by Howard Campbell
[SOUTH FLORIDA] – Jovial and rugged, Jacob Miller epitomized the Jamaican ‘rootsman’ of the 1970’s. The charismatic singer was one of reggae’s hottest names when he was killed in a motor accident in Kingston, Jamaica on March 23, 1980.
Miller was only 27 when he died. At the time, his career was on a high, having just returned from Brazil with Bob Marley. They both helped promote the opening of Island Records’ office.
He and the Inner Circle band were in the process of completing their second album for the label.
“Jakes was one of a kind. A spirit like that only pass through now and again,” said Inner Circle keyboardist Bernard “Touter” Harvey.
Forty-one years later, Miller’s legacy continues to thrive. Last November, Inner Circle released a special vinyl edition of Natty Christmas, the groundbreaking Yuletide album they did with him at Channel One studio in 1978.
Also last year, music producer Lindel Thompson’s LTK20 Records released All Night Till Daylight Special, a compilation album based on Miller’s 1976 Festival Song of the same name. Pressure Buss Pipe, Hezron, Kashief Lindo, Bitty McLean and Glen Washington are some of the artists with songs on the uptempo rhythm.
Miller was born in Manchester, a rural parish in central Jamaica that has produced greats like jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin. In addition to bandleader Byron Lee and dancehall/reggae acts including Garnet Silk and Tony Rebel.
His formative years were spent in Kingston at Rousseau Road. A rugged area on the periphery of ‘Concrete Jungle’ where Marley and other famous reggae artists developed their roots sound.
Miller’s first song was Love Is A Message for producer Clement “Coxson” Dodd in 1969. He would reprise that song as Keep on Knocking for Augustus Pablo and Inner Circle during the 1970’s.
With Inner Circle, he cut a series of classic songs. Including Tenement Yard, Tired fi Lick Weed in A Bush, Suzy Wong, Forward Ever, Backward Never and Standing Firm.
Fittingly, Miller and Inner Circle were awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaica’s government for their contribution to the country’s music in 2019.