Maxi Priest turns 40-years old in June, still relatively young for this revolutionary vocal artist, who's become one of the most successful reggae fusion acts of all time.
Max Alfred "Maxi" Priest is the youngest of nine children who's Jamaican parents moved the family to London, England to provide the children with more opportunities...and Maxie took full advantage.
He grew up listening to a combination of gospel, reggae, R an B, and pop music, which evolved into his unique, reggae fusion sound....a genre often closer to R an B and pop than to reggae itself!
Priest began his musical career in the early '80's singing on the South London reggae sound system called 'Saxon Studio International', out of which came some independent singles and few low-budget LP's. Then, lightening struck in 1988 with his first major album self-titled "Maxi Priest" which, along with its cover single...'Cat Stevens' "Wild World"--established Priest as one the UK's top reggae singers!
Eight more albums would follow over the next 20-years, my favorite being his second one in 1990 called 'Bonifide', which featured the hit "Close to You". I remember watching the video over and over and listening to smooth clarity of his voice to the words:"I just want to be close to you, and do all the things you want me to".
That song made him one of only two British reggae acts (along with 'UB40') to have an 'American Billboard' number one. Priest did it again in 1991, teaming with 'Roberta Flack' in "Set the Night to Music". Another duet with 'Shaggy' called "That Girl" was also an American hit in 1996, peaking at number 20.
The latter half of his career has seen Priest work alongside other artists, including 'Sly and Robbie', 'Apache Indian', 'Shabba Ranks', 'Jazzie B', 'Beres Hammond', and 'Lee Ritenour'. It was recently rumored that Priest was about to join 'UB40', and replace lead singer 'Ali Campbell' after Maxi helped them record a cover-version of 'Bob Marley's' "I Shot the Sheriff".
Priest did collaborate with 'UB40' on that track, and, on a successful tour....but the real story is 'Duncan Campbell'(Ali's brother) would become lead singer--while Priest would only appear with them on similar special recordings.
It is no surprise that much of Maxi Priest's musical influences come from his family. His uncle, 'Jacob Miller', a reggae icon, was frontman for the famous reggae group 'Inner Circle'. Meanwhile, his son, 'Ryan Elliott', was a member of the boy band 'Ultimate Kaos'.
It's been over three years since Priest's last album 'Refused', but let's hope another is on the way soon....because the music world still longs for more of his soothing, smooth-sounding, reggae-pop artistry.
You can listen to Maxi Priest on Streetwise Radio's "Big Splif's 4:20 Reggae Show" and "Streetwise Ultra Mix". Log on to www.Streetwisesd.com. and click Streetwise Radio.