Tribute: Jacob Miller

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Jacob Miller was born in Mandeville, central Jamaica on May 4, 1952 to Joan Ashman and Desmond Elliot. At the age of eight he moved to Kingston, Jamaica where he grew up with his maternal grandparents. In Kingston, Miller began spending time at popular studios including Clement Dodd’s Studio One. He recorded three songs for Dodd, including “Love is a Message” in 1968, which the Swaby brothers, (Horace, later called Augustus Pablo, and Garth) played at their Rockers Sound System. While the song did not garner much success nor maintain Dodd’s attention in Miller, it resulted in Pablo’s sustained interest in Miller.

After the brothers launched their own label in 1972, Pablo recorded a version of “Love is a Message” named “Keep on Knocking” in 1974. In the next year and a half Miller recorded five more songs for Pablo, “Baby I Love You So,” “False Rasta,” “Who Say Jah No Dread,” “Each One Teach One,” and “Girl Named Pat”, each of which became a Rockers classic with King Tubby dubs on their b-sides. These singles developed Miller’s reputation and ultimately drew Inner Circle to hire him as a replacement lead singer.

Inner Circle was an emerging reggae group made popular playing covers of American Top 40 hits. Band leader Roger Lewis said Jacob Miller was “always happy and jovial. He always made jokes. Everyone liked Jokes.” Adding Miller as lead singer, the band’s lineup was Roger Lewis on guitar, Ian Lewis on bass, Bernard “Touter” Harvey on keyboards, and Rasheed McKenzie on drums. Coining Miller as Jacob “Killer” Miller, the group continued to accrue popularity. They signed with Capitol Records in 1976 and released two albums, Reggae Thing and Ready for the World. Their first hit with Jacob Miller was “Tenement Yard”, followed by “Tired Fi Lick Weed In a Bush”.

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In March 1980, Jacob Miller went with Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell to Brazil to celebrate Island opening new offices in South America. On Sunday, March 23, 1980 Miller was killed at age 27 in a car accident on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica. This abruptly cut short a promising career that had already taken young Jacob Miller from 'yard' (Jamaica) to an international record deal with Island Records. Miller and Inner Circle had been preparing for an American tour with Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the next album, Mixed Up Moods, had been recorded before his death.
 

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