With the release of his landmark CD “Where There Is Life” in 1995, Luciano emerged as one of the most important reggae singers in decades and the greatest hope for roots reggae’s survival in the digital dancehall era. Since that much acclaimed release, Luciano’s music has been consistently praised for imparting sentiments of spiritual salvation, edification and humanitarian upliftment.
In these troubled times, Luciano’s engaging baritone voice resonates like a divinely ordained instrument possessing the power to comfort souls from all walks of life. While many of his so called “conscious” contemporaries have faltered by recording songs that glorify wanton sex and random violence as a means of topping the charts, Luciano has held steadfast to enriching principles; these positive lyrical themes have justifiably earned him the title of The Messenger. However, the humble singer also refers to himself as the child of a king which was the title of his penultimate CD for VP Records.
“We are all children of the Most High God and as a Rasta man, I acknowledge that I am a child of Emperor Haile Selassie I because all of his teachings are in my songs,” he explains. “I am a child of a king and I just want my family and my fans to receive the blessings that God has given through me as a messenger and an instrument of peace.”
Luciano estimates to have done at least 40th album; the prolific artist releases three (full length) CDs per year. “I have so much music and messages, that I cannot be holding it inside of me,” he declares. “From a management point of view, they would like to see me cooling out for a while but if a bird doesn’t sing, tell me if that bird is happy?”
Music has run deeply throughout Luciano’s life. Born Jepther Washington McClymont on October 20, 1964 in Davey Town, a small community located atop a hilly region on the road to Mandeville in the central Jamaican parish of Manchester. Luciano was raised in the Adventist church and sang in the church choir. His father Arthur passed away when Luciano was just 11 years old. He left behind a guitar he had built and as Luciano recalls, “through those early years, I fell in love with the guitar and started to learn to play, which I realised was showing love and respect to my father.” His beloved mother Sophie, who struggled to raise Luciano and his eight siblings, is also a gifted singer.
As he grew older, Luciano sang in local youth clubs and took the mic at local sound system dances. In the late 80s, he arrived in Jamaica’s bustling capital Kingston hoping to transform his musical talent into a flourishing career. He sold oranges in the marketplace as means of initially supporting himself but when a drought restricted that year’s orange crop, he returned to Mandeville. However, the music beckoned so it wasn’t long before Luciano went back to Kingston, this time with even greater determination to succeed. He worked as an upholsterer by day and at night he sought recording opportunities in various studios.
It was suggested by one of his mentors, Homer Harris, that the name Jepther McClymont did not have the requisite charisma to propel the career of an aspiring entertainer; Jepther was (professionally) re-christened as Luciano, a name that parallels his extraordinary vocal skills alongside those of the world-renowned operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti. The name was also somewhat prophetic: “Luci” means bearer of light and within a few years Luciano would shine as one of the brightest lights in the Jamaican music constellation.
As the 1990s progressed, Luciano recorded for a few producers but failed to make any significant headway until he met Freddie McGregor. “Shake It Up” (a cover version of Cheryl Lyn’s RnB hit) recorded for Freddie’s Big Ship label became a number one hit in the UK in 1993 and was featured on Luciano’s first release for VP Records “After All”.
But due to Freddie’s hectic touring commitments, he was unable to devote sufficient time to developing Luciano’s singer/song writing skills. However the singer soon found an ideal collaborator in producer Phillip “Fatis” Burell of Xterminator Records whose releases were characterised by Rastafarian imbued themes and intricately crafted roots rock rhythms played by some of Jamaica’s finest musicians.
Fatis, who also took on the managerial role in Luciano’s career, brought the gifted singer’s talents to the musical forefront on cuts like “Poor and Simple”, “Chant Out” and “One Way Ticket”, the latter regarded as one of the finest repatriation anthems ever written and a song that continually summons enthusiastic responses in Luciano’s breathtaking live performances. With the release of “Where There Is Life” for Island Records Jamaica Luciano’s deeply devotional yet accessible lyrics and the beautiful melodies of “Its Me Again Jah”, “Your World and Mine” and “Lord Give Me Strength” coupled with Fatis’ contemporary one drop rhythms catapulted the singer to the top of the reggae charts, toppling (at least temporarily) the decade long reign of deejays rapping x-rated lyrics over digitised dancehall beats.
Luciano and Fatis (alongside prominent musicians such as saxophonist Dean Frasier and drummer Sly Dunbar) created several exceptional releases including 1997’s “The Messenger” and 1999’s “Sweep Over My Soul”. Although they parted ways in 1999 due to artistic differences within the Xterminator camp, Luciano consistently acknowledges Fatis’ essential role in establishing the foundation for his farreaching success.
The Messenger has since ascended to even greater musical heights with “A New Day” (2001) “Serve Jah” (2003), “Serious Times” (2004), all for VP Records who also released “Child of A King” (2006) and “United States of Africa” (2010) all of which contributed towards the crowning glory of his exalted career thus far. His most recent album “Rub-A-Dub Market released in (2011) just proves that Luciano is like unto a good vintage wine, which just keeps getting better and better the more it matures.
Luciano states that, “Over the years I have listened to other international icons like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Jim Reeves. By listening to all these great brothers, I have learned to appreciate other works and see that there are no barriers in music. Although I am well known as a cultural reggae singer, I have an international message and so I cannot deliver it just to reggae fans. I have to extend it to people from all walks of life.” Spoken like a truly benevolent messenger and the globally minded child of a king.