A master of love songs and roots material, Leroy Smart has been on the reggae scene since the early ’70s. He was raised in Kingston’s Alpha Catholic Boys Home and began recording in the early ’70s. Smart worked with such producers as Gussie Clarke, Joe Joe Hookin, and Bunny Lee while gaining fame for a flamboyant performance style, exceptionally anguished delivery, and penetrating vocal manner. Smart’s smashing voice often seemed about to collapse from anxiety and earnestness mid-song. He has continued to maintain his popularity, never scoring any crossover or international hits, but retaining his pull with the notoriously fickle Jamaican audience.
Smart was born in 1952 and orphaned at the age of two. He was raised at Maxfield Park Children’s Home and educated at Alpha Boys School, where he studied singing, drums and dancing.
Smart recorded his first single, “It Pains Me” in 1969 for a producer called Mr. Caribbean. In 1970 he recorded “Ethiopia” for Joe Gibbs, and the first version of one of his most famous songs, “Pride & Ambition”, with producer Gussie Clarke. His breakthrough would come in 1973 with “Mother Liza”, produced by Jimmy Radway, which topped the local singles chart, and led to “Pride & Ambition” also becoming a big local hit. After working with Bunny Lee for several years, he recorded another of his best-known songs, “Ballistic Affair” at Channel One, in 1976, and began producing himself in 1977. Smart has continued recording and remains popular, with over 35 albums to his name. He is regarded as one of Jamaica’s most outrageous and colourful characters.
Smart appeared in the film Rockers along with contemporaries such as Gregory Isaacs and Jacob Miller.