Black Uhuru, formed by Derrick "Duckie" Simpson, is a Jamaican reggae band probably best known for their hits "Shine Eye Gal", "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "Sinsemilla," "Solidarity," and Grammy Winner "What Is Life?". They were the first group to win a Grammy in the reggae category when it was introduced in 1985. They originally formed as 'Black Sounds Uhuru'. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom. The group was named by Stan 'Roy Scientist' Palmer.
The first line-up of the group was Garth Dennis, Don Carlos, and Derrick "Duckie" Simpson. The group has undergone several lineup changes: Carlos left, replaced by Michael Rose; then Dennis left to play with The Wailing Souls, and was replaced by Errol Nelson. During this early period, the band's most famous recording is the album entitled Love Crisis, later re-released as Black Sounds Of Freedom. In 1979 the group was joined by Sandra "Puma" Jones, a social worker from South Carolina, USA. Under this lineup, (Rose, Simpson and Jones), with Sly & Robbie as producers (and also permanently employed on drum and bass), they released the band's most popular albums: Sinsemilla, Red, Chill Out, and the Grammy-winning Anthem, as well as others. During this period, Black Uhuru became one of the most popular reggae groups in the world, regularly touring with the likes of The Clash, The Police and The Rolling Stones. Live 1984 (a concert at the Rockpalast in Germany, but was actually recorded on October 18, 1981) captures the band at the height of its powers. In 1989, their album Red was ranked #23 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.
After Rose went solo in 1985, Junior Reid joined for a few records and also left; Puma Jones left in 1987 (and died of cancer three years later, in 1990). In 1990, Simpson reunited with Dennis and Carlos in the original line-up of the group. They recorded several albums and toured extensively. By the end of the 90s, Dennis and Carlos left the band and fought a legal battle against Simpson over the name and rights of Black Uhuru. Simpson won the lawsuit and formed yet another incarnation of Black Uhuru with Andrew Bees as lead singer. Only one album, Dynasty, was released before Bees went back to pursue his solo career.
In February 2004, it was announced in the Jamaican press that Simpson and Michael Rose had re-united under the name "Black Uhuru feat. Michael Rose". Together with a female backing singer named Kay Starr, they released a single, "Dollars" and performed at several concerts including "Western Consciousness 2004" on April 28 in Jamaica, of which a live video was released shortly thereafter. A new album has been reported to be in progress. The group toured throughout Europe in 2006.
2008 has brought new life to Black Uhuru. Duckie Simpson has once again taken charge. Along with new manager Mario Lazarre of No Joke Entertainment, Black Uhuru are back in the studio recording a new album. Guest appearances of this new album include Latin superstars Aterciopelados and Jarabe De Palo. A 25th Anniversary Edition DVD of their "Live In London" concert is set for a June 2008 release on Nacional Records.