Angus ‘Drummie Zeb’ Gaye, Lead Singer Of Aswad, Dies At 62

·2 min read
Angus ‘Drummie Zeb’ Gaye - Photo: Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images
Angus ‘Drummie Zeb’ Gaye - Photo: Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images

Singer Angus “Drummie Zeb” Gaye, the lead vocalist and drummer for the British reggae band Aswad, has died at the age of 62, according to a statement.

“It is with deepest regret and profound loss that we have to announce the passing of our brother Angus ‘Drummie’ Gaye,” the band said. “Drummie has left us to join our ancestors and leaves a huge void both personally and professionally.”

Aswad, the trio of Angus Gaye, Brinsley Forde, and Tony Robinson, were the first reggae band in the United Kingdom to ink a deal with an international label. The signed with Island Records in the 1970s and quickly became a seminal and prolific British reggae act, creating 15 albums in two decades.

Aswad, originally a five-piece band, assembled in 1975. As legend has it, they walked in to the offices of Island records in 1976 with their demo tape and were promptly awarded a recording contract.

The group was celebrated for their bonafides among Jamaican reggae stars. It was Zeb’s boast that they were the only British group to have worked with three original Wailers–with Bunny Waiter on Jamaican television, with Bob Marley on “Funky Reggae Party,” and with Peter Tosh on “Johnny B Goode.”

The band had many devoted followers thanks to their unique approach to reggae music, while still remaining true to the genre’s roots. Live and Direct (1983) captures what for many fans is the real sound of Aswad. Their first taste of chart success was with a cover of Toots and the Maytals’ “54-46 (Was My Number)” from the album Rebel Souls (1984) but it was their huge worldwide hit, the No.1 UK hit “Don’t Turn Around,” that became for many people an intro to Reggae music. It’s one of those records that is always played on the radio as soon as the summer sun peaks through.

It originally appeared on the album Distant Thunder (1988) and was written by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren–originally conceived as a power ballad and recorded by Tina Turner as a b-side and also by R&B singer Luther Ingram. It’s not clear which version Aswad heard before deciding to record it with their reggae arrangement, but no matter for they have forever made the song their own.

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