The first thing that comes to mind when you hear about Ken Boothe is sweet-sounding music. Born in Denham Town, Kingston, in 1948, Kenneth George Boothe has been impacting the music industry for over 50 years. Under his moniker “Ken Boothe”, he was recorded more albums and songs than his age. His artistic style embraces a rare blend of musical genius, causing him to be labelled as a “one of a kind” musician. As a result, over the years, he has gained local and international stardom from his versatility. From rocksteady to reggae to R&B, he has sung them all. His musical talents and love for humanity have afforded him the opportunity of touring several countries. Recently, the Reggae Month Committee brought us on an exciting journey into the life of Ken Boothe. The feature was live-streamed on several culture pages, including the Ministry of Gender, Culture, Entertainment and Sports.
Ken Boothe began his musical career in the early 1960s. Raised in a musically talented family, he credits his interests in music to his mother and elder sister, who motivated him to pursue music. Chasing his passion and working hard for what he believes in are two important core values in his life. These have been made evident in this illustrious career. Consequently, when at eight years old, he won his first singing contest Ken never looked back. What started as a family pastime soon turned into a serious career path for Boothe as he joined his school choir and sought mentors. His role models included Jackie Edwards, Winston’ Stranger’ Cole and Owen Gray. Listen below to hear their impact on him:
After these encounters, Ken got the opportunity he longed for all his life. He began his career with ‘Stranger’ Cole in the duo Stranger And Ken and released several titles. Not long after, he signed with Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One Label. Under this deal, he built his momentum, released his first album, “Mr. Rock Steady” in 1968 and perfected his rocksteady rhythm. He continued recording with Sir Coxsone until 1970, releasing some of his biggest local hits. He also made records for other producers simultaneously, including Sonia Pottinger, Phill Pratt and Leslie Kong. On Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label in 1971, he lit up the world with his hit song “Freedom Street”. This classic was co-written with BB Seaton, a long-time friend from Studio One.
Studio Woes and Injustices
Despite having a successful career, Ken Booth had to manoeuvre struggles and injustices. One of the biggest obstacles he faced was being cheated in earlier business days. At the time, musicians were oblivious to their rights and blindly trusted producers and record label owners with their careers. After being enlightened by his good friend, BB Seaton, Ken and his colleagues started demanding more.
Albums, Accolades and Hit Singles
Ken Boothe has had a full career. He left no stones unturned and no task unchecked. Throughout his career, he released twenty-one albums and topped local and international charts. In 1974, his “golden song”, ‘Every Thing I Owned’ topped the international charts and also spent four weeks at No. 1 on the British Top of the Pops Charts. Furthermore, he earned the No. 11 spot on the same charts with ‘Crying Over You.’ Ken was also awarded the Order of Distinction for his contribution to Jamaican music by the Jamaican government in 2003. The Order of Distinction is sixth in precedence of the Orders of Societies of Honour.
Ken Boothe is a cultural icon who altogether has remained relevant throughout the seasons. He has never lost his focus and in essence, aims to perfect his craft continuously. What is your favourite Ken Boothe song? Let us know in the comments. “Come share, celebrate, boast and debate our Jamaican culture with us.”