Sunday, September 11, 2022


The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues with the 50th of its biweekly feature looking at seminal moments that have helped shape Jamaica over the past 60 years. UNLIKE his contemporaries, four-time Jamaica Festival Song Competition winner Stanley Beckford's star shone brightly outside of the annual contest. The dimunitive showman had massive hits with his mento-flavoured ditties Broom Weed, Leave My Kisiloo, and Soldering. Born in Portland, Beckford was raised by his grandparents. His career started as a rocksteady/reggae artiste in the late 1960s, but he switched to mento in the early 1970s and began playing for tourists in north coast hotels. Up until his death on March 30, 2007 at 65, Beckford single-handedly kept the mento sound alive with a series of hit songs. His Festival winners (twice with The Turbines, once with The Astronauts, and solo) were uptempo mento songs that featured his distinct nasal twang. Those songs were Come Sing With Me (1980), Dem A Fi Squirm (1986), Dem A Pollute (1994), and Fi Wi Island A Boom, which won in 2000. Zac Henry, founding member of The Astronauts, describes Beckford as the consummate showman. "I met Stanley about the late '60s, early '70s. He could take any song and put a mento twist to it... He was the master of ad lib; his style was special. He could dance and he always found some costume you would have to talk about," Henry told the Jamaica Observer. "Stanley was a jovial and 'vibesy' person."
Keeping mento in the mainstream was probably Beckford's greatest accomplishment. He had big hits in the 1970s, a fertile period for roots-reggae and Rastafari. His breakthrough song came in 1975 with the risqué Soldering, which was banned from Jamaican airwaves. Interestingly, that song was covered by an emerging American duo named Hall and Oates for their 1975 album Daryl Hall & John Oates. Other Soldering tidbits: It was co-written by Beckford and Alvin Ranglin, who produced several of Gregory Isaacs's hits, including Love is Overdue and Border. Beckford was backed on Soldering by Soul Syndicate, one of the top bands in reggae history.