Edi Fitzroy 1955-2017

Earlier this month we lost another reggae great, Edi Fitzroy. He passed through Zion’s gates on March 5th, after a brief illness. I interviewed Edi in 1992 for my book Reggae Island and the following year I did photos for his CD/LP cover Deep In Mi Culture. I’ve always liked Edi’s music and his distinctive vocal style and was shocked when I heard of his passing. Below is an (edited) excerpt from his website.

“Edi Fitzroy is a hero to the people of Jamaica. He is credited with being the first radio personality to play Reggae on the air in Jamaica—read that again—he was the first person to play Reggae on the radio in Jamaica. When he did, it was a major controversy, but the people loved it. It goes like this: he and his colleague locked themselves in the radio booth, refused to come out, and continued playing Reggae all day on a predominantly R&B and Soul station. This event was recreated in the movie “Rockers.” At this time in the early 1970s, there was only one radio station on the island (JBC), so it was a major event that everyone heard. The buzz soon resulted in Reggae being played full-time on the island and several Reggae radio stations being born.

Another interesting event is that Edi Fitzroy performed with the Clash on their hit, “Bankrobber” from the “Black Market Clash” album.

Edi Fitzroy was born Fitzroy Edwards on November 17, 1955 in the cool hills of Chapleton, Clarendon, the son of a Sound System Operator Vasco Edwards and Kathleen Robinson. After leaving Primary School he went to live with his mother in Whitfield Town, Kingston and attended West Indies Commercial Institute where he studied accounts. As a teenager Edi followed the sound systems, in particular Anchio One.

In January 1973 Edi joined the staff of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) as an Accounting Officer and was later promoted to Accountant – Payables. A job he held for 22 years (leaving in 1995). Edi did his recordings and music performances concurrently with his Accounting job at the JBC.

Edi’s First Album, CHECK FOR YOU ONCE, produced by Trevor Elliott released in 1981 was Number One on the Jamaican Hit Parade for four weeks, and in England the best selling Album coming out of Jamaica at that time. The Album included such hits as Youthman Penitentiary, African Queen, Work On Mr. Farmer, First Class Citizen, People Dem a Suffer, among others. This album was also released in the United States by Alligator Records under the title “Youthman Penitentiary”

Edi sees himself as an Artiste from the people, of the people and for the people. He has done numerous benefit shows to aid community improvement, schools’ fund raising, churches and other charitable organisations. The lyrics of Edi’s songs portray his closeness to the people, and are borne out of his experiences in the country parts and the by-ways of Whitfield Town.

To quote Edi: “I can’t sing fantasies when there is so much wrong on the earth. I must sing about things going on, I have to remind the people when they forget. I won’t stop trying to uplift the consciousness of my people, and all the oppressed people of the world. I want them to get up and stand up for their rights.”

Edi is greatly inspired by the music of the Hon. Bob Marley and would feel a traitor to Marley’s cause if he did not try to help in carrying forward the mission started by Marley. Thus, he writes and/or sings songs with a message.

In 1982 Edi received the Press Association of Jamaica Award in recognition of his contribution to the development of Jamaican Reggae music. This same year Edi also received the Award for the JBC Personality of the Year.

Edi’s First Album, CHECK FOR YOU ONCE, produced by Trevor Elliott released in 1981 was Number One on the Jamaican Hit Parade for four weeks, and in England the best selling Album coming out of Jamaica at that time. The Album included such hits as Youthman Penitentiary, African Queen, Work On Mr. Farmer, First Class Citizen, People Dem a Suffer, among others. This album was also released in the United States by Alligator Records under the title “Youthman Penitentiary”

Edi sees himself as an Artiste from the people, of the people and for the people. He has done numerous benefit shows to aid community improvement, schools’ fund raising, churches and other charitable organisations. The lyrics of Edi’s songs portray his closeness to the people, and are borne out of his experiences in the country parts and the by-ways of Whitfield Town.

To quote Edi: “I can’t sing fantasies when there is so much wrong on the earth. I must sing about things going on, I have to remind the people when they forget. I won’t stop trying to uplift the consciousness of my people, and all the oppressed people of the world. I want them to get up and stand up for their rights.”

Edi is greatly inspired by the music of the Hon. Bob Marley and would feel a traitor to Marley’s cause if he did not try to help in carrying forward the mission started by Marley. Thus, he writes and/or sings songs with a message.

In 1982 Edi received the Press Association of Jamaica Award in recognition of his contribution to the development of Jamaican Reggae music. This same year Edi also received the Award for the JBC Personality of the Year.

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