Ska pioneer and Jamaican music legend Prince Buster has died at 78, several years after suffering a stroke, his wife Mola Ali said Friday (Sept. 9).
Born Cecil Bustamante Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1938, he became one of the island’s most revered musicians, performing and producing popular ska bands in the 1960s including The Vikings and the Folkes Brothers.
Music was “his passion, his life,” his wife said in a phone interview. “He built a studio in the home. Every night he started music at about 3 or 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, and about 3 or 4 at night is when he turned that off.”
A prolific musician, he recorded thousands of records, including such hits as “Al Capone,” and “Judge Dread.” He helped ignite the ska movement in England and later helped carry it into the rocksteady era in the mid-1960s. During a ska revival in the late 1970s, a group of British musicians named their band Madness after one of his hit songs and also covered his song “One Step Beyond” in 1979.
Prince Buster traveled extensively while performing, and he loved to garden, bringing seeds back home from all over the world. And he was a devoted husband at home, she said. They had three children during their 47 year marriage, and he also fathered kids on the outside, she said, adding that she didn’t know exactly how many.
Prince Buster couldn’t walk after a massive stroke in 2009, but he could still communicate and travel. Ali said he died at a Miami hospital on Thursday after suffering heart problems.