Veteran singer Jimmy Riley, whose career spanned six decades of popular Jamaican music, passed away last week (Mar. 23) in New York, where he was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Born Martin Norman Riley on May 22, 1947 in Kingston, Jamaica, Riley was best known to the younger generation as the father of Tarrus Riley, one of contemporary reggae’s most in-demand artists. Father and son recorded together often in recent years, and the younger Riley regularly brought his father onstage to sing with him, including his late-summer set l last year at Central Park's Summerstage. “My father introduced me to music, brought me into recording studios long before I could even talk; I was around all the great Jamaican musicians and singers because of him,” Tarrus told Billboard a 2014 interview.
Possessing a pliant, distinctively robust tenor, Jimmy Riley began his recording career in the mid-'60s as a member of harmony group The Sensations, which recorded several hits for sound system owner-turned-producer Arthur Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label. Reid’s symphonic productions made him a king of rock steady -- the slower, more soulful rhythmic successor of ska and reggae’s direct forerunner. The rock steady era, the short but influential period between 1966-68, brought forth a new generation of acts dominated by groups like Riley's Sensations, whose hits for Treasure Isle included "Everyday Is Just A Holiday" and "Those Guys," as well as a memorable interpretation of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions’ “Right On Time” for producer Bunny “Striker” Lee.