Melody unchained 

"Lover's rock" is filled with enough romantic sexual innuendo to make anyone disrobe once the needle drops. See, lover's rock is the Jamaican version of baby-making soul.

One of the genre's pioneers, Ken Boothe, is flying in straight from Jamaica and headlining an evening of total, um, geniality, with area rocksteady singers Willie Ferguson, Clement Gordon and Tuffaz.

True fans of lover's rock or rocksteady (or even the Clash, who name-checked him in "White Man in Hammersmith Palais") should be well familiar with this guy Ken Boothe and his string of (passionate) hits that span nearly four decades. Boothe's music first graced the world during rocksteady's heyday — the mid-'60s, before reggae took over — due mostly to his timeless studio work with Jamaican super-producer Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd, who died late last year. Like many Caribbean singers of his era, Boothe originally got his feet wet harmonizing during the '60s ska era and covering American soul standards.

During his tenure with Dodd, Boothe recorded hit after hit, including 1966's "The Train is Coming," which featured backing by a barely known studio band called the Wailers. The song shot up the Jamaican charts. Though Bob Marley and his roots-rock sound obviously went on to find greater success, at that time Boothe was still known as king of the lover's rock. Other Boothe songs, such as "Everything I Own," hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts and Boothe became a bona fide pinup, a heartthrob known as Mr. Rock Steady, Jamaica's answer to Wilson Pickett.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, Boothe continued to be the lover's rock backbone on the island and recorded a litany of hits, many of which have been shamelessly covered by UB40, Boy George and others.

So why should you go see Boothe? One, because he's a living legend — up-to-the-moment lover's rock sages like Sanchez, Barrington Levy and Beres Hammond all owe their success to the way-paving Boothe. Second, Detroit's underrated Universal Xpression is backing up all the singers, laying down the sexed-up "umph."

What's more, Willie Ferguson and Clement Gordon — both "Yardies" (Jamaicans) now based in Windsor and Detroit respectively, have played lover's rock shows on both sides of the Detroit River since the mid-'70s — are not to be missed. When reached for comment, Ferguson, whose patois is as smooth as his lyrics, puts lover's rock — and the show — in perspective: "All of us sing about love in our songs, yah understand? It's a bit different than the dancehall vibes people are more accustomed to," Ferguson says. "But if you can appreciate love, you can appreciate lover's rock."

Former WDTR radio host, O.C. "Caribbean Mouth" Roberts will host the event, and the Gemini Sound System will be at the controls all night long.


Friday, Feb. 17, at Caribbean Center, 2410 Central Ave., Windsor, Ontario; 519-890-5544.

Jonathan Cunningham is a freelance writer. Send comments to

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Ethnic/World

More by Jonathan Cunningham

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 24, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation