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". In late 1958, he also teamed with Paul Anka and George Hamilton IV for the inspirational "The Teen Commandments". ABC Records tried to market the young singer as another Johnny Mathis, which did little to enhance his career.

Disillusioned with the label, he 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 traveled 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 a return to the Jamaican chart.

He formed a partnership with Danny Simms, and a record label, JAD (Johnny and Danny), which released the hits, "You Got Soul", as well as a reggaefied rendition of Sam Cooke's "Cupid", a Top 40 hit in 1970. Unfortunately, the label folded in the early 70s.

In 1972, Johnny returned to recording in Jamaica at Harry J.'s studio where he met Bob Marley, who wrote Nash's next hit, "Stir It Up", which revived his career by peaking at number 13 on the UK chart. He continued to enjoy popularity with "I Can See Clearly Now", a Top 5 hit that was successfully covered by Jimmy Cliff in 1994 for the film 'Cool Runnings'.

Other minor hits followed, including "Ooh What A Feeling" and "There Are More Questions Than Answers", but the further he drifted from reggae, the less successful he was. Nash covered other Bob Marley compositions, including "Nice Time" and "Guava Jelly", but they were not picked up for single release.

His career started to fade, but was revived yet again when he returned to Jamaica to record an Ernie Smith composition, "Tears On My Pillow", which reached number 1 in the UK in June 1975. He also made the UK chart with "Let's Be Friends" and "What A Wonderful World" before gradually retiring from performing, choosing to devote more energy to films and his West Indian recording complex. After a cover version of "Letís 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.