One of Jamaica's most distinguished singers, as a member of Black UhuruMichael Rose was one of the foundation stones of the roots movement, before launching a successful career in the modern dancehalls. His work with Uhuru helped bring the group a Grammy, while his distinctive vocals launched an entire musical style — the Waterhouse sound. The Kingston neighborhood of Waterhouse is where Rose was born, on July 11, 1957. There, Rose grew up with a love of music, and began his career when barely into his teens competing in talent contests, and then working the North Coast hotel circuit. At 15, he returned to the capital and cut his first single, a DJ version of Andel Forgie's "Woman a Gineal fe True" for producer Newton Simmons. That barely hinted at what was to come. Soon after, Rose linked up with childhood friend Sly Dunbar, who brought him to meet producer Niney Holness. The singer cut a number of songs for Holness during 1972: "Clap the Barber," "Love Between Us," "Freedom Over Me," and best of all, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Although, none of these songs fired the charts, Rose was already putting into place a sound and vision that would shake the music world. Through Holness, Rose also came to cut a song for Lee Perry, "Observe Life"; it too did little.
However, Dunbar encouraged his friend to keep writing, which Rose did while the drummer toured with Peter Tosh. Upon his return, Dunbar brought the singer to Prince Jammy. Jammy then introduced Rose to Ducky Simpson, who was trying to reconstitute his vocal trio, Uhuru. With the enlistment of former-Jayes frontman Errol Nelson, Black Sounds Uhuru was born. The trio recorded their 1977 debut album, Love Crisis, for Jammy, later remixed and given an international release as Black Sounds of Freedom. Nelson quit the band soon after, and Puma Jones was brought in. Black Uhuru was now complete. With their subsequent albums overseen by Sly Dunbar and his partner Robbie Shakespeare, and accompanied by the pair's band, the Revolutionaries, Black Uhuru led the roots movement into the international arena.
Across a glittering career of classic singles and masterful albums, the trio reached a new pinnacle of success in 1985, when Anthem won the first ever Grammy in the newly instituted Reggae category. It was at this point that Rose opted to leave the group, and dropped off the international radar. Buying land in the Blue Mountains, the former city boy threw himself into country life, and set up a coffee farm. He continued recording during this period, releasing a stream of Jamaican-only singles. Many of them were hits, and a number reunited him with Sly & Robbie, including "Monkey Business," "Visit Them," "One a We Two a We."
In 1990, Rose began his return to the international scene, with the release in Britain of his solo album Proud. Two years later, Japan was treated to Bonanza, which was followed by 1994's King of the General. The next year, the Taxi label released Sly & Robbie Presents Mykal Rose: The Taxi Sessions, which compiled up recordings from earlier in the decade. During this time, the singer had Ethiopian-ized his name, and his Jamaican singles were usually credited to Mykal Rose. In the States, the VP label released Voice of the Ghetto, an album overseen by Anthony Deheny and Bunny Gemini. And in the U.K., Ruff Cut released the Junjo Lawes-produced Last Chance, whose title track was a huge club hit. By now, Rose had come to the attention of the American Heartbeat label, who signed the singer, and put him back in the studio with producer Holness. The result was Rose's eponymous album, his third release for 1995. The track "Short Temper" was also spun off as a single. 1996 brought the Nuh Carbon album, which was released in the States by the RAS label, but actually featured older recordings, overseen by Jah Screw. Heartbeat, meanwhile, offered up the brand new, self-produced Be Yourself, which spun off the club hit "Rude Boys (Back in Town)." The album created quite a firestorm, as it included two classic Uhuru songs, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "I Love King Selassie." A dub counterpart of the album also appeared, Big Sound Frontline. Rose also moved into production and launched three labels, Grammy Rose, Ruff Roze, and Imaj, as homes for his own music and productions.
The singer took to the road in 1996, as part of Heartbeat's Culture Splash Tour. He continued touring during 1997, and live appearances from this period were featured on the Party in Session — Live album, released later that year. It was a busy time, and a new studio album in 1997, the Mafia & Fluxy-produced Dance Wicked, accompanied by its dub companion Dub Wicked, soon appeared. Meanwhile, British fans were treated to Selassie I Showcase, overseen by Frenchie and Fashion, and rounding up Rose's Maximum Sound hits including "Rush on the Tonic" and "Jah Is my Shepherd," featuring DJ Cutty Ranks. Of course, this wasn't the first time Rose had joined forces with a DJ, he also had a huge hit paired with Shabba Ranks on a new version of the Uhuru classic "Shine Eye Gal," while "Burn Down Rome" united Rose with his Black Uhuru replacement Junior Reid. Later, the singer also cut a new version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with African artist Dr. Alban, retitled "Karolina."
The singer continued to place singles regularly into the European and Jamaican charts, although few of these releases turned up in the States. Rose's large international following was treated to another world tour, and thus it wasn't until 1999 that his next album, Bonanza, appeared. The record created a new controversy by its inclusion of love songs. That same year, the Tabou label released X Uhuru, on which Rose and Sly & Robbie resurrect and reinvent classic Black Uhuru hits. The singer has continued touring and recording, and in 2001 his Never Give It Up album was released. An American tour followed in the new year. ~ Jo-Ann Greene