Burning Spear is one of the legends of roots reggae, described by iTunes as part Rastafarian preacher and part black historian. The message of Rastafari is a prominent part of Spear’s music, which has found an eager audience from Jamaica to Europe. He has spent much of his career as a touring artist, and continues to perform to appreciative crowds to this day.
Find out more about him below:
- His birth name is Winston Rodney. His stage name comes from a category of Kenyan state commendations, the Order of the Burning Spear. His philosophy and music have been greatly influenced by the life of former Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta, who is credited as the founding father of the independent nation. ‘Jomo’ is translated in English as ‘burning spear.’
- He was led to record with Sir Coxsone Dodd at the famed Studio One by none other than Bob Marley. The two initially met in the hills of St Ann, the parish they are both from. Spear recalls, “The way the whole thing came about is that I found myself moving along up in the hills of St Ann’s and I ran into Bob at the same time. And Bob was going to his farm. The man was moving with a donkey and some buckets and a fork, and cutlass and plants. We just reason man-to-man and I-man say wherein I would like to get involved in the music business. And Bob say, ‘All right, just check Studio One.'” That first venture into ‘town’, as well as his musical commitment and ‘trod’ are recorded in the autobiographical As It Is, which opens the Calling Rastafari album.
- Burning Spear was actually the name of a group, which included bass singer Rupert Willington, and tenor Delroy Hinds. Their 1969 debut was Door Peep, produced by Dodd.
- He has been nominated for a Grammy on 12 occasions, winning first for the 1999 album Calling Rastafari and the for the 2008 disc Jah Is Real.
- Spear made his acting debut as a lead player in the local movie Rockers, a Robin Hood-style film following the struggles of musicians. His a cappella performance of Jah No Dead has become one of the film’s standout moments.
- He was awarded the Order of Distinction, Officer Class, in October 2007.
- Spear and his wife Sonia started Burning Music, his independent production, distribution and booking company, in 1980. The first album on the label was the acclaimed Hail H.I.M. In the early years, Burning Music operated primarily as a production company that then licensed its creative output to major record labels such as EMI.
- He has released 28 studio and six live albums, and is a part of 23 compilations. A new album, No Destroyer, is teased as ‘coming soon‘ on his website.
Click for a Burning Spear playlist.