Shaggy

  • Reggae singer, songwriter born Orville Burrell in Kingston Jamaica in 1968.
  • Burrell adopted the nickname Shaggy at an early age, taken from the Scooby Doo character. Growing up in Jamaica, he was immersed in the reggae music of the island. At 18 years old, he moved to New York city to be with his mother. He took singing courses, and was singing on the streets with friends. When he turned 20, he needed money, so he joined the Marines. Stationed in North Carolina, he worked on his music in his spare time, perfecting his reggae style. He returned to New York when he could, cutting a couple of singles for a small independent label. He made a connection with a radio DJ who got him a job recording dubplates of reggae music. A couple of these recordings – Mampie and Big Up – became big hits among the New York reggae scene.
  • Before he could go further in his music career, he needed to complete his service in the Marines. He was deployed to Kuwait for Operation Desert Storm for 5 months. After returning, he resumed recording in New York. He made a cover of a 1958 ska song called Oh Carolina, with a dance remix and Peter Gunn sample. It was moderately popular in the U.S., reaching #59 on the Hot 100 chart and #14 on the Alternative Songs chart, but in Europe it was an instant hit, topping the UK charts in early 1993.
  • A couple of other singles were released, and while they were not very successful, his popularity in Europe was noticed by record companies, and he signed with a major label in 1993. His debut album, Pure Pleasure, was released that year, which included his previously released singles. A second album, Original Doberman, was released the following year by the European record label that had supported him with his earlier hits.
  • His breakthrough in the U.S. came in 1995 with the release of the Boombastic album. Its first single was a cover of the 1970 Mungo Jerry song In the Summertime. It reached #3 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the R&B chart. The next single was the title track, Boombastic. It reached #3 on the Hot 100 and it topped the R&B chart, as well as charts in the UK, Australia and 4 other countries. The album was certified platinum, and it won a Grammy award for Best Reggae Album. That year, dancehalls had discovered Shaggy and his blend of reggae with samples from pop hits from the past, and he became the rare reggae artist to top the charts.
  • In 1996, Shaggy was the featured artist on the song That Girl by British reggae artist Maxi Priest – it reached the top 20 in the U.S. and the UK. His fourth studio album, the self produced Midnite Lover, did not fare well. A cover of Big Brother & the Holding Company’s Piece of My Heart managed to sneak into the top 10 in the UK, but the album sold poorly, and Shaggy was dumped by his record label.
  • He contributed songs to a couple of movie soundtracks while negotiating a new record deal. Soon after signing another deal, he recorded one of the biggest selling reggae albums ever. In 2000, Hot Shot was released. The album topped the Billboard 200 album chart, and was certified 6x platinum (nearly unheard of by reggae artists). Two songs reached #1 on the Hot 100 – the infectious (and personal favorite of mine) It Wasn’t Me (featuring Rikrok) and Angel (featuring Rayvon). Angel uses the bassline from Steve Miller’s 70s classic The Joker, as well as the chorus melody from the song Angel of the Morning (most famously by Juice Newton in 1981) – a brilliant meld of 2 pop hits turned into a reggae classic.
  • Three albums followed in the 00s, as well as 4 more in the 10s. None had the impact of the earlier successes. Some of his more recent work featured unique collaborations – in 2014, I Need Your Love was released, jointly sung by Shaggy, Swedish-Congolese artist Mohombi, Australian-Lebanese artist Faydee and Romanian artist Costi Ioniță. And, in 2018, Shaggy released a studio album together with Sting, titled 44/876 (the country calling codes for England and Jamaica) – it won a Grammy award for Best Reggae Album in 2019.
  • In November 2019, Shaggy performed in the television special The Little Mermaid, playing the role of Sebastian.
  • The truest of reggae fans don’t always include Shaggy in discussions of the greatest reggae artists of all time. In their eyes, he losing credibility since he borrows so much from pop music. That is exactly why he has been so popular across music genres. One of my all time faves is It Wasn’t Me – a super fun song for parties. Watch the video, and try not to snap your fingers and sing along with “It Wasn’t Me.”

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