by Eric Dourmerc
Edi Fitzroy (born Fitzroy Edwards) was born in 1955 in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. After living with his parents in Montego Bay, he had to move to Kinsgton with his mother when his parents got divorced in 1969.The move to the capital meant that young Edi had to live in the ghetto, where he grew up alongside future reggae star Jacob Miller.
Fitzroy graduated from the West Indies Commercial Insitute with a degree in accounting and began to work for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, which was at the time (in the late 1970ís) one of the two radio stations in Jamaica. At JBC, he got to meet the deejay Mikey Dread (Michael Campbell) who had become very popular with his show "Dread at the Controls," broadcast late at night. Dread was also a producer, and one day, a woman called Pam Hickling, who was also a songwriter, heard Fitzroy sing, and told him that she would finance his first recording with Mr. Dread. Fitzroy recorded "Miss Molly Colly" in 1978, a song written by Pam Hickling, and then "Country Man" for Mikey Dread. After touring England with Dread as a support act for The Clash in the arly 1980ís, Fitzroy joined hands with the producer Trevor Elliot who released his album Check for You Once in 1982.The title-song was a hit for Fitzroy.
In 1984, the album Coming Up Strong came out on Elliott's Musical Ambassador imprint, and featured Fitzroy's gereatest hit to date, "Princess Black." In 1988, Eclipse came out on the RAS label and featured a version of The Eagles' "Hotel California." 1993 saw the release of Deep In Mi Culture and in 2006, Hold The Vibes came out.
Edi Fitzroy emerged as a singer at a time when Jamaican music was going through some major changes and when the early "dancehall" sound was being forged by bands like the Roots Radics. His vocal style, which is reminiscent of Leroy Smart's, perfectly fitted the Radics' tough sound and the tracks gathered on his first albums show that. On his first album, Fitzroy mainly dealt with social issues ("Informer," "Second Class Citizen," "The Gun," "Youthman Penitentiary," "Poor People Suffer") and thus fused the rhythms of early dancehall with a socially aware or "conscious" approach. The result could be called "conscious dancehall." This approach was adopted for Fitzroy's biggest hit in Jamaica, "Princess Black":
She's a precious, precious, precious woman, Princess Black.That song was a massive hit for Edi Fitzroy and is still today the tune that many Jamaicans remember him by. In 1984, Fitzroy won the "Best Conscious Artist" award for that song and performed it relentlessly at the Reggae Sunsplash festival throughout the 1980ís and 1990. The song was recorded at the Channel One studio with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare and featured a tough yet sweet dancehall "riddim" which greatly contributed to its popularity. In an interview granted to The Gleaner, Fitzroy insisted that, in spite of its title, the lyrics could apply and appeal to women all over the world.
She always, always, always says she's tougher than A rock
She don't like to stay at home, living on dependency,
She says she's got to struggle out there, just like a man, you see.
She's a precious, prcecious, precious woman,
She's tougher than a rock.
Anything that is progressive,
She's always in it,
She works from eight to five,
To keep her youth-dem alive.
She's a precious, precious, precious woman,
She always says she's tougher than a rock.
In this time, some women might have gone astray,
You'd better plant your seeds for your reaping day.
In 1993, the album Deep In Mi Culture showed that he was willing and able to adapt to the new digital sound ("ragga") which taken Jamaica by storm in the late 1980ís. The title-track, which recalled Wayne Smith's "Under Mi Sleng Teng," was proof that Fitzroy had kept track of the latest developments and had certainly listened to the work released by the new dancehall deejays. Tunes like "Poor Johnny" and "Love the People Want" also showed that social issues could be adequtately covered in a dancehall style.
In 2001, a compilation of his early 1980ís songs entitled First-Class Citizen came out on the Musical Ambassador label, and 2006 saw the release of Hold the Vibes on the independent Colle label . This album contained strong tracks like "Heathen," "Chant Down Babylon." "Dready Queen" and "Never Gonna Leave Me," but failed to relaunch Fitzroy's career. Fans can only hope that another chance may come for this great singer- his back catalog certainly shows that he deserves it.
Anglin-Christie, Kavelle. "Edi Fitzroy Still Honours 'Princess Black'." The Gleaner, 15 avril 2007.
Cooke, Mel. " 'Princess Black' Not Only for Black Women..." The Gleaner, 9 octobre 2011.
Katz, David. Solid Foundation : An Oral History of Reggae. Bloomsbury, 2003.
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