Yet another reggae icon has been claimed in 2020. Considered a pioneer of the genre, singer and musician Albert Griffiths, who sang the hit “Hello Carol” of The Gladiators, has died. His former manager, Cabel ‘Jeffrey’ Stephenson, shared the news with The Gleaner. According to Stephenson, Griffiths had been ailing for some time. He died last Wednesday, December 16, at his home in St Elizabeth. Sadly, he was just two weeks away from his 75th birthday. He was born on January 1st.
Stephenson said that the singer had stopped touring with the group about 14 years ago due to illness. He spent most of his time at home. Stephenson added, “It is sad that an entire era of singers is passing away. The Gladiators were one of the first acts signed to Virgin Records and took their career on an international level.”
Stephenson has had to deal with another significant loss this year as he was Toots Hibbert’s manager as well. He said that both musicians shared some similarities, like their total dedication to music. Both men contributed greatly to reggae and have left legacies that will last for generations, he continued. “I am very honoured to have worked among these great men, and they have taught me to be humble,” Stephenson said.
The Gladiators was started in 1967 by Griffiths, who was then a session guitarist at Studio One. His childhood friends David Webber and Errol Grandison were also original members of the Gladiators. It wasn’t long after that when Gallimore Sutherland and Clinton Fearon joined the band.
The Gladiators have a large body of work and are most famously known for their Studio One hits, which include songs like “Bongo Red,” “Jah Jah Go Before Us,” and “Roots Natty.” The success of these hit records gained them international attention, and they soon signed with Britain-based Virgin Records. This was their first major recording contract, and it came in 1976. Their debut full-length album was called “Trenchtown Mix Up”. Their next album would be “Proverbial Reggae,” which came in 1978.
France-based booking agent and producer Michel Jovanovic of Mediaone, also spoke with The Gleaner. He previously has worked with Albert Griffiths and the band The Gladiators. He shared his feelings about the legend’s passing.
“It’s very sad. Albert had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he stopped touring entirely, but before that, there were several tours throughout Europe, the US, and Australia, where his music was in demand. His last tour was in 2006, and it was always a really great moment when Albert was on stage. He was a great artiste and a good man,” Jovanovic said.