Obituary: Prince Lincoln

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The Independent Culture
THE JAMAICAN singer Prince Lincoln was one of a handful of committed Rastafarian artists responsible for raising the profile of reggae in Europe after moving to London in the late 1970s.

Lincoln Thompson's piercing falsetto and imaginative phrasing gave his work a sense of urgency and conviction, reaching audiences otherwise disinterested in the genre. His emotive live performances were captivating and as consistently strong as his recorded work. With his tall frame and long dreadlocks he conveyed an image of strength that supported the gravity of his lyrics. Thompson was also a respected member of London's Rastafarian community, his prominent involvement reflecting his humility and overriding religious commitment.

He began his singing career as a member of the Tartans with Cedric Myton, Devon Russell and Lindburgh "Preps" Lewis. Their 1966 debut, "Dance All Night", recorded at Federal studio, went straight to No 1 in Jamaica, and the anti-rude-boy "What Can I Do" was also highly popular. A move to Treasure Isle resulted in the hit "Far Beyond the Sun" for the producer Duke Reid, and subsequent material was cut for Caltone while the group was being managed by Caltone's proprietor Ken Lack. By the end of the decade they were at Studio One, Kingston's premier recording facility, creating songs like "School Days" and "Solid as a Rock" which they licensed to the King label in England.

In the early Seventies, Thompson recorded a trio of hit singles as a solo artist at Studio One; the moving "Daughters of Zion" was particularly strong, and referred to Thompson's Rastafarian faith. Later in the decade, he founded the God Sent label as a vehicle for his work, and began issuing material under the moniker Royal Rasses, using Myton - then leader of the Congos - and the fellow Studio One singer Jennifer Lara for harmonies.

The uplifting "Love the Way it Should Be" was highly popular with the British reggae audience, as was "Kingston 11", Thompson's rendering of the ghetto in which he grew up. The success of these singles led to a contract with Ballistic Records, a UK subsidiary of the United Artists label, about the time Thompson moved to London; the resultant 1979 Humanity album is a classic that greatly raised the profile of reggae outside Jamaica, its heavy publicity attracting a new audience to the genre.

A successful tour spread the reggae flame through Europe, while further hits such as "San Salvador" drew attention to a range of social injustices, including the disastrous US foreign policy implemented in the Caribbean and Central America during the Cold War.

As the Rasses' audience grew, Thompson attempted to broaden his focus by drawing from mainstream styles, but the 1980 Experience album proved less successful. Roots Man Blues (1981) saw Thompson stretching reggae's boundaries through an inspired collaboration with the jazz/pop singer Joe Jackson, but the collapse of Ballistic coincided with a disillusionment that resulted in a long break from recording.

Though never entirely absent from the music scene, being involved in the reggae musical Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame, and with sporadic performances, Prince Lincoln became involved in community ventures and eventually opened the Rasses Fish Market in north London. When he returned to the studio in 1996 to cut the 21st Century album, his song-writing skills and vocal delivery proved to be undiminished, and the mature and thoughtful release remains popular.

Prince Lincoln was committed to creating music of quality, and his falsetto and understated delivery remain a source of inspiration to upcoming talent, particularly in the UK.

Lincoln Thompson (Prince Lincoln), singer: born Kingston, Jamaica 10 July 1949; married; died London 14 January 1999.