Reggae has lost a classic voice. John Holt, a singer/songwriter who first came to prominence in the ’60s as a member of rocksteady group the Paragons, has died at age 69. He passed away on Sunday at a London hospital, a representative told the Jamaica Observer. A cause of death wasn’t immediately revealed.
With the Paragons, Kingston-born Holt wrote “The Tide is High,” a global hit in the ’80s when Blondie covered it. By 1968, with the Paragons established as hitmakers, Holt was also recording solo, and he struck out on his own for good in 1970. “Stick by Me,” recorded with producer Bunny Lee, became the biggest-selling Jamaican record of 1972, according to The Guardian.
Holt released many more solo albums, noted for a sweeter, more romantic approach that helped pioneer the lovers rock style but also for the politically charged content of 1983′s Police in Helicopter. “Man Next Door,” another Paragons song, has been covered the Slits, Massive Attack and Dennis Brown. Holt’s final solo album was 1993′s Peacemaker.
The British label Trojan Records was among those paying their respects to Holt. “Very sad news just in that the legendary John Holt passed away last night,” the label posted this morning. “A huge talent and a true gentleman, he will be missed by his all those who had the pleasure of knowing him, personally or through his wonderful music.”
Listen to a few of Holt’s songs below, or check out Trojan’s Spotify playlist of his work here.