Marcia Griffiths: The Queen of Reggae

Kinisha Correia

Marcia Griffiths (right) during her time as a member of the I-Three's, pictured alongside Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley.

Marcia Griffiths, the lauded Queen of Reggae who dons 55 years in the music industry, released a brand new album on June 14th.

A foundation singer in the reggae industry, Griffith’s latest album hit airwaves, stamping her place as a longstanding influencer in Jamaica’s music arena.

Appropriately titled Timeless, the album is a selection of 15 songs that pay tribute to the Studio One record label, which boasts a solid collection of songs that span the genres of ska, rocksteady and reggae.

According to Griffiths, “Working on this album was refreshing and filled with fun memories of early Studio One days when those songs were being recorded.”

The album, which was released under Tad’s Record, dropped its first single ‘What Kind of World” in April. The tune is a cover of a single that was first recorded in 1968 by Jamaican vocal trio, The Cables, at Studio One – the record label where she spent her formative years, alongside major acts such as Bob Marley and Bob Andy.

An ode to Jamaica’s greatest long-time hits, on the album Griffith’s also covers Delroy Wilson’s “Once Upon A Time”, Ken Boothe’s “Home”, The Heptones’ “Baby Be True”, Peter Tosh’s “I’m The Toughest”, Sugar Minott’s “This Old Man”, and Abyssinians’ “Declaration Of Rights”. Also included on the album is a ska medley that includes Jackie Opel, Toots Hibbert, The Wailers, and Rita Marley, among other luminaries.

Born in Kingston in 1949, Griffiths began singing at a young age in the church choir and at school. She stepped into the professional arena at only 15 years old when she was discovered by Phillip “Boasie” James, a member of the vocal group the Blues Busters, who heard her singing at a friend’s party.

James arranged for Griffiths to sing at a talent competition where she wowed the crowd and was immediately invited to perform on a television variety show that very evening. She then signed on as a singer with popular ska band, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, and landed a contract with trailblazing producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and his Studio One record label.

By 1967, Griffiths released mega-hit, rocksteady single “Feel Like Jumping”, which quickly climbed the charts both in Jamaica and the UK. In 1969, she teamed up with Bob Andy as a duet partner. The duo’s cover of Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted and Black” became a major international hit in 1970. However, four years later, they parted ways and Griffiths then released her second solo album, Sweet Bitter Love.

In 1974, Bob Marley and the Wailers added a trio of female singers to the group called the I-Threes, which included Griffiths, Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt. While, the women were key on-stage and in-studio with Marley until his 1981 death, they also released two albums on their own amidst the flurry of Marley’s success.

During her time with the legend, Griffiths also continued to record as a solo act. In 1982, she released Billboard hit, “Electric Boogie” – which turned out to be a major high point of her solo work. The song birthed the infamous dance move called the Electric Slide. Both the song and the dance move, are staples at parties around the globe even today.

Throughout the years, Griffiths has continued to record regularly and tour internationally. Recently, she has recorded with many newer acts such as Shaggy, Buju Banton, and Cutty Ranks. In 1990 and 1997, she also reunited with Bob Andy for duet albums.

This July and August, Griffiths will be promoting her latest album in an extensive European tour, with stops in Denmark, Sweden, France, Austria, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Copenhagen.

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