Entertainment

Bunny Lee: King of Greenwich Farm

My Jamaican 55

BY HOWARD
CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Saturday, July 15, 2017

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This is the 33rd in our daily entertainment series highlighting 55 Jamaicans who broke down barriers and helped put the country on the world stage. Each day one personality will be featured, culminating Independence Day, August 6.

FOR lovers of seafood, one of the places to go in Kingston is Greenwich Farm. But in the late-1960s, there was a music explosion that attracted artistes with different tastes.

Bunny “Striker” Lee is largely responsible for that.

Greenwich Farm had a vibrant sound system scene before Lee became a producer in the mid-1960s. The former auto parts salesman was in the sprawling community where many people made their living from selling fish.

Lee cut his teeth in the music business pushing songs at dances by Duke Reid and Clement “Coxson” Dodd.

In the late-1960s, he produced a number of lovers rock songs that announced the Greenwich Farm sound. They included Conversation (The Uniques), Everybody Needs Love (Slim Smith), Smooth Operator, Better Must Come (Delroy Wilson) and Stick By Me (John Holt).

That mellow sound evolved as the rebellious '70s dawned. Lee embraced the volatile times by producing hard-hitting songs by Rastafarian artistes.

Max Romeo's Let The Power Fall, Johnny Clarke's None Shall Escape The Judgement and The Gorgon by Cornel Campbell are some of the songs produced during that period.

Significantly, Lee's success opened doors for the Hoo Kim brothers to launch Channel One at nearby Maxfield Avenue in 1972. For the next decade, Kingston 13 was the leading source of hit songs in Jamaica.

Like Reid, Dodd and Lee “Scratch” Perry, Bunny Lee has amassed a catalogue that is redistributed by major and independent record companies to this day.

Many of these companies are in Europe where demand for music from the 1960s and 1970s has always been high. Reggae historians who visit Jamaica usually seek out the genial Lee, now 75.

Bunny Lee was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2008 by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music.

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