The Ethiopians – Hong Kong Flu

21st September 1969 · 1960s, 1969, Music, Reggae

Talk about being ahead of your time – this anthem was released more than 50 years ago and has never been more relevant.

The Ethiopians – essentially a vehicle for Leonard Dillon’s smoky, expressive voice – are best known for their 1967 rocksteady anthem Train To Skaville.

Dillon had a rotating cast of vocal partners in the early days but The Ethiopians are best known for their classic line-up of Dillon, Stephen Taylor and, at different times, Aston Morris and the marvellously named Melvin ‘Mellow’ Reid.

This tune is from 1969, a time when The Ethiopians, in common Jamaican music in general, were evolving from ska and rocksteady into the rootsier rhythms of reggae, and lyrics involving social concerns.

I’ve just come across a reminiscence of one of their UK gigs at the Crystal Palace Hotel in South East London in the early Seventies. “Leonard kept coughing, spluttering and being unable to sing before one of the band members asked “What’s wrong with him? Sounds like he’s got the…” as they tore into a rousing rendition of Hong Kong Flu.

“The crowd erupted and the show was triumph.”

Footnote: Dillon, who started out as a construction worker, helped Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry build his famous Black Ark Studio, while Taylor, who had a day job at a petrol station, was run over and killed in 1975.