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Jamaican reggae legend Max Romeo

by Daniel Brown

Article published on the 2009-09-18 Latest update 2009-09-18 16:19 TU

Max Romeo in Agadir.(Photo: D Brown)

Max Romeo in Agadir.
(Photo: D Brown)

Max Romeo. is on the brink of ending his forty year career, but retains much of the vim and vision that made him a pioneer of rude reggae in the Sixties. Today’s World Tracks is an exclusive exchange with one of the monuments of reggae music. This is Max Romeo like you’ve never heard him before, and we were lucky enough to catch up with the reggae man on a balmy evening in Agadir, Morocco.

World Tracks: Max Romeo

18/09/2009 by Daniel Brown

62-year-old Max Romeo shared much of the early destiny of Bob Marley, farmed with him, even kicked the football in Saint Anne alongside the gangly teenager.

But more than all this, the Jamaican did much to shape the Wailers band to be what they were before they conquered the world. The musicians parted company before the Wailers joined up with Bob Marley, to become a musical force that was unrivalled for two decades. But Romeo harbours no hard feelings.

“I’m glad I trained a set of guys for the great Bob Marley to use as musicians,” explained the Jamaican as he reclined on the hotel balcony overlooking the Atlantic.

Romeo nevertheless continued to forge ahead with his own career and came to international attention in 1969 with his controversial song “Wet Dream”.

After being played twice by BBC Radio One’s Tony Blackburn it was banned for its suggestive lyrics about a man in bed with his woman.

"That ban intrigued people, it made it so big,” laughed Romeo. “It helped build a rags to riches situation, as I was really struggling.”

In the Seventies, the singer suddenly switched to committed reggae. His visionary songs “Black Equality” and especially “War inna Babylon” stamped him as one of the most outspoken and revolutionary lyricists.
This prolific period came to an end with the acrimonious split-up with producer and maverick musician Lee Perry. After three years in the wilderness, Romeo’s career was saved by a tour of France.

“I keep saying “thank you France,” chortled the grizzled artist, “they revived an old dead (man), and I’m alive and well.”

After one last recording next year called The Last Hurrah, however, Romeo is hanging up his spurs. The main reason, he says, are his two sons, Romario and Ronaldo Romeo who’ve combined at the tender ages of 10 and 12 to form the Rominal duo.

“They told me: “Dad, this is our time, take a seat, we’re going to take over. And I believe them!”

The boys’ first album Singing the Blues is to be released over Christmas 2009. Meanwhile Max Romeo has promised he will continue to perform live, entertaining reggae followers worldwide.

It has been a long if ultimately happy road taken by the grizzled veteran who first came to international notice by inking in a “Wet Dream” exactly forty years ago.

Studio producer for World Tracks is Roshi Bagheri.

Quiz of the week


In which Jamaican town was Max Romeo born?


The answer is in the programme. You are invited to listen to it and send your answers to daniel.brown@rfi.fr.



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