Sanchez

It's been nearly 15 years since that rich, impossibly sensitive voice first cast it's spell on reggae fans with a reinterpretation of Simply Red's "Lady In Red". Countless number one singles and albums later, Sanchez delivers the aptly tilted "Simply Being Me", fifteen tracks of brand-new originals and signature reinventions that are so much more than covers. When Sanchez takes on a proven R&B hit, he doesn't just rekindle the torch, he sets the airwaves on fire.

Born Kevin Anthony Jackson, Sanchez grew up in the Stony Hill and Waterhouse sections of Kingston, Jamaica. Like many of the island's vocal legends, his first singling experience was in church, specifically St. Catherine parish's Rehobth Epostlic Church. "I started at age six," he recalls. "Then, I was drafted into Sunday School Choir at 11." By 13, he was singing the leads and conducting the Junior Choir.

The lure of Jamaica's night-long sound system dances eventually proved as powerful as Sunday mornings at church. At nineteen, Sanchez became the selector for the popular RAMBO Sound System, which "carried" top deejays of the day; Flourgan, Daddy Lizard and Red Dragon. It was this mic-rocking trinity that dubbed Kevin Jackson "Sanchez" after he executed an overhead scissors kick during an impromptu game of football (soccer), a feat associated with a popular South American pro player of the same name. Jamaica's Sanchez displayed equal skill in dancehall as the 'triple threat selector'. "I used to select and chat on the mic at the same time, then even flip the record over onto the version (dub) side and sing. I would create havoc," he recalls. "I did everything - play, select, sing and chat on the mic, until I got good people to run it."

Despite his success with Rambo, Sanchez never let go of his dream to make it as a singer, but Kingston's producers were flooded with hopefuls begging for a chance on a studio mic. "I didn't know any producers and every time I go to a studio to do some form of audition, they would tell me to come back in three weeks time or whatever," he recalls. "I kept going back and forth, but they were hearing so many singers and deejays that another one never mean much." Finally, he got a chance from Redman, who matched his new find to "Lady In Red" and released the happy match in 1986 on his Redman International Label. The tune went straight to number 18 on local charts.

"Then all those people who told me to come back started asking me to sing this and that," Sanchez recalls laughing. Among the top studio men wanting to use that glorious instrument to create their own hits were Winston Riley of the Techniques Label and Xterminator's Phillip "Fatis" Burrell. A slew of number ones quickly took over Jamaican radio and dance halls, then spread through Planet Jamaica, including "Sad Song" for Techniques and "Loneliness" which was the biggest song both locally and overseas during the '87 and '88 season, earning Sanchez multiple awards. In '87 he took Singer of The Year, Best New Artist, Best Song and even Best Dressed -an award he won four years straight - thanks to the designing skills of his wife, Monica Williams Jackson.

Sanchez hasn't stopped since, and his unique and necessary presence continues to sweeten the music, no matter what the current dancehall fashion. His soaring Afro-erotic sound is both powerful and versatile, a vehicle for devotion to God and girls alike. Hits like '88 "Sweetest Girl" and "Impossible", '91-'92's "Bring Back The Love" and "I Can't Wait", '94's "Missing You" and '95's "Praise Him", "Never Dis The Man" and "Never Keeping Secrets" represent a fraction of the numerous boomshots that keep this reare talent at the forefront of the international reggae scene. So far, he's turned out a staggering 15 plus albums for King Jammy's, his son John John, Bobby Digital and Sanchez himself (he procduced his '99 "Who Is This Man?" CD). Those titles include '88's "Lonelieness", "Sweetest Girl" and "Impossible"; '89's "Wild Sanchez", '89-'90's "Sanchez In Fine Style" and '92-'92's "I Can't Wait", 91's "Bring Back The Love" (for English producer Morris Jackson's World Records), ;91-'92's "Number One", '93-'94's "Boom Boom Bye Bye (No, not THE Buju Banton Tune): '95's "Praise Him"; '97's "Missing You": and '98's "Perilous Time".

"Simply Being Me", his latest set is about "letting people know that you don't have to be uptight," says the singer. "Just relax and be yourself and let it flow. Some people try to be like Michael Jackson, Buju Banton or Shabba Ranks, I think it's better to be yourself and the title conveys this album's theme. I love to deal with all aspects of life, that's just Sanchez. I love to cover upful songs, the songs that we Jamaicans hardly listen to because we don't listen to soul or classic pop. We love the boom boom and yaga yaga, but that's not good to meditate on and it's not good for the kids."

The title track was peened by Fitz "Favoirte" Livermore, the bassist for Snachez's Chronic backing band. "HE's worked with me over the years," says Sanchez. "He knows the songs I sing, what I'm really getting at, so he writes what he thinks would fit me." A nearly unrecognizable transformation of Brittany Spear's "Sometimes" seems just as tailored to the personal Sanchez touch, as does "Pretty Girl" written by Sanchez in collaboration with sax legend Dean Frazier and Livermore. "Burning Up", also by Livermore features Jamaican MC Tony Bronco delivering a completely creditable rap, stateside style.

Brian McKnight's "Back AT One" gets that special reggaematical Sanchez treatment as does Donel Jones' "Where I Wanna Be". "Jah Calling", "Hands Of Time", "Where I Want To Be", "Forever & Ever" and "I Need To Know", tap into Sanchez's deeply soulful nature. "Need" is Sanchez's personal favorite of the collection because "it talks about the struggles of my mom, how she used to struggle and still not getting there," he says. "But it's dealing with mothers as a whole and also fathers who are struggling on their own with their kids. It's still going on. This song comes at the right time. If you listen, you'll know where I'm coming from".

"Margrette," a cover of singer D. Walks big 60's hit in the UK encapsulates a neat bit of Jamaican music history. Walks, who is also the father of hot contemporary deejay Zebra, also produced Sanchez's interpretation here. "I know of artists who I would say have a better voice, but they have one song or one album and you don't hear nothing more," says Sanchez. "Maybe I'm blessed. I love what I do. I enjoy what I do."

Since he moved to Miami in the Fall of '99, Sanchez has shared the stage with Product G&B and Donell Jones, paving his way to R&B/Hip-Hop audiences. "That's my greatest wish, not to throw away reggae but to get a different experience and another side of music," he says. "If you're a musician you can't play one type of music, you have to spread your wings and be versatile".

Biography written by: Elena Oumano

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