Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Kingston, Jamaica) Reggae vocalist. She has covered whatever she liked regardless of fashion or fad in a variety of contexts. She began singing in church choirs and at school concerts, influenced by the Soul Stirrers, the Impressions, Carla Thomas, Dionne Warwick and especially Aretha Franklin; turned pro '64 with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, at the same time starting a studio career with Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd with solo singles for Studio One: the first, 'Wall Of Love', remained in the vault; much of her Studio One output was licensed to foreign labels but the volume of material still in the can is potentially enormous since they attended the studio virtually every day. She went on to international success with former Paragon Bob Andy as Bob and Marcia (also sang duets with Owen Boyce, Free-I and Tony Gregory). Marcia Griffiths At Studio One (Studio One) was an anthology of this period's work offering tracks such as 'Words', 'Melody Life', 'Tell Me Now', the seminal 'Feel Like Jumping' and 'Truly', the last two major Jamaican hits. She met the Wailers in '64, leading to the Wailers, Griffiths and Andy guesting on each other's sessions. 'Feel Like Jumping' was 'versioned' by Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals, who transformed it into the anthemic '54-46 That's My Number' (Hibbert's jail tale). Bob and Marcia covered Nina Simone's 'Young, Gifted And Black' '70; their singles also included 'Really Together', 'Got To Get Ourselves Together' and 'Pied Piper' '70-74. They split up in '74 but remained close; contrary to belief they were never married. Album Young, Gifted And Black on Trojan '76.

Work with the Wailers brought her to the attention of a new audience; she and Rita Marley backed them on 'Rock It Baby', then with Judy Mowatt became the vocal trio called the I-Threes (sometimes rendered as I-Trees, in Jamaican patois); Bob Marley recruited them for the album that became Natty Dread '75. When Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh left the Wailers '74, Marley invited the trio to work with him; Griffiths juggled work with the Wailers, the I-Threes and a solo career. Sessions for Marley included Island albums Live '75, Rasta Man Vibration '76, Exodus '77, Kaya '78, Babylon By Bus '78 and Survival '79. As the booklet notes for Marley's anthology Songs Of Freedom on Tuff Gong '92 pointed out, 'The I-Threes underlined Bob's vocals with light and shade, as well as offering a visual balance onstage to the macho antics of some of the male members of the Wailers.' It is difficult to imagine classics like 'No Woman No Cry' without them. Concurrently the I-Threes recorded under their own name for Tuff Gong and appeared on the anthology Reggae Sunsplash '81 on Elektra '82; and Griffiths's solo work incl. Sweet Bitter Love on Trojan '74, with a cover of Ewan MacColl's 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'. She began a long-term collaboration with producer Sonia Pottinger '70s, first-rate singles included 'Survival', 'Peaceful Woman', 'Stepping Out Of Babylon' and 'Dreamland'. Naturally on the Sky label '76 (later on a Shanachie CD) incl. 'Feel Like Jumping' while Steppin' '78 also dates from this period. After Bob Marley's death '81 the I-Threes struck out on their own, cutting Many Are Called '83 and Beginning '86; they backed rai singer Khaled on 'Ouelli El Darek' on his Sahra '96. Griffiths's 'He's A Legend' on Beginning paid tribute to Marley. With no consideration for future discographers, Griffiths also made singles with Bunny Wailer late '70s - early '80s and worked with Bob Andy on his Kemar album (reissued as Really Together on I-Anka). Marcia on VP Records '88 found her accompanied by Bunny 'Rugs' Clark, Steven 'Cat' Coore and Willie Stewart from Third World, and Sly Dunbar of Sly and Robbie, repertoire tending towards the poppy but including her own 'True Love Is Hard To Achieve' and covers of Beatles' 'Don't Let Me Down', Christine McVie's 'Everywhere' and Marley's 'Trench Town Rock'. Her re-recorded version of 'Electric Boogie' on Mango reached the top 50 USA early '90; her original recording of the song, produced by Bunny Wailer '80, took off as a Washington DC and Virginian dance craze called 'The Electric Slide' as well as being a multi-million bootleg seller in Nigeria. On the back of its success she made Carousel for Mango/Island '90, a commercial offering with spangles such as 'Sugar Shack' and 'Groovin' ', working again with Dodd at his Music City Studio. Over the years Griffiths sessioned with Judy Mowatt (Love Is Overdue), Max Romeo (War In A Babylon '76), Sanchez (Number One '89) and Martha Velez (Escape From Babylon '76). Her work is a staple of compilations of Jamaican music; like many reggae artists she has often found herself without a label deal commensurate with her talent and her work is scattered, but she remains the Queen of Reggae.