the Rastas, through the entire town you just saw Rastas.
In those days, Rastas were considered, as Bunny Wailers calls in his genius album, “blackheart man,” the outcasts of society. Rastas were the lowest on the social strata in Jamaica. Even very serious poor ghetto people still looked down on Rasta as the lowest anybody could be.
So growing up and eventually as a kid getting to meet Justin and hearing his brilliant music, becoming friends with him over the years, hanging out with him in Steer Town and jamming music with him. Whenever Keith would come down, we would all get together in Steer Town or up at Keith’s house, up in Point of View
The godfather of rock music and the godfather of reggae music, Keith and Justin jamming together.
Justin is one of the all-time greats of Jamaican music and one of the most humble men you could ever meet; humble but also very talented, a great song writer.
When you listen to Justin’s voice, it’s just so haunting, a very unique voice, so soothing when you hear it. Just being around Justin was something special. In the town he was almost a mythical figure, everybody looked up to him, and he was very generous, shared everything. He was a benefactor of Steer Town. Luckily his kids are all playing music and carrying on his tradition.
A documentary producer, musician and radio DJ, ‘Native’ Wayne Jobson co-produced Wingless Angels Vol. II.
Justin Hinds had a magical childlike quality to him. He was humble, he was quiet, he loved to laugh. I can still see him laughing. He left that with me, which is really endearing.
He comes from the tough times, you know, he’d break out into a song and it was this soft bird-like voice that he would sing in and it would just warble. Like his song ‘Picking Up Chips,’ I remember how he wrote that. He woke up one day and he’s picking up chips because you gotta build the fire and heat the pot of tea because life has to go on and your belly grumble. He documented the Rasta way of life. He comes from the background of a preacher. A lot of them come from evangelical backgrounds and you hear that in their music.
Justin was a tender sweet human being who was very appreciative, very kindly, always had a laugh and a chuckle. He was a sweetheart, that’s all I can say.
Guitarist Michael Stone of Madison, WI, recorded and performed with Justin Hinds in the late eighties and early nineties. Hinds, Stone and keyboardist Pablove Black also played in the group Chain Gang. Stone’s latest project is Kingtown Rockers, a Madison-based reggae band.
Mark Gorney Manager
In 1996 I was involved with the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. I said to, ‘Warren [Smith, promoter], ‘How about Justin Hinds? He’s never performed in California.’ Warren said sure and gave me a letter, which was the offer on paper. I went down there [to Steer Town] and gave him the offer. He looked at it and said, ‘Well, it’s kind of small.’ To which I replied, ‘Yeah, I know, but it’s exposure.’
I wondered [at SNWMF 1996] if people really knew who he was. But I thought, this is great. It was a proud moment. I remember I was carrying this – Justin had this sparkly cape-coat – and I was walking by David Isaacs, and he said, ‘You Justin Hinds’ manager?’ At that moment I was like his valet, sort of like what Don Taylor was to Bob. And I was proud of that.
There was another moment where Michael Rose saw him and he bowed in front of him. Like ‘this is Jamaican music royalty, we have to respect the elders. ‘ I don’t know how much Michael knew about Justin’s music, but he knew that he was a ska veteran. We ran into Big Youth, and when Justin approached, Big Youth started going, ‘The old mother banner …’ and started singing ‘Mother Banner,’ which I thought was really cool.
The Skatalites were on that show. When Justin saw Roland on stage he smiled and said “Skatalites…Roland…” So I think it was good for him to be with musicians he hadn’t seen in God knows how long.
I think it was that performance that told the world that he was ready to perform again and this led to gigs in Europe, so I think I was able to help him live some life before he was taken from us before his time.
Mark Gorney is head of Worldisc, a global music promotion company. In 1990, he completed his final project at London International Film School, a 20-minute documentary titled Before Reggae Hit the Town, which explores Afro-Caribbean music traditions in Jamaica and features memorable footage of Justin.
Justin Hinds was one of the finest singers ever to come out of Jamaica, one of the few artists to score hits in the ska, rocksteady and reggae eras (I think maybe only Toots Hibbert pulled this off also). His style of singing was very pure and natural, every much in the vein of a traditional singer and rooted in traditional styles of Jamaican music as well as church music. He was a very simple, down to earth person who maybe would have been better known if he had the itch for stardom. But his music will be listened to long after the music of many “stars” has been forgotten.
Randall Grass is General Manager of Shanachie Records, which been releasing reggae and world music since the early 1980s.
I had a beat up car and I was driving him around and I was playing the oldies. There used to be a ham station, WTKO [Ithaca, New York], which purveyed all oldies. ‘Return to Sender’ by Elvis came on. And Justin just started humming the skank. He was like, ‘Look, ska.’ It was a telling moment when we heard this Elvis tune and he was showing me the piano rhythm for ska in it and it was there and I was like, ‘Yes! Of course!’ It was a musician a-ha moment.
He was so about the land. I remember our conversations were about God, the land and the people. My daughter and I took him swimming at this reservoir/waterfall place. I’ve got some great pictures from that day. I remember him telling me that in some laces in France people, Christians, would invite him to come to their churches and be a guest preacher or sing. I was like, yeah, no doubt, that’s who this person is.
That’s what I love about Rastafarianism. He achieved that place in his soul, that livity, that gratitude. It transcends even the godhead. Just being that righteousness. ‘God alone is a Christian.’ Joseph Hill sings that. Indian gurus have said that through the centuries. God alone can be God. In his being and his manner and his day to day livity, the presence of the living God was so apparent with him. It wasn’t about ‘Oh, I do this. I worship this name. I dress this way and my hair is this way.’ You transcend all that and it’s goodness, it’s from the earth. And he was that. That’s something I took away.
As a member of John Brown’s Body, which he founded, singer-guitarist Kevin Kinsella backed Justin Hinds at the Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival in New York in 2002. The performance was captured for a live album on I-Town Records. Kinsella has since ventured on his own to record and perform as a solo artist and member of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant.
I remember doing that album [Jezebel in 1976] but that was the first time Justin and I worked together. I remember that Justine’s hair was very neat and very black, also his beard; he did not have dreads and he dresses very neat. Any conversation we had was about the music. They were very humble and well spoken.
Now a few years ago  we backed him up in Brazil. His son was playing the drums for him. Daddy U Roy was on same show; we were U Roy back up band. The Itals were on the show also, and we all stayed at the same hotel. Now when I am on tour I carry my own pots and pans and cook my own food in my hotel room. I remember Justin ask to borrowed my pot so that he could go and cook some food also. Now I don’t lend out my pots to no one, not even if my mother ask me; I am very funny with that so I told him I can’t. I give him directions to the mall do that he could buy some for himself. I explained to him why I don’t lend out my pots and he forgive me. I really felt bad but after the tour I never saw him again till I heard he passed away. I think he is in heaven cooking. I still feel very bad about it.
Over a 40-year career still going strong, guitarist Tony Chin has performed on countless crucial reggae recordings.
Brad Klein Filmmaker
[In promoting the two-night multi-artist Legends of Ska concert which was filmed in Toronto in July 2002] … I’m running around Toronto trying to do all the promotions for Legends of Ska and going to all these radio stations. Two weeks before the show, I was up there and I was on one of the radio stations, and Justin was on the show, too. He was in town; he had just performed a concert. I said to Justin – he was gonna fly down and I was gonna have to pay for his ticket back and I had to get a special visa for him. I’m like, ‘Wait, you’re already here. Can’t you stay here for a couple more weeks instead of you running back down to Jamaica? I’ll pay you some of the difference so it won’t be the hassle.’ He turned to me – and he was always a sweet, soft-spoken man – and I remember he said to me, ‘I am just trying to follow the rules.’
And when he said that, I said, ‘I understand.’ You don’t want to try to pull a fast one on the authorities now; it was still only 2002 and all the governments and all the bureaucracies were on high alert from 9/11 the year before. I just nodded my head. He was always wonderful to work with.
The great thing about working with Justin Hinds was that his songs were the easiest ones to pick [for the concert]. He had so many ska hits. We were also fortunate in that we used Roy Wilson of Higgs & Wilson and Stranger Cole as his backup singers. It looks magnificent and it all sounds great and I can’t wait to put it out.
Brad Klein is director of the forthcoming documentary Legends of Ska.
Justin Hinds, a phenomenal artist. Not even underrated. It’s more like, has he really been given his due, and that may be because of his disillusionment with the injustices of the music industry making him just hide out in the hills most of the time. But again, somebody who did a tremendous body of work, coming up in the ska years, comes with that incredible ‘Carry Go Bring Come,’ a record that has never really waned in popularity in Jamaica or amongst fans of Jamaican music. And as leader of the Dominoes, doing so many amazing records in the ska years for Duke Reid, songs about everyday life but also about social injustice and spirituality and done with particular phrasing and intonation of the countryside where he came from. Really tremendous records that have stood the test of time.
He is one of those singers that when you hear his voice, you never forget it. It’s instantly recognizable. He’s got some similarities with singers like Jimmy Cliff and Alton Ellis. With the Dominoes, that harmony was just brilliant. So it was that good combination of fantastic song writing, unbeatable harmony and individual stylistic phrasings.
I interviewed him by telephone. He was in Steer Town but I was in London at the time. Because he didn’t have his own telephone, he had to go down to this little repair shop he was using as his office to take the call. We pre-arranged the interview, and then he was there at the appointed time to take my call. You got a sense that he was a genuine person. Similar to Jimmy Cliff in that he cared deeply about mankind rather than about being a star or leading any kind of a life that went with any trappings of stardom.
David Katz is author of People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae and, most recently, Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography (Interlink). Solid Foundation is slated for republication in revised and expanded form in 2012.
I link up with Justin Hinds in the 80s by a friend named Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill come from Steer Town, that’s where his grandmother come from, and we went to do a show. Then me and his son become friend, his name Maxwell. From that we just keep hooking up.
1991 was the first time I tour I went with Justin Hinds. Santa Fe. This guy named Jonathan Arthur, he and his wife took on the first few shows, and we went to Santa Fe and do a couple shows. And from that, we kinda cool for a while and then we pick it up again in 1999. That’s when I meet my wife [Wendy Oliver, who was backup vocalist in the band]. We hook up with brother Roy [McPherson, then of Fastlane International] and Nighthawk. It was fun. It was nice experience, knowing that I used to heard about Justin and I’m like one of his sons; Justin has a son older than me. It was really a good experience to meet such a man. Such a voice, his songs-dem and everything.
My favorite memories of Justin Hinds is on tour. It was just like something magical. Beca it was Justin, it was Vin Gordon on trombone, Headley, Jonathan on sax, and me as guitar and one of my friends Bernard [Fagan, bass], also Justin’s sons on drums. As a kid I used to hear ‘Carry Go Bring Come’ on the radio. I never even dreamed of going on tour with Justin Hinds.
Guitarist Derrick ‘Ras Danny’ Reid, born in Trench Town, has performed with Justin Hinds, Wailing Souls, Culture and many other artists. He presently leads Ras Danny & the Reggae All Stars.
Justin Hinds, as one of the reggae/ska pioneers from Jamaica, was well received in the UK during the ska era. Without question, “Carry Go Bring Come” was one of his biggest hits. A tune which permeated throughout jukeboxes, transistor radios, Grundig 18″ analog grammaphones, blues dances/shub-in’s & British concert halls during the early sixties. It later proceeded to influence the Two Tone British ska/punk rock groups like Judge Dread, Bad Manner, The Specials, and was actually covered by The Selecter.
Justin Hinds being a messenger of Rastafari brought words of identity, knowledge, & consciousness to Jamaican expatriates & the new generation of black-Britons [black youths born in the UK, of Caribbean parentage]. With ska being the popular Jamaican music at the time, he was able to appeal to both white & black by using ska to deliver a cultural-repatriation message.
For I personally, it’s primary & secondary school memories of my white school friends laughing, skanking, & singing along, trying to capture the patois language; as well as the start of the journey searching for my roots. The best was yet to come, coz Justin Hinds became an influential part in the development of Bob Marley & The Wailers.
Ital-K has been a reggae radio DJ for 32 years. He hosts the weekly “Ital Rhythms” on KDHX 88.1 (St. Louis, Missouri) and twice-weekly programs on English Pound Radio online.
Keith Richards came to the Reggae Archives two years ago to talk about Justin Hinds. He was making a film to include with the luxurious box set last year that collected both volumes of Wingless Angels.
Keith told me he grew up listening to ska, and mentioned artists like Laurel Aitken, Jimmy Cliff, Justin Hinds and the Dominoes and others he admired as a teenager in the early ’60s. Ten years later the Rolling Stones found themselves in Jamaica cutting Goats Head Soup. Keith fell in love with the area around Ocho Rios and bought a house there.
He soon got into the low key local vibe – nobody in Jamaica seemed to know or care about the Stones nor recognize him. The small beach nearby become a favorite hang, and he enjoyed talking to the local fishermen, men with names like Locksley and Justin, even uncharacteristically, a woman named Sister Maureen. They liked to sing as they worked on their nets on the rocky shores of the Caribbean, and Keith was invited to join in. Soon he was welcoming the dreadlocked crew back to his home, and the assorted Rasta eventually felt comfortable enough to house the village’s sacred drums at Keith’s for protection.
After a few years of this, Keith commented one day to Justin that he thought he had a beautiful voice, and wondered why he had never thought about recording. “But I’ve been recording long time,” he said. “Really? Under what name?” ” My own, Justin Hinds and the Dominoes.” “You’re Justin Hinds?!” Keith exploded. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” “Because,” he laughed, “you never ask.”
Roger Steffens is the author of The Oral History of Bob Marley, forthcoming from W.W. Norton, and myriad other works.
A lot of Sam Cooke in him. And such a gentile voice, you know. You wonder how a guy that can smoke that much weed could possibly keep such a pure voice. Yeah, and he was never loud, he would sing very softly, very quietly, but it would carry. Incredible direction on it.
He never had the big, big hit or settled into a groove. I mean, most of the stuff he did was actually ska and rocksteady that he’s known for. I never understood why — I just don’t think that he was really that interested in going for the ‘big time’ or anything like that. I mean, you can’t question a guy, he ran his life on his own timing and what he thought he could handle, probably. I never saw him surrounded by any sort of showbiz types, even Jamaican showbiz types. They’re not trying to hustle him into things.
He kind of had his own space and I don’t think anybody interfered with it. He just played, he played his string the way he wanted to play it, you know, without any interference. That’s my impression, anyway.
Never a bad word from him, ever, or about him. And his love of music was also the other thing that captured me about him. The sheer joy of singing and playing.
A founding member of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards also plays reggae and has appeared on work by Peter Tosh, Lee Perry, Black Uhuru, Toots & the Maytals, Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers and others. A parttime resident of Jamaica for 40 years, Richards played on and produced the Grammy-nominated Wingless Angels Vol. I & II, released on his own Mindless Records.