Holt hailed as icon
VETERAN JAMAICAN REGGAE singer John Holt, who died in London on Sunday, has been lauded for his contribution to the Caribbean music industry.
Leading local entertainment promoter Al Gilkes described Holt as “a kind person who was willing to help people . . . and he was the consummate performer”.
His manager, Copeland Forbes, said the singer, whose hits included Stick By Me, Only A Smile, Tonight, Ali Baba and I See Your Face, died in a London hospital, where he had been ailing for some time. He was 69.
Gilkes brought Holt to Barbados from the 1990s and again as a partner in FAS Entertainment (with Freddie Hill and the late Sherlock Yarde), which organised the Vintage Reggae show. He said both he and his partners had developed a close friendship with the Jamaican-born performer.
“We brought him back to Barbados two years ago for Vintage Reggae, after an absence of a few years. He was so impactful we booked him for this year, not knowing that that would have been the last time anyone would have seen him performing on a local stage,” Gilkes said.
While it was known that Holt had not been very well in recent times, the seriousness of his illness was never revealed, even though there were recent rumours that he had died.
“I don’t think there will be another John Holt in Caribbean entertainment. He’s up there among the icons – the Marleys, Sparrows, Kitcheners and others such as the Soberses and Laras,” Gilkes added.
He noted that Holt’s portfolio was perhaps the largest among Caribbean artistes and dated back to the 1960s.
FAS is likely to dedicate this year’s Vintage Reggae show to Holt’s memory.
Holt first rose to fame in the 1960s as a member of the Paragons, a group for which he penned The Tide Is High, a track which saw global fame in the 1980s with Blondie’s cover.
In 1970, Holt left the Paragons to focus on his solo career, and soon became one of the biggest names in reggae, with his track Stick By Me, recorded with producer Bunny Lee, listed as the biggest-selling Jamaican record of 1972. His last solo album was Peacemaker, from 1993.
The cause of his death is yet to be confirmed. (ES)