Obituary: Jackie Edwards

Wilfred Gerald 'Jackie' Edwards, singer and songwriter, born Kingston Jamaica 1940, died Jamaica 9 August 1992.

ALTHOUGH Jackie Edwards is most remembered as 'the chap who wrote 'Keep On Running' ', in the 1960s his contribution to the fledgling Island Record was probably as significant as Bob Marley's or U2's in later decades.

Edwards was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1940. While he was in his teens, Jamaica's passion for US rhythm and blues (R & B) proved the ideal vehicle for Edwards's already rich Nat King Cole-style croon, and he built a reputation performing covers of current hits. He turned to songwriting in the late Fifties when, in the US, R & B gave way to rock'n'roll, drying up the island's flow of imported records and creating a demand for domestic product.

Primarily, Jamaican R & B was produced for the sound systems - sorts of mobile discos with 'attitude' - where rivalry was intense and musical evolution became the way to stay ahead. Writers blended in elements of boogie- woogie and calypso, switched piano parts to the guitar and fooled about with the drums to shift the accent from the first and third beats. They created 'ska', and Edwards's compositions - first for Studio One and then an independent producer called Chris Blackwell - were as influential as work by more prominent figures like Prince Buster, Don Drummond and Jackie Mittoo.

Emigrating to the UK in the early Sixties, Edwards renewed his association with the recently arrived Blackwell who, prior to 'My Boy Lollipop', was building his business by selling singles, often in five-figure amounts, in specialist shops. Edwards recorded one album, but after the silky soul of The Most of Jackie Edwards - it was not a huge success - Blackwell steered him to writing, believing Edwards's background to be of great value to the scores of young British would-be R & B groups - particularly one he managed, the Spencer Davis group.

Formed by Spencer Davis, a university lecturer, and featuring Steve Winwood on piano and vocals, the group specialised in straight blues covers but had three singles fail to reach the Top 30. They needed songs, so in 1965 Blackwell asked Edwards to write a B-side for them and he penned 'Keep On Running'. It gave the band a No 1 hit and became the most enduring song of their catalogue, but more importantly from a business point of view, it was Blackwell's breakthrough worldwide hit. Edwards went on to write the Spencer Davis group follow-up, 'Somebody Help Me', also a No 1, but by that time, with help from techniques learned from Edwards, they had mastered songwriting themselves.

Edwards never repeated these feats, but remained productive with Island Music for the next 20 years. During this time he wrote mainly for the specialist market, playing a large part in the slowing down of ska's frantic beat to become rock steady and, eventually, reggae. His understanding of the music's smoother side (dating from his crooning youth) also meant that during the Seventies, when romantically orientated 'lovers' rock' reggae became the antithesis to hard dub, his recording career revived. The albums Come To Me Softly, Let's Fall In Love and The Original Mr Cool Ruler - an answer to Gregory Isaacs's self-styled title - have sustained sufficient sales to remain undeleted.

Just over five years ago, Edwards returned to Jamaica, where he wrote for local artists and enjoyed life on the continuing royalties from his two most successful compositions. His last public appearance in the UK was on a bill of veteran reggae performers at last year's Jacquie Mittoo Benefit Concert in London, when he performed free of charge and paid all his own expenses.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company provides global satellite communi...

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Ashdown Group: HR Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A mainstream Secondary school in C...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'