During the middle of the 1970s Johnny Clarke stood at a Crossroads of Jamaican music, and was the point about which Reggae music turned during the "Golden Era" of '70s Roots Reggae. Briefly there was no more popular act than he in Jamaica, and this in a country where popularity is exceptionally hard won.
He was nominated best vocalist five times in his own country, an indication of the love Jamaicans have for his voice and music. There are many reasons as to why he commands the respect of his countrymen, one is his ability to perform both roots Reggae material and love songs with equal ability and conviction. This dual persona, both as roots 'preacher' and love 'crooner', was one which out of financial necessity many other performers were required to adopt. Dennis Brown, then Johnny's biggest rival, is a fine example in this regard.
Masterful dub remixes of Johnny Clarke's songs by KING TUBBY contribute no end to the beauty of any mid '70s single release by Clarke. Listen to 'Move Out Of Babylon Rastaman' or the later 'Cold I Up' and to the accompanying b-side dub versions, and you will realize why Johnny Clarke encapsulates so well, '70s Roots Reggae. Few other artists have ever achieved such domination, let alone with the consummate ease and style that Johnny Clarke, the 'studio idler' did.
If you are looking to understand and absorb the world of Reggae, in particular the 'Golden Era' of the mid '70s, Clarke's music is an ideal vehicle within which to do so. When Bob Marley was turning himself into the first International Jamaican superstar, Big Youth, Inner Circle and Johnny Clarke ruled the roost back home. They were the acts popular with Jamaicans, in Jamaica.
While he failed to maintain the success of the '70s, Clarke went on to become one of the highlights of the dancehall era, re-establishing his reputation as he did so. His style had always been well suited to this new genre, one that coincided with the beginning of the new decade.
He has continued to remain true to his own roots, singing largely of 'cultural' matters and retaining his Rastafarian faith. Touring to this day, he spends much of his time in the U.K., and long may we benefit from his beautiful voice.