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WAYNE McGhie has a story fit for a Hollywood screenplay. After moving to Canada 45 years ago, the guitarist/singer became the first Jamaican to record a reggae album in that country.
While that set -- Wayne McGhie and The Sounds of Joy -- was hailed by critics, it sold poorly and by the early 1980s, McGhie experienced psychological problems and had to be institutionalised.
In November, Light In The Attic Records, an independent American company, re-released The Sounds of Joy in Toronto. Because of his medical issues, McGhie, now 67, did not attend the function celebrating his landmark record.
Ken 'Sipreano' Howes, a Toronto disc jockey, has been a reggae fan for years. He is also a student of reggae's history in Canada and an admirer of McGhie who still requires professional care.
"Wayne now lives in a care home and no longer plays music, but he is both aware and appreciative of the renewed interest in his work," Howes told the Sunday Observer. "In his younger years, Wayne had a unique and powerful voice. His songs have touched my soul and I will champion his sound forever."
Some noted Jamaican musicians who moved to Canada prior to the 1970s, played on The Sounds of Joy including pianist and organ player Lloyd Delpratt, who recorded with The Wailers at Studio One during the early 1960s.
The Seattle-based Light In The Attic reissued The Sounds of Joy in 2004 after a flurry of interest from hip hop artistes and producers in the album.
Response was strong enough for the company to release the retrospective set, Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk, and Reggae 1967-1974, in 2006.
Roots singer Willi Williams left Jamaica for Canada in 1974. He remembers the impact of pacesetters like Wayne McGhie.
"Wayne McGhie is a reggae pioneer in Canada, he was recording and playing the music when few people there knew about it. He has to be given credit for that," Williams said.
According to his bio, McGhie was born in Montego Bay in 1947. He performed in local talent shows and recorded for WIRL Records with Billy Vernon and the Celestials before moving to Canada.
He did return to Jamaica briefly in 1971, recording the song How Does it Feel for producer Clement 'Coxson' Dodd. Back in Toronto, he played the emerging reggae scene but was forced to give up a once promising career due to psychological challenges.
Light In The Attic made international headlines in 2009 when it reissued Cold Fact and Coming from Reality, albums by a Mexican-American singer/songwriter named Sixto Rodriquez.
Once a promising artiste in the vein of Bob Dylan, Rodriquez dropped out of sight in the 1980s; many thought he had died. The Light In The Attic reissues not only revived his career in countries like South Africa, but inspired the documentary Searching For Sugarman which won an Academy Award in 2012.
Wayne McGhie's story may not have similar success but Kevin 'Sipreano' Howes hopes it will re-introduce him to the music world.
"It's tough to say why more Jamaicans haven't heard of Wayne McGhie. I hope that we can change this," he said.

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