Johnny Nash

Born in Houston, Texas on August 19th, 1940, Johnny Nash honed his vocal skills singing in his Baptist church's choir and by 13 was a regular on the local television series Matinee, performing covers of current R&B hits. In 1956, he was discovered by Arthur Godfrey, appearing on his radio and TV broadcasts for the next seven years. Nash signed to ABC-Paramount to release his 1957 debut single "A Teenager Sings The Blues", scoring his first chart hit early the following year with a rendition of Doris Day's "A Very Special Love", which climbed to #23. In late 1958 he also teamed with Paul Anka and George Hamilton IV for the inspirational "The Teen Commandments", a #29 hit on the Billboard Pop chart. ABC Records tried to market the young singer as another Johnny Mathis, which did little to enhance his career.

Disillusioned with the label, Johnny concentrated on a career in films and in 1958, starred in Take A Giant Step, and in 1960 he appeared alongside Dennis Hopper in Key Witness, which was critically acclaimed in Europe. Returning to the recording studio, he persevered with middle-of-the-road material, but was unable to generate a hit.

Nash returned to prominence in 1965 when the ballad "Let's Move and Groove Together" reached the R&B Top Five. More importantly, the record became a major hit in Jamaica, where he toured in 1967 on a promotional tour. During a return trip, he booked some studio time at Federal Studios where he was accompanied by Byron Lee And The Dragonaires. The sessions produced "Hold Me Tight", a song that became an international hit, achieving Top 5 success in the UK as well as making a return to the Jamaican chart. The record also did well on the Hot 100, where it topped out at #5 during a twelve week run in the Top 40. Next came "You Got Soul", which stalled at #90 in late 1968 before a Reggae rendition of Sam Cooke's "Cupid", reached #39 in 1970.

In mid-1972, Nash wrote and recorded a song which would prove to be his greatest commercial success, "I Can See Clearly Now". The record entered the Billboard Top 40 in November and shot to #1, staying on the chart for an amazing fourteen weeks. Early in 1973, he recorded the Bob Marley tune, "Stir It Up", which proved to be his last big hit when it rose to #12 in America and #13 in the UK. The song was successfully covered by Jimmy Cliff in 1994 for the film Cool Runnings.

Other minor hits on the Billboard Pop chart followed, including "My Merry-Go-Round", (#77 in 1973), "Ooh What A Feeling" (#103 in 1973), "Loving You" (#91 in 1974) and "You Can't Go Halfway" (#105 in 1974), but the further he drifted from Reggae, the less successful he was. From there, none of his single releases, except "What A Wonderful World" (#103 in 1977) even touched the American charts. He gradually retired from performing, choosing to devote more energy to films and his West Indian recording complex. After a cover version of "Let's Go Dancing" was released in 1979, Johnny seemed to drop out of sight with the exception of a brief resurgence in 1986 with the album "Here Again", which was preceded by the minor UK hit, "Rock Me Baby". It wasn't until May, 2006 that he returned to SugarHill Recording Studios and Tierra Studios in his native Houston, where he worked on transferring analog tapes of his work from the '70s and '80s to digital format.

Though by no means an artistic innovator on par with contemporaries such as Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash nevertheless proved a pivotal force behind the mainstream acceptance of Reggae music.