Most Popular Songs
Bookings and Current Status
|Origin||Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica|
|Died||19 November 1986 (aged 39)|
Even with a quarter of a century’s hindsight it is difficult to understand how and why a singer as talented as Freddie McKay could make so many classic records and still remain a relatively uncelebrated figure. Born in the parish of St. Catherine in 1947 there are few biographical details or artist interviews that can shed any light on the background of this giant of Jamaican music: all we have is a collection of wonderful records. His untimely death of a brain haemorrhage in 1986 robbed reggae of one of its most singular yet unsung singers.
He began recording in 1967 as ska gave way to rock steady and ‘Giving You A Try Girl’ and ‘Go On Girl’ were released back to back onPrince Buster’s Olive Blossom label in Jamaica and on Blue Beat in the UK. The wonderful ‘Fine, Fine, Fine’ for Beverley’s(Beverleys) was confusingly credited to Frederick McLean and his breakthrough hit produced by Duke Reid and released later that year, ‘Love Is A Treasure’, was credited to Freddie McLean. This mournful song of lost love catapulted Freddie to the top rank of rock steady vocalists… and the competition was seriously stiff.
In the early seventies Freddie moved to Brentford Road where, with the mighty Soul Defenders providing the musical accompaniment, he produced a consistent body of work for Mr Dodd(CS Dood)’s Money Disc label. The hits included his highly individual interpretation of Larry Williams & His Band’s ‘High School Dance’, ‘Sweet You Sour You’, the reality themed ‘Father Will Cut You Off’ and the massive ‘Picture On The Wall’ which provided the title for his debut album on the Studio One label. The first cut of his career defining ‘I’m A Free Man’ dates from this period and this Money Disc seven inch release remains one of his best and most sought after records.
“I was born in this life with life and I’ve got to live the life that is right…” I’m A Free Man
Never contracted to one label or producer Freddie recorded sparingly over the next few years. His second album, ‘Lonely Man’, released onDynamic in 1974 and produced by Warwick Lynn and Neville Hinds featured a further version of ‘I’m A Free Man’. Essential seven inch records such as the captivating ‘Rock A Bye Woman’, first released on Rad Bryan’s Hot Rod label, helped to establish his legendary status. Versioned by Horace Andy and Jah Bull as ‘Ital Vital’ this ever popular record is regularly played out by discerning selectors. Another version of ‘I’m A Free Man’ for youth producer Leonald ‘Santic’ Chin(Leonald Chin), , and complete with mournful melodica, proved massively popular and provided the rhythm track for one of Augustus Pablo’s most memorable early outings ‘Hap Ki Do’. Freddie’s chilling version toDennis Brown’s monumental ‘At The Foot Of The Mountain’, produced by Eddie Wong, entitled Won’t Get Away’ was yet another certified classic from this period.
Freddie travelled down to Channel One on Maxfield Avenue in 1976 where Freddie’s “big heeled boots and bell foot pants” propelled by Sly Dunbar’s militant double drumming proved irresistible. ‘Dance This Ya Festival’ won the Festival Song Contest for that year and Alvin ‘GG’ Ranglin(Alvin Ranglin) released ‘The Best Of Freddie McKay’ (a superb collection of newly recorded songs and not a career retrospective) the following year.
Freddie continued to record top class material up for a number of different producers until his untimely death. A retrospective album combining his best work for the many producers he worked with would surely place him at the pinnacle of his profession but it is highly unlikely that the licensing agreements necessary for this could ever be arranged. To all those who knowFreddie McKay is one of the greats… sadly not enough people do.
The late Freddie McKay never achieved the degree of consistent success his talent deserved or left an album that quite did it justice. Instead his best work was scattered over obscure 45’s on many different labels…” Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton