September 6, 2009
Wycliffe Johnson, an innovative composer and producer known as Steely, who held sway over two decades of reggae music, died on Tuesday in East Patchogue, N.Y. He was 47 and lived in Kingston, Jamaica.
The cause was a heart attack following pneumonia, said his daughter Kerry Johnson. He had moved to Brooklyn this summer for treatment of kidney problems related to hypertension and diabetes, she said, and died at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital several weeks after surgery for a blood clot in the brain.
The reggae world knew Mr. Johnson as Steely, a boisterous producer with a larger-than-life personality and a belly to match. Best known for his role in the team Steely & Clevie, he was equally influential in his early work as a sideman, and helped to transform reggae at several stages, from roots to dancehall to digital.
An expert keyboardist who worked with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, Mr. Johnson worked at seminal Jamaican recording studios like Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, Lee (Scratch) Perry’s Black Ark and Sugar Minott’s Youth Promotion. By some estimates he participated in more sessions than anyone else in the history of reggae.
This Obituary continues at THE NEW YORK TIMES.