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Music fraternity mourns the loss of one half of 'Steely and Clevie' duo

Steely hailed as 'unique. great soldier of reggae music'

By Yasmine Peru, Entertainment editor

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The reggae music fraternity across the globe is mourning the loss of pioneering dancehall producer/musician Wycleffe 'Steely' Johnson, one half of the famous duo, Steely and Clevie. Steely, who was in critical condition at a New York hospital, died yesterday morning. Doctors say he was suffering from pneumonia after having recovered from kidney complications in December last year.

The dancehall duo of Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne (left) and the late Wycleffe 'Steely' Johnson in happier days.

Long recognised as a trailblazer in the dancehall genre, Steely was well loved among his peers and proved an enduring influence on the lives of the many artistes with whom he came in contact. Such was his impact that one selector, Dwayne McKay, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and is of Trinidadian and Jamaican parentage, took on the moniker 'Steelie Bashment' after his idol Steely, who himself was a sound system selector on his popular Silver Hawk sound.

Upon hearing of his passing, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Olivia Grange hailed him as one of the "true innovators in the development of Jamaica's Dancehall music".

In a release, Grange stated, "Jamaica has lost another brilliant musician, but we must give thanks for Steely's creativity and abundance of talent which enriched our music immeasurably."

The New York-based VP Records, with whom Steely and Clevie had a long association, stated in

their release that Steely was "truly unique".

"Wycleffe 'Steely' Johnson was not only one of the pioneers of Reggae, but also a gentleman in every sense of the word, and he has departed from us today after three decades of his groundbreaking music talents with Jamaican and international artistes. He will be sadly missed by all those who knew him, either personally or through his music."

Steelie started his career as the original keyboard player with the Roots Radix Band which backed singers Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer and numerous other artistes both on tour and in the recording studio. He is listed as one of the pioneers of dancehall, but certainly not limited to this genre. Steely and Clevie have worked together for 30 years with domestic and international artistes of many styles with great success.

International dancehall act, Sean Paul, who recently released his fourth studio album, Imperial Blaze, is among the many who have sent condolences to the family, friends and fans of this dancehall heavyweight.

"He taught Jamaica, the world and me in particular a lot about music, and helped to nurture dancehall music into a genre that kids still enjoy today. May his soul rest in peace . a great soldier of Reggae Music."

Steelie and Clevie worked closely with Sean Paul producing the hit track Coxsone Dodd remastered

I'm Still in love with You featuring Sasha.

Another artiste, Screechie Joe, paid tribute to Steely as "the best producer I have ever worked with and the best riddim man".

Joe, who deejay Lady G notes was "one of Steely's best friends", was full of grief when the Observer spoke to him yesterday. "I enjoyed working with him. I have been around him from the 80s till he built a sound called Silver Hawk. I used to do dubplates and specials for Steely," the artiste recalled. "Now he is gone."

Lady G and Nadine Sutherland, like many others, recalled Steely as a perfectionist who took his craft seriously. "My song, Starvation In the Land was one of the first songs Steely worked on. I was 11 years old and I can remember being so impressed with him then . and throughout the years that has not changed," Nadine said.

Among the first to send condolences was Bounty Killer and his Alliance family. "Steely's works shaped the modern sound of digital dancehall and his contribution to Jamaican music is immeasurable. His energy and effervescent character will be missed at studio sessions and on corners across Kingston and around the world," Bounty stated.

During the mid 70s to early 80s, the duo also played on several hit recordings for various producers and their extensive discography includes Dawn Penn's 1992 rendition of No, No, No. In 1988, Steely and Clevie officially cemented their musical marriage and later launched their Studio 2000 label which spawned numerous hit songs for a slew of artistes, securing them slots on charts worldwide, including Billboard.

Steely and Clevie have worked with No Doubt, Billy Ocean, Back Street Boys, Heavy D & The Boyz, Buju Banton, Capleton, Maxi Priest, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, Mr

Vegas, Bounty Killer, Elephant Man, Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown, Lady Saw, Barrington Levy to name a few.

His musical partner, Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne, could not be reached for comment.

Funeral and memorial arrangements will be announced.

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