Blue Note Hawaii ~ Maxi Priest
Christened the “King of Lovers Rock” by his fans, British reggae star Maxi Priest is one of the most internationally popular reggae singers since Bob Marley. Priest’s pop and modern R&B influences didn’t exactly endear him to reggae purists, but they gave him a strong crossover appeal that paid off in the trans-Atlantic chart-topper “Close to You.” At times he strayed too far from his reggae roots to deliver a true stylistic hybrid, but his silky-smooth voice was ideally suited for light, romantic material, and his best music was as sensual as it was soulful.
Priest was born Max Elliott on June 10, 1962, in the Lewisham area of London. He was the eighth of nine children, born to parents who had emigrated from Jamaica several years before his birth. His mother was active in the Pentecostal church, and the family grew up singing gospel music together; Maxi would later convert to Rastafarianism, upon which point he changed his name to Maxi Priest. He was working as a carpenter when he was invited to build speaker boxes for the prominent Saxon International sound system. It wasn’t long before his contacts there discovered that he could sing as well, and soon he was participating in live dancehall shows; in 1984, he and Paul “Barry Boom” Robinson also co-produced Phillip Levi’s “Mi God Mi King,” the first U.K.-born reggae single to hit number one in Jamaica.