Ewart Beckford, the Jamaican reggae legend better known as U-Roy, has passed away at the age of 78.


Marcia Smikle, his partner, confirmed the news to The Gleaner, Jamaican news website.

“He passed away at 11:10 last night at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) after undergoing surgery there,” she said.

Smikle added that U-Roy had been receiving treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure while also suffering from kidney issues.


“He has diabetes and hypertension, but those are under control because we make sure that he takes his medication. But he also had a kidney problem and was being treated at Andrews [Hospital], and then they told us to take him to UWI for surgery because the kidney had messed up the bladder, and he was bleeding,” she told the website.

“They recommended dialysis for the kidney, but he didn’t want to do that.”

Tributes have begun to pour in for him on Twitter as words of his death spread.


“We’re sad to announce that pioneering DJ who revolutionised the sound of Jamaican music in the early seventies. U Roy has passed away at the age of 78 yesterday in Jamaica,” the UK’s Trojan Records wrote.

David Rodigan, British radio DJ, also wrote: “RIP Daddy U Roy the iconic toaster who changed the paradigm of Jamaican music when he voiced the ‘Version Galore’ album.

“I was always in awe of him; the tone of voice, the cadence, the lyrical shimmering, and riddim riding made him ‘the soul adventurer’.”

Ghostpoet, a British singer, tweeted: “They ain’t ready for your toasting in heaven.”


Before his death, U-Roy was known for his melodic style of “toasting” applied with a highly developed sense of timing.

The late singer had begun his professional music career in 1961, performing on the sound system owned by Dickie Wong, who ran the Tit for Tat record label and club — where Sly Dunbar met Robbie Shakespeare — in Kingston.

He moved between sound systems before a period as the top DJ of King Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi in the late 60s.

In 1969, U-Roy made his first recordings with Keith Hudson, Lee Perry, and Peter Tosh. His breakout came after John Holt witnessed U-Roy DJing over his ‘Wear You to the Ball’ and told Duke Reid to work with him.

Their partnership would later birth three immediate hits ‘Wake the Town’, ‘Rule the Nation’ and ‘Wear You to the Ball’, as well as two dozen more singles.

It also inspired a rush of producers seeking to work with DJs on record.

U-Roy later returned to Soundsystem culture to launch Stur-Gav, his own brand, and raise a generation of toasters.

Some of U-Roy’s hit songs include ‘Natty Rebel’, ‘Runaway Girl’, ‘Babylon Girl’, and ‘Chalice in the Palace’.


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