Stop Them Jah Johnny Clarke
One of Jamaica's most outstanding vocal talents, Johnny Clarke has never achieved the international acclaim of some of his compatriots, and he even fell from favour in his homeland in the 1980s. However, in his heyday, during the mid- through late '70s, the singer recorded a stream of crucial cuts, as well as a bundle of seminal albums. Clarke has also had an inestimable impact on the dancehall scene, which in his day was still the preserve of DJs. His ability to write new lyrics, mostly in a cultural vein, to classic rocksteady hits opened the dancehall door for vocalists, and most critics acknowledge him as the first of the dancehall singers. Certainly his influence on such stars as Sugar Minott is evident.
Clarke was born in Whitfield Town, Jamaica, in January, 1955. He began his career in the talent contest circuit, and a win in 1971 at Tony Mack's talent show brought him a meeting with Clancy Eccles. The producer was impressed enough to record the singer's debut single, “God Made the Sea and the Sun,” but was apparently unwilling to publicize it, at least that's how Clarke interpreted the song's lack of success. Impatient, he left Eccles and eventually hooked up with producer Rupie Edwards. Perhaps Clarke's complaint was correct, for he immediately scored a clutch of hits with Edwards. “Julie,” “Everyday Wondering,” and “Ire Feelings” all shook the charts in 1973. The latter single provided the template for the producer's own massive success with “Ire Feelings (Skanga).”
The following year, Clarke cut a number of singles for a variety of different producers, including “Jump Back Baby” for producer Glen Brown. However, although Clarke was already a well-known figure, it was only after he joined forces with producer, Bunny Lee that the singer reached his full potential. Lee, who had made his name in the rocksteady era and helped inaugurate the shift to reggae, was undergoing his own period of creative brilliance, introducing the “flying cymbal” sound that swiftly became his trademark and earned him the nickname “Striker,” whilst also delving into the possibilities of dub. Together the two men would unleash a host of unforgettable singles, opening with the massive hit “None Shall Escape the Judgement.”