I first heard the name Leroy Smart when Joe Strummer name-checked him in the lyric of The Clash’s best single, White Man In Hammersmith Palais, in 1977.
That was a generation of young punks’ first introduction to roots reggae artists like Leroy, Dillinger and Delroy Wilson (we already knew Ken Boothe from his pop hit Everything I Own).
Pride And Ambition, showcasing Leroy Smart’s anguished voice – permanently on the brink of breaking down – and his unusual enunciation, is one of his signature tunes.
He first recorded it with Gussie Clarke back in 1972 with a dub featuring the great toaster Big Youth, followed by this rockers-style remake from five years later – a year before he appeared in the film Rockers.
An orphan from the age of two, Smart had released his first single, It Pains Me, back in 1969, following up with Ethiopia (To Jamaica) for Joe Gibbs – also released in a different version as Jahovia.
His breakthrough came in 1973 with the fantastic Mother Liza, backed by The Wailers, which topped the local singles chart.
After working with Bunny Lee for several years, he re-recorded another of his best-known songs, Ballistic Affair at Channel One, in 1976 – picked up by Island Records for UK released – before being immortalised for a new audience by The Clash.
In Jamaica he already was, and continues to be, a star.