Ernie Smith (born Glenroy Anthony Michael Archangelo Smith,1948, Kingston, Jamaica) made an indelible mark on Jamaican music. Hits followed in quick succession, – Bend Down, Ride On Sammy, One Dream, Pitta Patta and Duppy Gunman. In 1972 at World Popular Song Festival of Yamaha Foundation in Tokyo, he won the Grand Prize with his original composition of “Life Is Just For Living”, competing against songwriters like Neil Sedaka, and Michael Legrand.
Ernie became the first Jamaican musician to win an international music award.
For this historic achievement, he became the first musician in the field of Popular Music to be honored by the Jamaican Government with the Badge of Honor for meritorious service in the field of popular music. In 1976, Ernie was forced into exile in North America because of what was considered to be controversial political commentary in his song, “As We Fight One Another For The Power And The Glory, The Kingdom Goes To Waste”. Ironically, the once-banned song is still relevant and even more popular today.
Decades after its release, it is the ‘battle song’ for Jamaican talk shows and community activists.
While in exile, Ernie thrilled audiences in Canada and the Diaspora. Critics hailed his album “To Behold Jah” as one of the most important albums to come out of Canada for the year 1979. Ernie is renowned for bringing Reggae to mainstream Canada. Ernie has written well over 200 songs, several of which have been recorded by other artists, including Johnny Nash, Rita Marley, Chakka Demus and Pliers, Sanchez, Twiggy, Ken Lazarus, John Jones, Judy Boucher, Goldie Hawn, Eddie Lovett, Yellowman, Grace Thrillers and others. Ernie played on many of the world stages including repeat performances at Madison Square Garden – New York, multiple venues in Europe, the USA , Central and South America the Caribbean and of course his homeland – Jamaica.
Ernie returned to Jamaica in 1988, his absence from the island had had an effect on his career but by the early 1990’s he had reclaimed his place in the music industry and widened his fan base. His anthology (1997) “After 30 Years: Life is Just for Living” won great acclaim and is still in demand today. Ernie’s other works since his return include an early indictment of the negative direction the ‘new’ Dancehall was heading – Dancehall: Ernie Cleans It Up (1995). In this work he used positive lyrics over the then current styles. Over the years, Ernie has maintained that there will be a fusion of reggae with diverse musical styles. He has been proven right. Ernie “Rebel Music” (1974) included in his compilation “After 30 Years: Life is Just for Living:” (1997) is nothing short of prophetic. Ernie compilation of Folk Songs of Jamaica is widely sought after. His latest album “COUNTRY MILE” (2009) which features popular radio DJ from IRIE FM, Ron Machete and veteran performer Pluto Shervington has received some positive attention. Ernie has plans far beyond 2010. Of paramount importance is the promotion of “COUNTRY MILE” especially his favorite cut “That’s the Kind of People we Are”, his collaboration with gospel songstress Glacia Robinson and performing on the Continent of Africa for the first time.
With Ernie Smith time has no boundary, and today, he is as vibrant and fresh as ever and ready to move on through any challenge his musical journey may encounter. His latest Release in 2008: COUNTRY MILE is fresh, current, incisive and hypnotic. It is Ernie’s offer to you, to enjoy, while discovering or, re-discovering the essence of Jamaican musicality and versatility.