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Timeless riffs of Ernie Ranglin

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Monday, June 19, 2017

This is the seventh in our daily series highlighting 55 Jamaicans who broke down barriers and helped put the country on the world stage. Each day one personality will be featured, culminating Independence Day, August 6.

 

Easily one of the most influential musicians in Jamaica, Ernie Ranglin has distinguished himself as a guitarist, arranger, and bandleader.

Ranglin, who turns 85 today, played a pivotal part in the burgeoning music industry. The Manchester-born maestro worked clubs and recording studios prior to Jamaica's Independence in 1962, and was instrumental in crafting many songs from that period.

In 1964 Ranglin arranged Millie Small's My Boy Lollipop, a ska song that went to number two on the British national chart.

That year he played the timeless jazz riffs on The Wailers ballad It Hurts to Be Alone.

As a session musician, Ranglin was a prolific freelancer. He was one of the first employees for Island Records, and also worked for rival producers Clement “Coxson” Dodd and Arthur “Duke” Reid.

Ranglin was once musical director for Jimmy Cliff's band, and during the 1990s, he collaborated with diverse acts including jazz pianist Monty Alexander and singer Baaba Maal of Senegal.

In an interview with the New York Times in 1997, Joe Gore, a writer for Guitar Player magazine, saluted Ranglin.

“Simply put, Ernest Ranglin is a great guitar player who has earned a place in history as one of the innovators of a globally influential style. Not only that, he is also a very gifted post-be-bop player in his own right, and late in his career he has now found a way to integrate the two in unprecedented fashion, doing jazz improvisation using some of the grooves, tones and procedures associated with Jamaican pop.''

Last year, Ranglin announced that he will be cutting back on overseas touring. But this guitar man will keep on playing.