No National Arena viewing for Daddy U-Roy - March 28 funeral at Dovecot

The body of legendary toaster Ewart ‘U-Roy’ Beckford will not lie in state at the National Arena as reported in some sections of the media, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport confirmed to The Gleaner.

“There will not be a viewing at the National Arena because of COVID-19,” said Oliver Watt, director of public relations and corporate communications, Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

“We will announce funeral arrangements at a later date. At that time, Minister Grange will give a statement,” Watt added.

Marcia Smikle, U-Roy’s partner of over 40 years, told The Gleaner that initially the discussions had centred around plans to host two viewings, one at the National Arena in Kingston on March 25, and the other at Perry’s Funeral Home in Spanish Town. Perry’s, which handled the funeral for late reggae icon Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, is also managing the burial of the legendary deejay.

“Because of the virus and the restrictions in place, people will not be able to attend the funeral, so they were looking forward to get their last look and say their final farewells at the viewings. But if the COVID numbers are rising, then the best decision must be taken. I know everybody going to be disappointed about this; we really wanted to give people a chance to pay their respects because he was a public figure and also a very popular man,” Smikle said.


Plans are for the Godfather of Dancehall, also known as Daddy U-Roy, to be buried on Sunday, March 28 at Dovecot, as there are no more spaces for entertainers to be laid to rest at the National Heroes Park in Kingston. Smikle disclosed that she is scouting around for churches to host a memorial service instead of the traditional, huge pre-COVID-size funeral service. However, the service will be live-streamed.

“I went to the Hagley Park Adventist church today, but I will have to go back tomorrow, so nothing is really finalised on that side,” she said on Wednesday.

U-Roy has roots in the Seventh-day Adventist church, as he was born into an Adventist family in Jones Town, Kingston, and it was in church that he was first introduced to music.

The toasting pioneer passed away on February 17 at the University Hospital of the West Indies after surgery, and a battle with kidney disease and other conditions. He was 79.

Daddy U-Roy, one of dancehall’s most influential figures, helped transform Jamaican music through his ‘toasting’ style. He started his career in the 1960s on sound systems, and hit the charts in the early 1970s as a toaster on popular hit songs like Wear You to The Ball (alongside John Holt) and Tom Drunk (with Hopeton Lewis).

In paying tribute to U-Roy, Trojan Records label, with which he was affiliated, noted that he paved the way and influenced genres worldwide with his original ‘toasting’ sound, a sound that has evolved into modern-day rap. “We have so much to thank U-Roy for. His musical style will live on forever,” the statement posted to Instagram read, noting U-Roy’s chart success.

“A true reggae phenomenon. Never before him, nor for a long time after him, had any artiste been able to simultaneously hold the top three positions on the Jamaican charts with three consecutive singles. Even the later international fame of Bob Marley never afforded that particular ‘late great’ a comparable level of chart action. And when U-Roy came with his first album, it was an event for reggae fans that would have been comparable in rock circles to the release of something like a Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” it said.

It continued, “Up to the release of Version Galore, there really wasn’t much of an album market for Jamaican artistes. Version Galore changed that situation overnight by selling in the kind of quantities that the three chart-topping 45s that preceded it had done. If the success of Wake The Town, This Station Rule The Nation and Wear You To The Ball hadn’t already made U-Roy the number one artiste in Jamaica, this album would (and did!) confirm his star status absolutely.”

This week, Trojan posted on its Instagram page that the label is honouring “the late, great pioneering, earth-shattering King of Jamaican Djs” Daddy U-Roy as #trojanartistoftheweek and has curated a playlist of 50 U-Roy tracks “for you to enjoy and celebrate the man himself”.

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