Uziah “Sticky” Thompson, in a 2003 interview, described percussion as the “seasoning” in music. Now the world has lost the percussionist who added a distinctive flavor to records by the likes of Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Congos, Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Gwen Guthrie and Black Uhuru. As the Jamaica Observer reports (via FACT), Thompson (whose name can also sometimes be seen spelled “Uzziah”) died this week in Florida from a heart attack. He was 78.
The man who used the DJ alias Cool Sticky might not be a household name, but many of the tracks he has seasoned are both prominent and influential. It was as a DJ that he broke out, contributing to revered first-wave Jamaican ska band Skatalites on such songs as 1965′s “Guns of Navarone”; he made his percussion debut with the Techniques on the same year’s “Little Did You Know.” This brought him other work with legendary producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, including on the Wailers’ Marley-led “Soul Rebel” in 1970. In the mid-’70s he joined the Revolutionaries, the house band at Kingston’s Channel One Studios with the iconic team of drummer Sly Dunbar on drums and bass player Robbie Shakespeare, playing on the Mighty Diamonds’ “I Need a Roof,” among other records.
With the combo of Sly & Robbie, he went on to join the Compass Point All Stars, the house band at Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s Compass Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. In that setting, he worked on Grace Jones’ seminal early-albums, including 1981′s Nightclubbing — which helps place him in the DNA of contemporary dance music and post-Madonna pop — as well as on records by Black Uhuru, Gwen Guthrie and Joe Cocker, to name a few. He also recorded with Tom Tom Club, whose wide sampling in hip-hop extends the reach of his influence into the rap realm as well.
Thompson toured with Jimmy Cliff, Black Uhuru and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, appearing on Marley and the Melody Makers’ 1988 Conscious Party and 1989 One Bright Day. Other artists he played with include Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, John Martyn, Culture, Joe Cocker, Bunny Wailer, the Wailing Souls, John Holt and Junior Byles. Among his more recent collaborators were Stephen Marley, Michael Franti, Sinéad O’Connor and even, on 2005′s unlikely Countryman, Willie Nelson.
Sly & Robbie drummer Dunbar, speaking to the Observer, called Thompson “one of the steadiest percussionists to work with,” adding, “Sticky was always happy when him in the studio.”
Listen to a very brief selection of Thompson’s contributions below.