Mikey Dread–the Jamaican producer and DJ renown for his decades-long devotion to spreading reggae, dub, and dancehall–passed away in Connecticut on Saturday following a year-long battle with a brain tumor. Yet another Jamaican engineering student drawn to the country’s pop scene, Michael Campbell’s “Dread At The Controls” show on JBC radio quickly became essential listening during reggae’s ’70s heyday, so much so that word of Dread’s reputation soon reached reggae fans who had never even stepped onto the island; the show’s grass-roots appeal at home and abroad helped launch his own influential career as an artist and producer after unsuccessfully wrangling with JBC higher-ups over his dub-focused playlists.
Upon leaving the JBC, Mikey Dread ventured into recording and scored with a number of releases such as Weatherman Skanking in combination with Ray I, Barber Saloon, Love the Dread, as well as albums such as Dread at the Control, Evolutionary Rockers and World War III. Over time he attracted the attention of British punk rockers, The Clash, who invited him to produce some of their music, the most famous of which is their single Bankrobber, and contributed to several songs on their 1980 album, Sandinista. Mikey Dread also toured with The Clash across Britain, wider Europe and the US.
Always a draw on the international reggae touring circuit during the rise of dancehall, Dread spent much of last decade performing and repackaging his out-of-print material on Dread At The Controls, the label he formed following a move to the U.S.; he diagnosed with a tumor in the summer of 2007, shortly before the birth of his son, as this Jamaica Observer article notes. Dread was 54.