John Holt (pictured), one of Jamaica’s most-beloved and smoothest sounding vocalists, passed away at age 69 on Sunday morning in London. The cause of death is still unknown, according to Rolling Stone.
Holt’s interest in singing was kindled as a pre-teen, when he would sign up to compete in local talent shows in his hometown of Kingston. The then-youngster caught the eye of songwriter Bob Andy who had just branded himself as a duo act along with performer Tyrone Evans. After Jamaica gained its independence in August 1962, Andy and Evans decided to expand their musical collaboration to include other talented performers, such as Holt. The group of performers would go on to name themselves The Paragons.
The newly formed musical group soon began making a name for themselves to such a degree that most islanders knew of their music and they had not even made a formal recording yet. Memorable classics, such as the Holt-penned “Ali Baba,” “Wear You to the Ball,” and “I See Your Face,” shot the group to stellar status in Jamaica.
Listen to “Ali Baba” here:
The year 1967 brought Holt’s most-celebrated song of all, “The Tide Is High,” which the American rocker Blondie covered in 1980, which also became a No. 1 hit for her.
Listen to “The Tide Is High” here:
Even after exiting left from The Paragons, Holt’s star continued to shine with hit songs to add to his already impressive body of reggae, rocksteady, and ska. A memorable moment for the talented songwriter/performer took place when he became the first Jamaican artist to perform with the London Royal Symphony Orchestra alongside fellow singer Freddy McGregor.
Longtime friend and colleague Andy told Rolling Stone, “Holt had the most unique balladeer voice in Jamaican music. Across the board, he was the voice of our era.”