Jimmy Riley

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Jimmy Riley
Riley pictured in 2010
Background information
Birth name Martin James Norman Riley
Born (1947-05-22)22 May 1947
Origin Kingston, Jamaica
Died 23 March 2016(2016-03-23) (aged 68)
New York City, United States
Genres Ska, rocksteady, reggae
Occupation(s) Singer, record producer
Years active Mid-1960s–2016
Associated acts The Sensations, The Uniques, Skin, Flesh and Bones

Martin James Norman Riley (22 May 1947 – 23 March 2016), better known as Jimmy Riley, was a Jamaican singer who in addition to recording solo was also a member of the Sensations and The Uniques and was the father of Tarrus Riley.[1]


Martin James Norman Riley also known as Jimmy Riley was born in Jonestown, Kingston, Jamaica on 22 May 1947.[2][3] Riley grew up in the city's Waterhouse district and attended Kingston Senior School along with Slim Smith.[4][5] When Smith had success in The Techniques, Riley hung around with the group hoping to join, but was limited to carrying things for them and helping out with harmonies.[4] He decided to form his own group, The Sensations, along with Cornell Campbell, Buster Riley (brother of The Techniques' Winston Riley), and Aaron "Dego" Davis.[4] The Sensations had a successful audition for producer Arthur "Duke" Reid, and the group had mid-1960s success with "Everyday is Just a Holiday" and "Those Guys".[6] On leaving the group in 1967, Riley joined Smith and Lloyd Charmers in the re-formed Uniques, having huge success with songs such as "Watch This Sound" and "My Conversation".[6] When the Uniques split up, Riley initially recorded as a solo artist for Bunny Lee before moving away to record independently. He began producing his own recordings and others by artists such as Slim Smith and Delroy Wilson.[6] He had several hits in the 1970s, including "Tell The Youths The Truth", "Nyah Bingi", and "Clean up the Streets", and continued to be successful in the 1980s, working with Sly & Robbie's Taxi productions. In 1983, Riley topped the UK reggae chart with his version of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing".[6][7] In the late 1980s, Riley moved to Miami, and put his career on hold, but returned to Jamaica in the early 1990s.

Riley's son Tarrus followed him into music and the success of Tarrus gave a boost to Jimmy's career.[8] They performed together several times, headlining a number of festivals including the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival in 2007.[9] Jimmy Riley's album release in 2008 Sly and Robbie Presents Jimmy Riley: Pull Up Selector saw him again working with Sly & Robbie, and features Tarrus on the title track, which was also released as a single in 2008.[10]

In September 2013 he released the album Contradiction, that featured guest appearances from his son Tarrus, Sizzla, and Fantan Mojah.[11]

He died on the morning of 23 March 2016 in New York from cancer, aged 68.[12][13][5]


  • Tell The Youths The Truth (1978), Trojan
  • Majority Rule (1978), Burning Sounds
  • Makossa International Records Presents Jimmy Riley (1978), Makossa International
  • The Jimmy Riley Showcase (1978), Burning Sounds/Yes/Makossa International
  • Rydim Driven (1981), Taxi aka Love & Devotion (2000), Rhino
  • Put The People First (1982), Shanachie
  • Magic (1984), Imp
  • World for Everyone (1985)
  • Love Fa Real (1995),
  • Attention (1996), Abraham
  • Rock On (1998), Charm
  • Someone Like You (1998), Nyam Up
  • Love Canticle (2000), Charm
  • Jimmy Riley Now (2001), Jet Star
  • Sly and Robbie Presents Jimmy Riley: Pull Up Selector (2009), Taxi
  • Contradiction (2013) VP
  • 20 Classic Hits (1993), Sonic Sounds
  • Live It To Know It (2015), Self productions, Protest Songs & Dub Plates 1975 - 1985: Pressure Sounds


  1. ^ Kenner, Rob (2009) "Reggae Singer With a Legacy, a Following and a Mission", New York Times, 21 August 2009, retrieved 31 August 2009
  2. ^ Meschino, Patricia (2016) "Legendary Jamaican Singer Jimmy Riley, 68, Dies In New York", Billboard, 28 March 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016
  3. ^ Note: At the time of his death some sources indicated a 1954 birth date, but later corrected it to 1947.
  4. ^ a b c Katz, David (2003) Solid Foundation: an Oral History of Reggae, Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-6847-2, p. 87
  5. ^ a b Morgan, Simone (2016) "Devoted to Jimmy", Jamaica Observer, 7 April 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016
  6. ^ a b c d Larkin, Colin (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9, p. 251
  7. ^ Leggett, Steve "Jimmy Riley Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation
  8. ^ Evans, Teino (2007) "Son’s success boosts Jimmy Riley", Jamaica Gleaner, 22 July 2007, retrieved 31 August 2009
  9. ^ "Tarrus, Jimmy Riley headline Ocho Rios Seafood Festival", Jamaica Gleaner, 17 July 2007, retrieved 31 August 2009
  10. ^ Cooke, Mel (28 January 2009). "Jimmy Riley presents combination of eras". Jamaica Gleaner. Retrieved 31 August 2009. 
  11. ^ Campbell, Howard (2013) "Riley Exposes Contradiction", Jamaica Observer, 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013
  12. ^ Britton, Luke Morgan (2016) "Reggae singer Jimmy Riley dies at the age of 68", NME, 29 March 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016
  13. ^ Henry, Balford (2016) "Reggae artiste Jimmy Riley dies at 61", Jamaica Observer, 23 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016

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