Roy Shirley

Roy Shirley


Most Popular Songs

    Reggae At The Best

    Touch Them

     If I Did Know

     Hear My Plea

Bookings and Current Status

Birth Name Ainsworth Roy Rushton Shirley
Also known as King Roy Shirley, The High Priest
Born July 18, 1944
Origin Kingston, Jamaica
Died July 2008 (aged 63)
Thamesmead, London, United Kingdom
Genres Ska, rocksteady, reggae
Years active early 1960s – 2008
Labels Amalgamated, Public, Weed Beat, Trojan
Associated acts The Uniques


Singer Roy Shirley laid the foundations for rocksteady with his Joe Gibbs-produced 1967 hit “Hold Them.” An eccentric, dynamic performer famed for his theatrical stage garb and quavering vibrato, his scant recorded output and limited international fame belie his significant influence on the evolution of reggae. Born July 18, 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica, Roy Shirley first honed his three-octave voice in the choir of his mother’s Trenchtown revivalist church. As a teen he began competing in local talent contests, befriending fellow competitor Jimmy Cliff, who encouraged him to go pro. Roy Shirley’s earliest professional recordings for producer Simeon L. Smith remain unreleased, but in 1965 he scored a local hit with the ska ballad “Shirley.” After stints with Ken Boothe, Joe White, and Chuck Josephs in the Leaders, and with Slim Smith and Franklyn White in the Uniques, Roy Shirley resumed his solo career, in 1967 meeting television repairman and record salesman Gibbs through a mutual friend. Together they created “Hold Them,” which in slowing down the frenetic ska rhythm effectively gave birth to the now-famous rocksteady beat. The single proved a hit across Jamaica, and Roy Shirley went on tour. Clad in a flowing silver cape with an absurdly high collar, his stage presence drew heavily on the histrionics of R&B showman extraordinaire James Brown, complete with tongue-in-cheek vocals that verged on outright cartoonishness.

Throughout his career Roy Shirley collaborated with some of reggae’s most influential figures. In late 1967, he teamed with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry for “I Am a Winner,” and a year later established his own Public label, recruiting the likes of Peter Tosh and brothers Carlton and Aston Barrett for sessions yielding singles like “Prophecy Fulfilling,” “Flying Reggae,” and “On Board.” Roy Shirley also cut “Get on the Ball” and “Music Field” for then-fledgling producer Bunny Lee, and later baptized King Tubby’s new studio via the boxing tribute “Joe Razor.” After scoring another major hit in 1969 with his cover of Ben E. King’s “Gypsy,” Roy Shirley made his New York City debut in 1971, followed a year later by a week-long residency at Harlem’s landmark Apollo Theater. Also in 1972, he toured Britain with U-Roy and Max Romeo, promoting himself as “The High Priest of Reggae.” Roy Shirley relocated to London in 1973, a move that effectively cut him off from the Kingston reggae community, and his popularity swiftly declined. He nevertheless continued recording and performing live, opening his own record shop and later founding the British Universal Talent Development Association, a non-profit organization to support underprivileged young musicians. In 1993, Roy Shirley also cut a dancehall remake of “Hold Them,” retitled “Control Them.” He was found dead in his London home on July 17, 2008.

Ah-E-A-Oh Ahead In Life Alimony All About Love All Virgins Angel Back In The Days Bedroom Bounty Hunter Believer Big Up Body A Shake Bonafide Girl Boombastic Bow Wow Wow Broadway Bullet-Proof Buddy Can\\\’t Fight This Feeling Can\\\’t Hold Me Chica Bonita Chow Church Heathen Clothes Drop Criteria Dame Dame feat. Kat Deluna Dance & Shout Day Oh Diva Don\\\’t Ask Her That End of the World (Drink Up\\\’) Everything You Need Feel the Rush Feeling Alive Finger Smith Fired Up (F*ck the Rece$$ion!) Fly High 2012 Follow Me Forgive Them Father Freaky Girl Full Control Gal Roll Gal You A Pepper Gal Yu a Pepper Geenie Get Back My Baby Get Down To It Get My Party On Get Up, Stand Up Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Girls Just Want to Have Fun Give Thanks Give Thanks And Praise Glamity Gone With Angels Good Times Roll Heartbreak Suzie Hey Love Hey Sexy Lady Hold Me Holla At You Hookie Jookie Hope Hot Shot How Much More Hurting I\\\’m Rebel I\\\’m Sorry In The Summertime Intoxication Island Lover It Bun Me It Wasn\\\’t Me Jenny John Doe Jump and Rock Just Another Girl Keep\\\’n It Real Keep\\\’n It to Me (Swingers mix) Kibbles and Bits Lately Leave It To Me Leave Me Alone Letter To My Kids Lonely Lover

Lost Love How Them Flex Lucky Day Lust Luv Me, Luv Me Luv Me Up Mad Mad World Mampie Man a Yard Me Julie Midnite Lover Mission More Woman Move Hype Mr. Boombastic My Dream Needle Eye Nice And Lovely Not Fair Oh Carolina One Burner Out Of Control P.h.a.t. Perfect Song Piece Of My Heart Ready Fi Di Ride Reggae Vibes Repent Rise Road Block Sexy Body Girl Sexy Body Girls Sexy Lady Shaggy & Rayvon Show Shake Shake Shake She Gives Me Love Shut Up And Dance Soldering Soldiers Story Something Different Soon Be Done Special Request (Rough Cut Demo) Stand Up Strange Love Strength Of A Woman Sugarcane Supa Hypnotic Tek Set Tender Love Thank You Thank You Lord That Girl The Only One (Lie to Me) The Only One (Lie to Me) (feat. Jaiden) The Rain is Coming The Train is Coming The Voices Of Sweet Jamaica – All Star Remix These Are The Lips Think Ah So It Go This Could Be Your Day Those Days Too Cute Too Hot To Handle Train Is Coming Ultimatum Version Walking In My Shoes Way Back Home We Are The Ones We Never Danced To The Rub-A-Dub Sound Wear Di Crown What\\\’s Love Why Me Lord? Why You Mad At Me? Why You Treat Me So Bad Wild 2Nite Wildfire Woman a Pressure Me Woman Scorn WorldCitizen (Radio Edit) [feat. Shaggy] Jahcoustix Would You Be Wrong Move You See Him Face

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