Max Romeo  

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"I'm gonna send him to outa space, to find another race."--"Chase the Devil" (1976) by Max Romeo

Max Romeo - Wet Dream - Pama Reggae - 45 rpm, banned by the BBC but still made No.10 on the UK charts in 1968.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Max Romeo (born Maxwell Livingston Smith, 22 November 1947, Alexandria, St. Ann's, Jamaica), is a reggae recording artist who has achieved chart success in his home country, and in the UK.


He left home at the age of 14 and worked on a sugar plantation, cleaning out irrigation ditches, before winning a local talent competition when he was 18; prompting a move to the capital, Kingston, in order to achieve a successful musical career.

In 1966, he had his first hit, as part of the group The Emotions, with the Ken Lack produced, "(Buy You) A Rainbow". The Emotions, which was also made up of Kenneth Knight and Lloyd Shakespeare, went on to have several hit singles and by 1968, the singer, by this point known as Max Romeo, felt confident enough to launch a solo career. Working with producer Bunny Lee, the young star recorded a number of pop songs, mainly love ballads, but they failed to be popular and so he returned to The Emotions. During this time he began work as a sales representative for Lee "Scratch" Perry and did some recording for the new band he had formed, The Hippy Boys, which would later became the dub outfit The Upsetters.

Later on in 1968, Romeo wrote new lyrics for the rhythm track of Derrick Morgan's "Hold You Jack" and handed them over to Perry. Morgan, who was due to add his vox to the track, ultimately gave it a miss, as did several other vocalists, leading the producer to turn to Romeo to sing the lyrics he had written. The result, "Wet Dream", was an instant hit in Jamaica, although in the UK it was met with a radio ban, despite Romeo's somewhat-disingenuous claim that the song was actually about a roof that has a leak. Still, the ban only made it more popular and the single charted in the Top Ten, in the UK Singles Chart, spending almost six months therein, before featuring on his LP, A Dream.

In 1970, Romeo set-up Romax, an unsuccessful record label and sound system. Following which, he recorded several singles, mainly with old producer Bunny Lee, before going on to work with dub musician, Niney Holness. This was followed by a period of which saw the release of a series of politically charged singles, most advocating the democratic socialist People's National Party (PNP), which chose his song, "Let The Power Fall On I", as their campaign theme for the 1972 Jamaican general election. After this, Romeo recorded a number of religious songs, until he worked with producer "Scratch" again, producing the classic singles, "Chase the Devil" and "Three Blind Mice". A remixed version of his single, "Sipple Out Deh", entitled "War Ina Babylon", was another popular track in the UK. Shortly after this the pair fell out, leaving Romeo to self-produce his follow-up album, Reconstruction, which is generally considered to be a relatively poor effort.

He moved to New York City in 1978, where he co-wrote the musical, Reggae, which he also starred in. In 1981, Keith Richards (of The Rolling Stones) played on Romeo's album, Holding Out My Love to You. The rest of his output during the decade went practically unnoticed, until Romeo returned to Jamaica in 1990, due to roots music coming back into fashion and the re-election of the PNP.

Since then, he has enjoyed some success, and has seen The Prodigy sample his track "Chase the Devil" for their 1992 UK Top Ten hit "Out of Space". Kanye West has also used samples from it to produce Jay-Z's hit song "Lucifer".

"Chase the Devil" is featured on the reggae radio station K-JAH Radio West in a popular videogame Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, released in October 2004.

Notable album releases

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Max Romeo" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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