Prince Buster, musician, born 24 May 1938; died 8 September 2016.

“Prince Buster’s death has been confirmed by Mr. Desmond Young, President of The Jamaica Federation of Musicians’’.

Prince Buster, born Cecil Bustamante Campbell, grew up in the turbulent neighborhood around Orange Green in Kingston.

Firstly nicknamed “Buster” after his middle name Bustamante (in honour to Sir Alexander Bustamante, a Jamaican working class hero), “Prince” was the nickname he later received during his early moneyless boxing activity that counts just one professional fight.

He also had a close relationship in the mid-‘60s with his ‘big brother’ Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali who recently passed away, an influence that will bring him to embrace the Nation of Islam community with the name of Yusef Muhammad Ali.

During the late ‘50s, influenced by rhythm & blues imported from North America, he decided to build his own sound system called ‘the voice of the people’ and, due to his prolific quality recordings, suddenly became ‘the king of sound system’ and was a pivotal figure in the ska foundation (for a better understanding, ska is the grandfather of reggae) and its transition into rocksteady (the child of ska).

Prince asserted: “I went to Drumbago (Arkland Parkes aka Last call Ndr.) who played a club and I asked him to come with me and play a march, similar to a procession. I would wander off in processions to the beat of the drum, and that is what I did. I get together with Drumbago. I put the march on the track and I asked him to put the accent on the one and the three and I had Jah Jerry come up with the strum of the guitar and I had Rico Rodriguez do the ‘pop pop pop’ on the tenor sax (sic.) [1] and recorded the sound that took over Jamaica. And that was called ska.

His first instant hit in Jamaica was his 1960 produced single for The Falkes Brothers called ‘Oh Carolina’ and he was also the first Jamaican artist to have a UK top 20 chart hit with ‘Al Capone’ in 1965.

Over the years he was always a key figure in the evolution of the genre, so much to recorded one of the early dub albums in the Jamaican history titled ‘The Message Dub Wise’ in the early ‘70s.

Prince Buster was the main source of inspiration for the ska revival from Coventry’s 2 Tone label with bands like Madness, The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter.

Right in 1978 London’s band called Morris And The Minors renamed themselves Madness after Buster’s classic song ‘Madness Is Gladness’, and in 1978 their debut single ‘The Prince’ went straight into the top 20. The band later had another wold-wide hit with a reworking of the Buster song ‘One Step Beyond’.

Coventry’s The Specials also covered Buster’s ‘Enjoy Yourself’ in 1980.

In the late ‘80s and ‘90s he resurfaced on tour with the legendary The Skatalites as backing band.

A great man, a fantastic musician and producer, a genius who  defined a genre.

This town, is coming like a ghost town’ (The Specials ‘Ghost Town’), this bloody year I’d add.

[1] Rico was actually on the trombone.

Fabrizio Lusso