Winston Rodney OD (born 1 March 1945), better known by the stage name Burning Spear, is a Jamaican roots reggae singer-songwriter, vocalist and musician. Burning Spear is a Rastafarian and one of the most influential and long-standing roots artists to emerge from the 1970s
Winston Rodney was born in Saint Ann's Bay, Saint Ann, Jamaica. As a young man he listened to the R&B, soul and jazz music transmitted by the US radio stations whose broadcasts reached Jamaica. Curtis Mayfield is cited by Rodney as a major US musical influence along with James Brown. Rodney was deeply influenced as a young man by the views of the political activist Marcus Garvey, especially with regard to the exploration of the themes of Pan-Africanism and self-determination. In 1969, Bob Marley, who was also from Saint Ann, advised Rodney to approach Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label after Rodney sought his advice during a casual conversation.
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Burning Spear was originally Rodney's group, named after a military award given by Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of an independent Kenya, and included bass singer Rupert Willington. The duo auditioned for Dodd in 1969 which led to the release of their debut single "Door Peep" (the session also included Cedric Brooks on saxophone). They were then joined by tenor Delroy Hinds. The trio recorded several more singles for Dodd, and two albums, before they moved on to work with Jack Ruby in 1975.Their first recording with Ruby, "Marcus Garvey", was intended as an exclusive track for Ruby's Ocho Rios–based Hi-Power sound system, but was released as a single, giving them an immediate hit, and was followed by "Slavery Days". These recordings featured the backing band The Black Disciples, which included Earl "Chinna" Smith, Valentine Chin, Robbie Shakespeare and Leroy Wallace. The group worked with Ruby on their third album, Marcus Garvey (1975), which was immediately successful and led to a deal with Island Recordsto give the album a wider release. Island remixed and altered the speed of some of the tracks, much to the annoyance of fans and the group, leading Rodney to set up his own Burning Music label for future releases where he would have full control, although further releases followed on Island including Garvey's Ghost, a dub album, and the Man in the Hillsalbum. In late 1976, Rodney split from both Ruby and group members Willington and Hinds, and from that point on used the name Burning Spear for himself alone. Dry and Heavy followed in 1977, self-produced but still on Island, and with a sizeable following by now in the United Kingdom, he performed in London that year with members of Aswad acting as his backing band for a sold-out show at the Rainbow Theatre, which was recorded and released as the album Live!. Aswad also provided backing on his next studio album, Social Living (1978), which also featured Sly Dunbar and Rico Rodriguez. A dub version of the album, Living Dub (1979), was mixed by Sylvan Morris. His profile was raised further by an appearance in the film Rockers, performing "Jah no Dead"