Keith “Slim” Smith was one of the multitude of people who passed through the doors of Coxsone Dodd’s Brentford Road studio in the 1960s. A great solo singer, he was also a founding member of the Techniques and the Uniques.
Smith had originally been taken to Studio One by his friend Cornell Campbell, only to be rebuffed by the notoriously choosy Coxsone. He fared better for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, gaining the confidence to give Studio One another go. He recorded S1 classics such as “Hip Hug” and “Never Let Go”. In the late 60s and early 70s he worked mainly with Bunny Lee.
All of his work is fantastic – soulful with a slightly manic edge.
In 1972 he was locked up in Bellevue Mental Hospital. In 1973 he smashed a window and bled to death from the resulting injuries. It is disputed whether or not this was a suicide attempt, but most people seem to agree that the action was the result of depression. He died at the age of 25.
As well as leaving a legacy of beautiful rocksteady music, Slim Smith will also always be remembered for being the first artist to record on the riddim behind “Never Let Go”.
In 1977 this riddim was revoiced as “The Answer” by deejay superstar the Lone Ranger. (An interesting side note is that Ranger’s innovative style is often credited to him growing up in the UK throughout the sixties, having moved here shortly after being born). “The Answer” has been a staple of dancehall music ever since its release. In fact at the last count it was the third most versioned riddim ever (after “Real Rock” and “Heavenless”, with “Sleng Teng” lagging in 4th place!) It doesn’t get more “Foundation” than that.
The Answer riddim (as it came to be known) has it all – crisp horns, a propulsive juggernaut bassline, the business. With so many cuts released over the years it is high time someone did a handy overview…
Every Night is a Soundclash: Paul Meme Gonna Get Mashed
Paul Meme recently challenged me to a “devastating” soundclash, using only the Answer riddim. Quite why he feels he will emerge intact from such an foolhardy venture remains to be seen.
A week today me and him will both upload our respective mixes, each with some killer selections (well mine are killer, and Paul reckons his are). YOU, the public, can decide who is the Don Gorgon and who is the dibby dibby apprentice.