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Reggae has Bob Marley, its Holy Ghost, but only one Jamaican singer can lay claim to lifting that music up from its underground status and placing it square in the greater arena of rock ’n’ roll. That’s MICHAEL ROSE, a veteran artist who is dominating reggae with his “Shoot Out” megahit.
In 1980, pop music’s fabled “riddim twins,” Jamaican bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar, took over the musical backing of Black Uhuru, a group created in 1977 by harmony singer Ducky Simpson. Uhuru had previously released albums and singles, but it wasn’t until Sly & Robbie came on board and brought in Michael Rose, a young and gifted singer from the rough Waterhouse section of Kingston’s downtown, that Black Uhuru became an international force to be reckoned with, a reggae group with something more – rock ’n’ roll thunder, lighting, and menace, deepened by Rasta-reggae cultural enlightenment. As the galvanizing lead vocalist and chief creative force for Black Uhuru, Rose took no prisoners, stampeding stages all over the world and mesmerizing countless fans with his flashing eyes and dreadlocks and stunningly supple vocals capped by Rose’s trademark “Waterhouse ‘Yoi, yoi, yois’,” a style he’d forged on the hardships of a tropical ghetto upbringing, where the only way out is via a microphone. Rose’s intimidating yet winning synthesis of the Rastaman’s rock ’n’ roll — equal parts One-Love advocate and fierce warrior for equal rights and justice — led the legendary band all the way to the top of international charts in short order. Michael Rose conquered the world with anthems like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (which Rose had recorded previously, as a solo artist), “Sinsemilla,” “Shine Eye Girl,” and many others, and Uhuru’s Anthem won the first-ever Reggae Grammy in 1985.
Black Uhuru lost its upward trajectory after Rose left the group and went on to carve out a permanent niche on reggae’s legends wall with his solo career, recording many successful albums, scoring many hit singles, and playing to huge crowds all over the world. Unlike some reggae stars, who managed to cross over with one or two hit tunes that cleaved to whatever happened to be the current “flavor of the month” in the world of reggae, only to then fade into obscurity, Rose is a timeless artist whose appeal will last forever. Many have tried to imitate Rose’s distinctive vocal style, but none have succeeded. His chart-topping “Shoot Out,” produced by hit-maker John John, son of the legendary King Jammy, as well as his album releases, prove that Michael Rose has lost none of his impact, originality, or inspiration.
— Eleana Oumano