Mr. Boombastic headlines at MayJah RayJah music fest
Ever since he rocketed into the international spotlight in 1993 with his exuberant party hit, “Oh Carolina,” Grammy-winning reggae star Shaggy has maintained his popularity with such irresistibly catchy songs as “Boombastic,” “Luv Me, Luv Me,” “Angel,” “It Wasn’t Me,” and his remake of “In the Summertime.”
Shaggy will headline the Friday line-up of the two-day MayJah RayJah Music Festival at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
The Jamaican-born singer who moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., at the age of 18, began pursuing a musical career while he was a member of the U.S. Marines. A Gulf War veteran, Shaggy actually recorded “Oh Carolina” while he was still in military service.
“My whole influence is from dancehall and I had a knack for making up rhythms,” he explained about the evolution of his style in an earlier Maui News interview. “I never put pen to paper until after the ‘Boombastic’ album. Before that I made up rhymes in my head. When I was in the military I used to run and sing. They used to call me out to sing because I was a skinny guy with a big mouth. That heavy voice was some sort of voice training, and that’s how my voice developed. I did ‘Oh Carolina’ in that style and because of the magnitude of its success, I couldn’t make any other records without that sound.”
Shaggy’s international success began with the 1993 release of his debut album, “Pure Pleasure.” It featured “Oh Carolina,” which went on to top the charts in 10 countries. “Not in a million years did I think it would have been such a hit,” he recalled. “Who would have thought I’d be having this much success?”
With the 1995 release of “Boombastic,” Shaggy firmly connected with American audiences. The platinum-hit recording won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, while the title track shattered radio boundaries, topping Billboard’s Reggae, R&B and Rap charts.
“It was the first time we had two songs in the top five, on two different continents,” he said. “It was the first time that any reggae song had ever debuted in the British charts at No. 1.”
In 2000, his hugely successful album “Hot Shot,” which nimbly fused dancehall reggae with contemporary R&B and pop, sold six times platinum in the U.S., and around 20 million copies worldwide.
Over the years, Shaggy’s songs have popped up on a number of movie soundtracks.
“Hey Sexy Lady” was featured in the 2006 film “She’s the Man.” “Hope” from “Hot Shot” was featured in the Kevin Costner movie, “For the Love of the Game.” His hit duet with Janet Jackson, “Luv Me, Luv Me,” was included in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “The Train Is Coming” in the film “Money Train,” and “My Dream” in the film “Speed II.”
Last year he released, “Out of Many One Music,” collaborating with reggae legends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Opening with a ska flavored duet with Melissa Musique, the dancehall star also dueted on the album with such reggae stars as Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Beres Hammond and Tarrus Riley.
While Shaggy has dominated the reggae charts and is loved by many fans, he has sometimes felt that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the music industry.
“I used to feel bad about it until I heard about Bob Marley,” Shaggy explained. “He wasn’t very popular in Jamaica, and he was looked at as a sellout catering for white people, because he was making popular music, watered- down reggae. He didn’t have a lot of respect and I find the same thing. I don’t follow trends. I’m just confident about what I do.”
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Veteran musician Bill Champlin may not be well known, but some of his songs are. A former member of Chicago and co-founder of the psychedelic-era San Francisco-based band, the Sons of Champlin, this soulful singer/keyboardist/guitarist co-composed such Grammy-winning hits as “After the Love Is Gone” recorded by Earth, Wind and Fire, and “Turn Your Love Around” by George Benson.
He’s also worked with a bevy of famous artists including Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, Boz Scaggs, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and Mickey Hart.
These days, Champlin mainly performs as a solo artist accompanied on vocals on a few songs by his wife, Tamara.
“People are interested in where songs came from, so I like to give some information,” he says about performing solo. “I do versions of songs that I sang for Chicago, and my songs that people recognize. And I do a duet with Tamara that I did years ago with Patti LaBelle for ‘Miami Vice 2,’ a really cool song.”
Champlin first gained attention in the San Francisco Bay Area as a member of the Sons of Champlin. Formed in 1967, the Sons focused on funky soul and rhythm and blues, similar to other East Bay groups such as Tower of Power and Sly and the Family Stone. “They were breathing fire,” Dead drummer Mickey Hart reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. “They were the most talented of all the San Francisco bands.”
“We were all fans of James Brown kind of stuff,” Champlin recalls. “We were really into R&B and artists like Wilson Pickett. And we were listening to Bob Dylan and the Beatles and trying to write deeper lyrics, but still have R&B as the basis instrumentally.”
The Sons’ first album, “Loosen Up Naturally,” was released in 1969, followed by six more albums before they broke up in 1977.
A year later he released his debut solo album, “Single,” working with producer David Foster to write and record a collection of love songs very much in the mold of Boz Scaggs’ blue-eyed soul blockbuster, “Silk Degrees.” Musicians backing him included all six of the future members of Toto (who also played on “Silk Degrees”), and background vocals by Michael McDonald and Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates.
One of the songs meant for “Single” attracted the attention of Earth, Wind and Fire’s leader Maurice White, who asked Champlin if his band could record “After the Love Is Gone.” The million-selling single earned Champlin a Best R&B Song Grammy in 1979, as a co-composer.
Besides Earth, Wind and Fire, his songs have been recorded by George Benson, Al Jarreau, Dionne Warwick and the Doobie Brothers.
Champlin’s follow-up album in 1981, “Runaway,” was hailed as “a perfect pop album.” It included the popular songs “Sara” and “Tonight Tonight.”
Living in Los Angeles, he worked as a session lead and background vocalist on numerous recordings from Elton John to Bette Middler. “It was fun to work with Elton,” he says. “We did a couple of albums. I sang background on ‘Little Jennie,’ and Tamara and I did some stuff with him on the ’21 at 33′ album.”
In 1981, Champlin became a member of Chicago, recording and touring with the band until 2008. He wrote several songs and sang (with Peter Cetera) the hit single, “Hard Habit to Break” on the 1984 album “Chicago 17.” In 1988, Champlin’s vocals were featured prominently on several major hit singles from “Chicago 19” including “Look Away,” “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” and “You’re Not Alone.”
“I was working a lot and sang on a few singles,” he says about his Chicago days. “I probably stayed too long.”
After 28 years with the band, Champlin left Chicago in 2008 to focus on his solo career, releasing the album “No Place Left to Fall.”
Backed by an ace band including drummer Billy Ward (B.B. King), bassist George Hawkins Jr. (John Fogerty), guitarist Bruce Gaitsch (Madonna) and former Chicago vocalist Cetera, Champlin delivered a terrific soulful collection that highlighted his exemplary Hammond B3 organ playing.
“‘No Place Left to Fall’ is rock solid even as the songs shift from soul to jazz to pop and back again,” praised Pop Dose. And PopMatters noted: “‘No Place Left to Fall’ successfully integrates all of Champlin’s considerable talents – songwriting, singing, arranging and playing.”
* The Solo Sessions show with Bill Champlin will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $30 and $45 for premium seating (plus applicable fees). Call 242-7469.