Ken Boothe, OD (born 22 March 1948, Denham Town, Kingston, Jamaica) is a Jamaican recording artist.
Ken Boothe was born in the Denham Town area of Kingston in 1948, the youngest of seven children, and began singing in school. His recording career began in the late 1950s when he formed a duo with his neighbour Stranger Cole as ‘Stranger & Ken’, the first tracks released by them being “Hush Baby” on the B-side of Cole’s Island Records single “Last Love”, and the “Thick in Love” single on R&B Records, both in 1963. They released several more popular singles between 1963 and 1965, including “World’s Fair”, “Hush”, and “Artibella”. Boothe also recorded as a duo with Roy Shirley (as Roy & Ken), releasing the “Paradise” single in 1966.
His first solo tracks were recorded in 1966 after Clement “Coxsone” Dodd had signed him to the Studio One Label. He also recorded material for Phil Pratt and Sonia Pottinger the same year. He had almost immediate success with songs like “The Train Is Coming” (on which he was backed by The Wailers) and “Lonely Teardrops” and by the following year, Boothe and Alton Ellis had a successful UK tour with the Studio One session group, The Soul Vendors. Boothe was promoted as “Mr. Rock Steady” by Dodd during this period. Boothe continued to record for Dodd until 1970, when he switched to Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records, where his success continued with hits such as “Freedom Street” and “Why baby Why”.
Following Kong’s death, Boothe recorded for many of Jamaica’s top producers during the early 1970s, including Keith Hudson, Herman Chin Loy, Vincent “Randy” Chin, and Phil Pratt. He then formed the group Conscious Minds with B.B. Seaton.
Then under a new direction from record producer Lloyd Charmers, Boothe released “Everything I Own” on Trojan Records, which reached Number One in the UK Singles charts in 1974. The song, written by David Gates, was given a sympathetic light reggae feel and it received airplay and an appreciative audience in the West Indies and was regularly played on the radio stations of the UK due to its “crossover” appeal. David Gates’ own group, Bread, had had a minor UK hit with the song in the Spring of 1972, but it had only reached Number 32.
An unusual fact about Boothe’s cover version is that he sings ‘Anything I Own’, rather than ‘Everything I Own’ throughout, meaning that the title of the record is never sung. There have been other examples of this at Number One in the UK Singles Chart, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”; “Unchained Melody”; “Annie’s Song”; “The Chicken Song”; and “Space Oddity”; but Boothe’s record is the only one on which the title should have been sung, but was not by mistake.
Boothe only managed one more hit in the UK Chart during the 1970s, “Crying Over You”, which made Number 11, with Trojan Records’ collapse and a split with Charmers losing much of the momentum built up by his two hits.
In 1978, along with Dillinger and Leroy Smart, Boothe was referenced by lyricist Joe Strummer in The Clash’s track, “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”.
Boothe reunited with Charmers in the late 1970s when a revived Trojan Records released the albums Blood Brothers (first issued on LTD in 1976) and Who Get’s Your Love, but the reunion proved to be short-lived. He continued to record during the 1980s and had a few hits during 1986 and 1987.
In 1987, Boy George released a version of “Everything I Own” which charted or reached Number One in many countries. His rendition owed far more in styling to Boothe’s version than the original by Bread. This sparked renewed interest in Boothe’s version, which was reissued the same year, reaching number 88 in the UK.
In more recent times, Boothe has recorded for Bunny Lee, Phil Pratt, King Jammy, Pete Weston, Jack Ruby, Hugh “Red Man” James, Castro Brown and Tappa Zukie. Plus in 1995, he teamed up with Shaggy, for a new styled version of his old self penned track, “The Train Is Coming”, which appeared on the soundtrack of the film, Money Train.
A double-disc overview of Boothe’s Trojan years, Crying Over You, was released by the record label in 2001.
Boothe was awarded the Order of Distinction (OD) for his contribution to Jamaican music by the Jamaican government in 2003.