Monday, March 17, 2008

Reggaeobit: Mikey Dread

Mikey Dread, one of the leading reggae djs and engineers, has died at his Connecticut home.

Born in Port Antonio with the slightly less headline-terrific name of Michael Campbell, Dread first made a name for himself in the mid 1970s, presenting for the Jamaican Broadcasting Company and recording music. This at a time when those in charge of the state broadcaster were reluctant to allow their network to carry anything as common as reggae music - it's a tribute to Drea'd tenacity that he not only managed to get on air, but slowly forced a change in policy at the station. His earliest success as an artist came with Barber Saloon, but as well as performing, Dread was learning how to drive a studio. In 1981, he travelled to London to study at the National Broadcasting School, where he honed his natural talents. Shortly after graduation, he produced Bank Robber for The Clash before going on to co-write five tracks on the Sandinista album.

Central TV took him on to present Deep Roots Music, an early Channel 4 production on the history of Jamaican music; it was the start of a run of British TV projects that included creating Rocker's Roadshow and appearances on BBC2's Ebony. More surprisingly, he found himself producing a Japanese rock band - Anarchy.

A spell as opener on a European tour with UB40 may have perhaps persuaded him to try his luck on the other side of the Atlantic; he started to have success in the US from the mid 1980s, touring with Freddie McGregor and the Roots Radic Band.

Interestingly, Dread would constantly return to study during his career - he was the original lifelong learner. In 1996, he graduated the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with honours in music/video production, for example. It's possible that he was doing this to atone for having produced for Izzy Stradlin on his post Guns N Roses single. By 2000, he was graduating again - this time from Lynn University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Communications.

Studying didn't seem to eat too badly into his performance time, though, and well into this century he was a regular on-stage, playing everything from spring breaks with Ja Rule to Slovakian festivals.

Mikey Dread was 54. His death was reported as being due to a brain tumour.