Ijahman Levi (born: Trevor Sutherland) has been on the cutting edge of Jamaica’s music for more than four decades. While his 1985 duet with his second wife, Madge, “I Do,” remains his best known tune, reaching the top position on the British music charts, Levi has continued to influence reggae and ska vocalists with his eclectic approach and songs of spirituality, love and humanity. Educated to the high school level in Kingston, Levi was mentored by vocal teacher Joe Higgs. Recorded his first single, “Red Eyes People,” under the guidance of Stranjah Cole for Duke Reid Productions, at the age of thirteen.
Shortly after moving with his with his band, Vibrations, which he formed in 1965, Levi became a regular performer at the Q club. After the group’s disbanding, he formed Youth And Rudie And The Shell Shock, with which he performed until launching his solo career, as Youth, in 1966. Courted by several record companies, Levi recorded singles for Polydor in 1967 in 1967 and Decca in 1968. Levi’s career was temporarily stilled when he was arrested in 1970 a sent to prison for three years. While imprisoned, he assumed the name of Ijahman Levi and wrote the classic tune, “Jah Heavy Lord.”
Released from prison in 1974, Levi found refuge at the house of Rastafari at the St. Agnes Place headquarters of the Twelve Tribes. Much of his time was spent studying the Bible. In 1975, Levi recorded “Jah Heavy Lord” for the Concrete Jungle subsidiary of Dip Records. Singing on Rico Rodrigues’ album, Man From Warika, for the Island label, Levi was signed to a recording contract by the label’s owner Chris Blackwell. His two albums on Island — Haile I Hymn, released in 1978, and, Are We A Warrior, released in 1979 — were produced by late Jamaican producer Geoffrey Chung. Following the success of the two albums, Levi left Island and formed his own label, Tres Roots Records International”, in 1980.
The following year, he married his second wife, Madge. Ijahman remained active in the 1990s. In 1991, he performed at the Zimbabwe Sunspalsh. Five years later, he was invited to the Gambia state house as a special guest of President Jammeh. ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide
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