John Holt (singer)

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John Holt
Birth name John Kenneth Holt
Born (1947-07-11)11 July 1947
Kingston, Jamaica
Died 20 October 2014(2014-10-20) (aged 67)
London, England
Genres Ska, rocksteady, reggae
Years active 1959–2014
Labels Treasure Isle, Greensleeves
Associated acts The Paragons

John Kenneth Holt (11 July 1947 – 20 October 2014) was a reggae singer and songwriter who first found fame as a member of the Paragons, before establishing himself as a solo artist.


Holt was born in Kingston in 1947. By the age of twelve, he was a regular entrant in talent contests run at Jamaican theatres by Vere Johns, winning one of these in 1962.[1][2] He recorded his first single in 1963 with "I Cried a Tear" for record producer Leslie Kong, and also recorded a duet with Alton Ellis and the solo "Rum Bumbers" for producer Vincent "Randy" Chin.[1][2][3]

In 1965 Holt joined Bob Andy, Garth "Tyrone" Evans, and Junior Menz in their group the Binders; Menz departed to be replaced by Howard Barrett and they changed their name to the Paragons.[3] They initially recorded for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One before cutting a succession of singles for Duke Reid at his Treasure Isle Studio in the rocksteady era of 1966–1968; They enjoyed a string of hits, including "Ali Baba", "Tonight", "I See Your Face", and the Holt-penned "The Tide Is High" (later made famous by Blondie and also covered by Atomic Kitten).[4] "Wear You to the Ball" was another of his hits with the Paragons, and hit the charts again when U-Roy added a Deejay verse to it. With Andy having left early on, the departures of Barrett (in 1969) and Evans (in 1970) brought the group to an end.[3] During his time with the Paragons, he also recorded solo material for Studio One (including "Fancy Make-up", "A Love I Can Feel", "Let's Build Our Dreams" and "OK Fred") and Prince Buster ("Oh Girl", and "My Heart Is Gone").[1][2]

Holt concentrated on his solo career. By the early 1970s, he was one of the biggest stars of reggae, and his "Stick By Me" was the biggest selling Jamaican record of 1972, one of a number of records recorded with producer Bunny Lee.[1] His 1973 album, Time Is The Master, was successful, with orchestral arrangements recorded in London. The success of the string-laden reggae led to Trojan Records issuing a series of similarly arranged albums produced by Bunny Lee starting with the 1,000 Volts of Holt in 1973, a compilation of Holt's reggae cover versions of popular hits (and later followed by similarly named releases up to 3,000 Volts of Holt). 1,000 Volts spawned the UK Top 10 hit "Help Me Make It Through the Night" (written by Kris Kristofferson), which peaked at number 6,[5] and included covers of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" and "Touch Me in the Morning" by Diana Ross.[6]

He had success back in Jamaica with "Up Park Camp", and his success continued into the 1980s with tracks such as "Police in Helicopter", recorded with producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes.[2][3] He continued to tour regularly and performed in the United Kingdom with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, with a live album taken from these shows released in 2001.

Holt's style, notably slower and more romantic than most of his contemporaries, is a recognisable forerunner of the lovers rock sub-genre.

His song, "Man Next Door", has been covered by numerous other reggae artists, including Dennis Brown, UB40 and Horace Andy. The latter sang in a more electronic vein for the Massive Attack album Mezzanine.

Having been taken ill at the One Love Festival on 16 August,[7] Holt died on 20 October 2014 in a London hospital.[8][9]

Album discography[edit]

  • A Love I Can Feel (1970), Bamboo
  • Holt (1971), Jaguar
  • Still in Chains (1971), Trojan
  • Greatest Hits (1972), Melodisc
  • OK Fred (1972), Melodisc
  • Pledging My Love (1972), Jackpot/Trojan
  • The Further You Look (1973), Trojan
  • Time Is The Master (1973), Moodisc
  • One Thousand Volts Of Holt (1973), Trojan
  • Dusty Roads (1974), Trojan
  • Before the Next Tear Drop (1976), Klik
  • Up Park Camp (1976), Channel One
  • Channel One Presents The Magnificent John Holt (1977), Channel One
  • Roots of Holt (1977), Trojan
  • Showcase (New Disco Style) (1977), Thunderbolt
  • Holt Goes Disco (1978), Trojan
  • In Demand (1978), Dynamic Sounds
  • Let It Go On (1978), Trojan
  • Super Star (1978), Weed Beat
  • The Impressable John Holt (Disco Mix) (1978), Harry J
  • A1 Disco Showcase (1981), Taurus
  • Introspective (1980), Dynamic Sounds
  • My Desire (1980), Jackpot
  • Just the Two of Us (1982), CSA
  • Sweetie Come Brush Me (1982), Volcano
  • Gold (1983), Creole
  • Police in Helicopter (1983), Greensleeves/Arrival
  • For Lovers and Dancers (1984), Trojan
  • Live in London (1984), Very Good
  • Wild Fire (1985), Natty Congo/Tad's (with Dennis Brown)
  • Vibes (1985), Leggo Sounds
  • The Reggae Christmas Hits Album (1986), Trojan
  • From One Extreme to Another (1986), Beta
  • Time Is The Master (1988), Creole
  • Rock With Me Baby (1988), Trojan
  • If I Were a Carpenter (1989)
  • Why I Care (1989), Greensleeves
  • Reggae, Hip House, R&B Flavor (1993)
  • Peacemaker (1993)
  • John Holt in Symphony With The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (2001), Jet Star

There have also been dozens of compilations of Holt's work, starting in the early 1970s with a Greatest Hits compilation from Studio One, and notably followed by the 1,000 Volts... series on Trojan Records.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Larkin, Colin (1998) "The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae", Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9
  2. ^ a b c d Black, Roy (2014) "Holt: One Of The Most Enduring Jamaican Singers", Jamaica Gleaner, 23 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014
  3. ^ a b c d Grossinger, Richard (2005) On the Integration of Nature: Post 9-11 Biopolitical Notes, North Atlantic Books, ISBN 978-1556436031, pp. 166-176
  4. ^ "Veteran reggae singer John Holt dies aged 69"". Guardian music. 20 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 258. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ " UK Top 40 Hit Database.". 
  7. ^ "John Holt Receiving Treatment After Collapsing On Stage", The Voice, 27 August 2014.
  8. ^ Bonitto, Brian (2014), "Veteran singer John Holt is dead", Jamaica Observer, 19 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  9. ^ Johnson, Richard (2014) "Holt Remembered", Jamaica Observer, 21 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014

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