As the Hope Diamond is an American national treasure, the MIGHTY DIAMONDS are a Jamaican national treasure. Formed in Trench Town in 1969, Jamaica’s premier harmony trio continues to tour and perform, celebrating more than 40 years of making music, from the most militant roots reggae to the sweetest lovers’ rock.
The Mighty Diamonds – Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson, Donald “Tabby” Shaw, and Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson – know what soul is all about. The three reggae warriors have risen from the poverty and despair of inner-city Kingston to become learned reggae ambassadors who have traveled throughout Europe, the U.S., Africa, and Japan, spreading the gospel of harmony and emancipation from mental slavery.
Right Time, the Mighty Diamonds’ breakthrough album on the Channel One label, elevated the group to rock star status in 1975. Produced by Joseph Hoo Kim, Right Time brought together the Jamaican musical elite such as Sly and Robbie (drum and bass) and Ancel Collins (keyboards) and generated hits such as “Africa,” “Have Mercy,” “Natural Natty,” “Them Never Love Poor Marcus,” and the reggae party album, “Pass the Kutchie,” which has been sampled by everyone from Lauryn Hill to Michael Franti to Wyclef Jean.
Along with having more solo recordings than they can count under their belts, the Mighty Diamonds have appeared on a number of compilations, including Is It Rolling Bob? A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan (Sanctuary, 2004); Old to the New: A Steely & Clevie Tribute to Joe Gibbs Classics (VP, 2002); and Fire on the Mountain: Reggae Celebrates the Grateful Dead (Pow Wow, 1996). During the Christmas season, the Diamonds’ lively version of “Frosty the Snowman” (Ras Records) is a hit with young and old. In 2009, the Diamonds released “Special Lady,” a remake of Ray, Goodman, and Brown’s 1980s ballad, on their independent label, Street Corner Music.
The Mighty Diamonds have received a number of lifetime achievement awards. In 2006, following their performance at Reggae Sunsplash in Ocho Rios, the Diamonds received a prestigious national award from former prime minister Portia Simpson Miller for their artistic contribution to Jamaican culture.
In November 2009, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke recognized the Mighty Diamonds with a congressional proclamation for their 40 years of hits and contributions to the music industry, when TSO Productions and the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music held their fifth annual Reggae Culture Salute at Nazareth High School Performance Center, Brooklyn, NY.
In honor of more than 40 years together as a vocal trio, the Mighty Diamonds received the Ragga Muffins Festival Award of Recognition on Feb. 21, 2010. Following their performance at the sold-out 29th annual Ragga Muffins reggae festival at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, CA, Bunny, Tabby, and Judge were presented with trophies on behalf of the festival and Moss Jacobs Presents. “The blessings are there; and we are here to share them; that is the most important thing,” said Shaw, who has been the lead vocalist since he was a teenager.
This year, the Mighty Diamonds released their latest single, “Back ’A Wall,” which Bunny says is sure to be a hit.
This summer, they returned to New Orleans, backed by the internationally renowned Yellow Wall Dub Squad. The Mighty Diamonds have a rich history and connection with Crescent City. Bunny Diamond recalled being influenced by New Orleans artists such as Lee Dorsey and the Meters during their early years.
In 1977, the Kingston-based singers traveled to New Orleans to record the historic album Ice on Fire, with award-winning songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint. Ice on Fire blends traditional reggae and New Orleans riddims, featuring Toussaint classics such as “Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley,” “Get Out of My Life Woman,” and Mighty Diamonds early hits, such as “Country Living.”
Toussaint recalled the Mighty Diamonds’ professionalism and creativity in the recording studio: “When I’m working with artists, I try and tailor things to fit them, as if you’re a fashion designer and making a dress to fit just you. Whenever I can, that’s the way it’s done. Of course, sometimes you’ll get a group like the Mighty Diamonds, where you don’t have to do that, because they come in with all their materials and all you have to do is put on a safety pin here and there, but they’ve got it together already. I must say that they were so prepared when they got there, there was very little to do but let them in.”
For more information, visit the group’s website: themightydiamonds.net.