Ladies and Gentlemen, the Godfather of Dancehall, Johnny Osbourne

In 1948, Errol Osbourne was born, and in the late 1970s skyrocketed to success under his preferred name, Johnny Osbourne. Osbourne was a man who would come to create so much great music, and influence so many, that he would be dubbed 'the Godfather' of both Reggae and Dancehall, and remain relevant for decades.

 

On Friday 29th April, we'll be hosting the man, the myth, the legend that is Johnny Osbourne, on a double headliner alongside international groove-maker and co-founder of Federation Sound, Max Glazer. We spoke to Johnny about all things past, present, and future.

Do you remember when music came into your life? The time you first realised its importance to you? Can you explain where you were, what you were listening to, what your thought process was?

As a very young boy! My grandmother was a Christian and church was mandatory. If I wasn't singing too, then I'd be bored! We could pick up foreign radio, so I used to listen late night to the original W.I.N.Z Radio, Miami from my likkle transistor radio and heard the great Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole!  I realized then that a black man like me can be like them because I could sing too, I wanted to be like Nat King Cole!

Do you make music for any particular purpose?

Nah man! I make music for the love of it - I just love to sing!

 

How would you compare the music industry, back when you first stepped into it in 1967 as lead vocalist of the Wildcats, to the way it stands in the highly-saturated internet-age of today?

At that time, in the 60's, the music industry for us wasn't about the money! We didn't even know about money dem times - all we had was radio! We just loved the original American rhythm and blues, and wanted to be like those man....Nowadays, the ting dilute because some of the people who claim dem a singer, can't even read music! Today DJ music ting is more about the money, than DJ talent!

 

You’re at the point where you can already see the way that your music has impacted the next generations - for example, current-day EDM stalwarts Major Lazer sampled your ‘Mr Marshall’ in ‘Jah No Partial’. How does it feel to be at this stage in your career? What do you do next?

Yes, the collabs with Major Lazer was real nice! I performed "Mr Marshall" at a club in Manhattan, New York and to see thousands of young people singing all the words, was wicked! It's a great, great feeling that DJ young people love my ting so hard!!!  What's next? I'm just gonna keep on singing! I've been to Russia, Israel, Japan - all over and my singing makes people happy, and it makes me happy - singing has been my life from mi a bwoy!

On that note, you’ve managed to maintain relevancy throughout more decades than almost any other artist, whether they be in the Jamaican scene or otherwise. Why do you think that is?

I am still current because I like to experiment with all the different genres! Plus me like all kine a music so I can adapt!  Some artists can only perform in the style they are accustomed to- me I can change my style to fit the melody, any riddim!!

 

Who would you say are the up-and-comers, the ones to watch in the reggae and dancehall scene?

Some ah di young artist's dem a gwaan real good! I love Chronixx, Romaine Virgo, Bugle, Christopher Ellis, Dexter Dapps, and right now mi love Nesbeth tune!

 

If you could cast your mind back throughout your legendary career, could you tell us about your favourite show you’ve ever played?

I have so many great shows over the years, but the one that really stand out was the first show I ever did with Sly and Robbie! I wanted to work with them for years, so when I got the chance I was real, real happy! I worked with them in Japan and that show really stand out in my mind because they are legends!