Harry Belafonte

Though born in the US, Harry Belafonte has always identified strongly with his Jamaican heritage. The son of Melvine (nee Love) – a housekeeper (of Jamaican descent) – and Harold George Belafonte, Sr., a native of Martinique who worked as chef in the Royal Navy, he lived for a time with his grandmother in Jamaica. On his return to New York City, He was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing “The Song of the Banana Man”, with its unforgettable lyric "Day-O!."

Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes. At first he was a pop singer, but later he developed a keen interest in folk music, learning material through the U.S. Library of Congress’  American folk songs archives. His first widely-released single, “Matilda”, went on to become his "signature" song with audience participation in virtually all his live performances. His breakthrough album, Calypso (1956) became the first LP ever to sell over 1 million copies. His other smash hit was "Jump in the Line”

Throughout his career he has been an advocate for civil rights  and humanitarian causes.


Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett

Born September 7, 1919. Poet, linguist, storyteller, broadcaster and cultural activist, Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett remains a household name in Jamaica, a "Living Legend". She was  educated at Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate). 
Her first dialect poem was written when she was fourteen years old. A British Council Scholarship took her to London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940’s. On her return to Jamaica she taught drama to youth and adult groups both in social welfare agencies and for the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department.
She remains Jamaica's greatest comedienne, the "only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language. Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated across all barriers. She also endeared herself to generations as the host of the children’s variety TV show “Ring Ding”. 
Her many awards and accolades include the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica's Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies.
In 1998, she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada. The Jamaica Government also appointed her Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica, and awarded her the Order of Merit.


Usain Bolt

His name and image are known everywhere, even in a country like the U.S. where the public is notably cool towards track athletes. His triple gold medal, triple record-breaking performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was already the stuff of legend when in the following year, he went even  further, smashing his 100m and 200m records. He breathed new life into athletic gear maker Puma, and his “To Di World” mock-archer stance is still being imitated by millions daily. Usain Bolt is the most gifted, the most engaging, the most unusual track star the world has yet seen , and his growing legion of fans anxiously await what new superhuman feats he will accomplish next. 


Marcus Garvey

The greatest Pan-African leader the world has yet known was born in St Ann on August 17, 1887. After travelling extensive through the Caribbean and Central America, Garvey arrived in the United States in 1916, and there built the global Pan-African movement, the Universal Negro Improvent Association (UNIA), said  to number as many as four million members at its peak. He also started the Black Star Line (merchant ships), the Factories Corporation and the Negro World publication in his quest to bring economic, social and ultimately political empowerment to people of African descent the world over.


Myrna Hague

Widely acknowledged as “Jamaica’s First Lady of Jazz” Myrna Hague's career began in the mid-1960s. She performed at jazz venues in London and recorded for Studio One, notably the Melody Life album, which included some of her most popular singles, including the title track, "How Could I Live", and "First Cut Is The Deepest".

Hague is a board member of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commisiion (JCDC), and a former tutor at the Jamaica School of Music. Hague co-founded the Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival with her husband, jazz musician, the late Sonny Bradshaw.

 She won the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) Song Festival in 1990, and has won the Jamaica Music Industry Award for jazz several times as well as the Jamaica Federation of Musicians Award and Special Merit Award in 1993.

In 2004, Hague was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after a long course of treatment, she overcame the disease and made a full recovery.

She has toured the world, whether with the Jamaica Big Band, the UK-based Jazz Jamaica All-Stars and as part of Women In Jazz.




Beres Hammond

He may not be a global “legend” like Marley, but Beres Hammond is among that select few artistes whose appeal knows no bounds: hardcore dancehall types “rate” him; sophisticated uptown ladies hum his songs and scream for him at concerts. Young, old, hip, upper-class, no class, there’s a Beres for everyone, and the unassuming son of St Mary with the golden voice and the lyrical touch has been thrilling them all for over 30 years. From his days with the reggae band ZAPOW, through his early ballads (“One Step Ahead”) to his own production , Beres Hammond has carved out a unique place for himself in the annals of Jamaican popular music.


Michael Holding

A member  of the all-conquering West Indies cricket teams of the late 1970s and the 1980s, Michael Holding was part of a quartet of fast bowlers that struck fear into opposing batsmen.  Following his long, loping run-ups with devastating  rounds of pace, he was a sight to behold, and earned the nickname “Whispering Death”.. Far from retiring into obscurity, he has become an authoritative voice in commentary for the likes of Sky Broadcasting, and his two memoirs, “Whispering Death” and “No Holding Back” have proven must-reads with fans and pundits alike.


Gordon “Butch” Stewart

Arguably no other businessman has had such a marked impact on so many areas of Jamaican life as the man dubbed “King of All-Inclusive Resorts,” and the “Master of Marketing.”  While all descriptions are appropriate, none of them quite capture the full measure of Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman and founder of Sandals Resorts International, parent company to Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts and Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts.

From ordinary beginnings in and around the resort town of Ocho Rios, Butch Stewart has built a conglomerate that commercial equipment, award-winning luxury resorts, media, motor vehicles and – at one point – even the national airline.             At a time when a free-falling currency was draining national confidence, he helped to revive a spirit of collective action with his “Save The Dollar initiative.

Stewart continues to build on his successes, literally, with new projects materializing across the island and internationally.

 Reneto Adams

Colourful, hard-nosed “super cop”, Adams epitomized the “take-no-prisoners” crime fighter that was equally idolized and criticized by the society. His role in two highly controversial incidents – the killings at Crawle, and the intervention in Tivoli Gardens, continue to define his career. 


Sir Alexander Bustamante

Few indeed are those whose resume includes “ first leader of a newly independent nation, but the legend of the fiery, charismatic Bustamante goes back even further than 1962; he was at the heart of the pivotal labour riots of 1938, out of which arose the trade union movement (including the union that still bears his name), and the Jamaica Labour Party.


Wycliffe Bennett

The master communicator,  Wycliffe Bennett touched many lives and shaped countless careers in theatre and broadcasting. The Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, the Jamaica School of Drama, the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), the Ward Theatre Foundation and the National Festival of the Arts were all platforms for his passionate and skilful advocacy for cultural development.


Dennis Brown

A beloved fixture on the Jamaican show circuit since his childhood days, Dennis Emmanuel Brown went on to even greater feats as an adult, earning for himself the mantle “The Crown Prince of Reggae” as the most worthy successor to Bob Marley. He died in 1999, leaving a vast repertoire of songs that continues to delight reggae fans the world over.


Orville “Shaggy” Burrell

Contrary to the title of his smash hit tongue-in-cheek denial (“It Wasn’t Me”) it was indeed former Marine Shaggy who got Jamaicans to care about and significantly contribute to the welfare of the Bustamante hospital for Children. This through his hugely popular “Shaggy & Friends: Make A Difference” benefit concert and campaign, which raised over 200million to purchase much needed equipment and provide better treatment.  Of course, he continues to record and perform for audiences worldwide.


Veronica Campbell-Brown

The undeniable queen of sprints, VCB, as she is known, is one of only two women to successfully defend her Olympic 200m title, which she did in Beijing in 2008. Having won her first Olympic medal, a silver, at the age of 18 (Sydney, 2000), Campbell-Brown has consistently featured in tight sprinting  duels with both American rivals, and her own compatriots. Her 21.74 remains the fastest time run thus far in the new millennium.

Michael Lee-Chin

Though his fortune was substantively made in Canada, Michael Lee-Chin’s rural Jamaica upbringing no doubt contributed to his business acumen and his desire to excel.  His Portland Holdings Inc. (named for the parish of his birth) has interests in diverse sectors including media, tourism, health care telecommunications and financial services. The returns from these holdings have made Lee-Chin one of the richest men in Canada as well as one of the wealthiest worldwide.

Oliver Clarke

Despite increasing competition, The Gleaner remains virtually synonymous with newspaper in Jamaica. Since its initial publication in 1834, it has notched many firsts in media, and since 1975, the unassuming Oliver Clarke has been the man at the helm. In addition to steering the Gleaner Company to investments in radio  (POWER106 & MUSIC 99) and other endeavors, Clarke has been a consistent advocate for press freedom, and served as President of the Inter-American Press Association(IAPA) from 1997-98.

Toots Hibbert & The Maytals

"The Maytals were key figures in reggae music. Formed in the early 1960s when ska was hot, the Maytals had a reputation for having strong, well-blended voices and a near unrivalled passion for their music. Frontman Hibbert’s intensely soulful and expressive style led him to be compared to Otis Redding. Their immortal songs, like “Pressure Drop”  “54-469was My Number)” and “Bam Bam” have been covered by a host of artistes from across the globe.

Fr. Richard Ho Lung

The “Ghetto Priest” as his long-running column in the Gleaner newspaper billed him, Richard Ho Lung has dedicated his life to tending to the manifold needs of the poor, the sick, the forgotten, the unlovely among us. Through his fund-raising musical theatre productions, a host of creative and technical drama talent has emerged to wider acclaim.


Gregory Isaacs

The “Cool Ruler” established a long and productive career on a voice that spoke of longing, loneliness and weariness as none other could. Gregory Isaacs was one of reggae’s most prolific recording artistes, with over 500 albums to have been released during his career.


Leonie Forbes

“Woman of a thousand guises” theatre doyenne Leonie Forbes can justly claim to have “been there and done that” as it concerns acting. From Pantomimes and plays of all genres (“Old Story Time” “Smile Orange”) to film (“Milk and Honey” “Club Paradise” “Children of Babylon”) to numerous television appearances in Jamaica, Canada and the UK, her accomplishments dwarf those of her peers.

Shelly-Ann Fraser

Sheer unbridled joy. The image of sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser, flat on her back, arms and legs flailing in the aftermath of her victory in the 100m at the Beijing Olympics remain etched in the minds and hearts of Jamaicans and athletics fans around the world. She has since gone on to greater prominence , becoming only the second female sprinter to hold both Olympic and World Championship titles.

Barbara Gloudon

‘There is a “foreverness” to the written word’ according to Barbara Gloudon and as one of Jamaica’s first women of letters, she should well know. Emerging from a family of creative(sister Lorna Goodison is an acclaimed poet), she has asserted herself as broadcaster, columnist and – most notably – playwright and driving force behind the annual LTM Pantomime.

Derrick Harriott

Not merely a prolific hitmaker in his own right (“Stop That Train” “I’m Your Puppet”), Derrick Harriott also proved his prowess behind the boards as a producer of well-known songs for the likes of Dennis Brown, Sly & The Revoltionaries and the Ethiopians. Today his self-named record store in midtown Kingston remains a landmark and a must-stop for aficionados of reggae and other music genres.

Abe Issa

Where others saw rugged beachfront and dense hinterland, he saw luxury resorts and an international playground. From relatively humble beginnings, Abe Issa  built on Jamaica’s innate appeal to create the formal tourism industry as we know it today. He was also instrumental on the commercial front, paving the way for the shopping centres of midtown Kingston and the business/financial centre that is new Kingston.

Grace Jones

How did a preacher’s daughter from Spanish Town become an internationally recognized diva of music and fashion? Grace Jones successfully harnessed the natural Jamaican tendency for extrovertedness and pushed it past its logical extreme. Her finely tuned sense of the outrageous has found willing audiences especially in Europe.



Peter Tosh

If Bob Marley may be likened to Martin Luther King, then Peter Tosh is clearly the “Malcolm X of Reggae” adopting and maintaining a more militant stance in pursuit of “equal rights and justice” (one of his better-known choruses). Who can forget his call to “light yu spliff and yu chalice…and smoke it inna Buckingham Palace”? Even in death, he remains a controversial yet compelling figure.


Courtney Walsh

He took up the fast-bowling mantle of Holding et al, and took it beyond their fondest dreams: In 2000, he surpassed the then record of Kapil Dev as the leading wicket-taker in Test history, and his final total of 512, was good enough for four years thereafter. Today, in addition to owning the bustling café/sports bar Cuddyz, he maintains an interest in the sport that brought him to worldwide prominence.

Barrington Watson

We produce or create things by thinking them as much as by any other means," asserts Barry Watson. "It's where the creative process begins." The outcomes of those various thoughts have placed Watson in the top echelons of Jamaican and Caribbean art, a career he decided on while still a teenager, hanging around his father's drugstore and making greeting cards for sale to customers and people in the neighbourhood. He’s gone a long way from there – to the world’s art capitals and to pre-eminence among Jamaican painters.


Trevor Rhone

“The play’s the thing” Shakespeare wrote, and Trevor Rhone has arguably done more than most in advocacy of the dramatic arts, whether as author of  several of Jamaica’s most popular plays “Old Story Time”, “School’s Out” “Two Can Play”) or as partner in the legendary Barn Theatre. His golden touch also extends to screenplays, including the award-winning “Milk & Honey”.

Winston “Burning Spear” Rodney

No other reggae artiste has done more to preserve and promote the legacy of Marcus Garvey. Along with a variety of cohorts (primarily Rupert Willington and Delroy Hinds), Rodney filled airwaves and concert stages with intense haunting chants and unrivalled horn riffs.  His two Grammy awards (from a total 12 nominations), are but a handful of the many accolades bestowed on him, and he shows no signs of slowing down. 

Oliver Samuels

Say the word “comedy” and the average Jamaican’s response will almost certainly be “Oliver!” On stage, on screen and in films, Oliver Samuels has been Jamaica’s “Prime Minister of Mirth”. He has immortalized the common Jamaican, unread but undaunted by the established conventions of society, resolutely, if hilariously, himself.


Madge Sinclair

Millions saw her as nurse Ernestine Shoop on the long-running medical series “Trapper John M.D.” Millions more have heard (and are still hearing )her voice as Sarabi, the mother of Simba in “The Lion King” one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time and still one of the top-selling home video titles. Additionally, Madge Sinclair managed to boldly go where no woman had gone before, as the captain of a starship on “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” one of several feature films in the popular space adventure franchise.

Millie Small

Jamaica’s foremost “one-hit wonder” emerged from the canefields of Clarendon to begin her musical apprenticeship with the legendary Coxsone Dodd. In 1963, she journeyed to London to voice the Ernie Ranglin arrangement of “My Boy Lollipop” originally done by Motown  star Barbie Gaye. Small’s cover was an immediate smash hit, topping charts in both the UK and the US and, in the process, securing prominence for then fledgling Jamaican label Island Records, and for Jamaican music as a whole.

Wilmot “Mutty” Perkins

Possessed of one of the most distinctive voices (not mention his oft-imitated laugh) on the airwaves, Wilmot Perkins, known universally as “Mutty” has been a one-man crusader for increased transparency in Government and more informed political discourse throughout the society. His acerbic wit and uncompromisingly conservative stance have earned him the ire of politicians on both sides,  but he has prevailed despite his detractors.

Donald Quarrie

Even today, many Jamaicans will use Donald Quarrie’s name as a metaphor for speed (as in “him run so fast, not even Quarrie could catch him”), and his likeness in stone graces the entrance to the National Stadium. Quarrie earned his iconic status largely by virtue of a storied Olympic career, with four medals over five games, not least his thrilling 200m victory at Montreal in 1976. Since the ned of his competitive days, he has further proved his mettle as an administrator and a mentor to the current generation of athletes.

Rex Nettleford

“Dean of Dance” and “Cultural Colossus” seem mere hyperbole, but in the case of Rex Nettleford, they are barely adequate to contain the breadth of his accomplishments. As founding member and longtime Artistic Director he built the National dance Theatre Company (NDTC) into a world-renowned cultural entity. Through his writings, myriad speaking engagements and his work as Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, he has kept the issue of culture as social and economic tool at the forefront  of development discourse.

Asafa Powell

Despite the fact that “the big one” has yet largely eluded him, the unassuming Asafa Powell remains one of Jamaica’s most beloved athletes. Born  into a family of outstanding athletes, Powell was gradually lured away from his initial leanings towards auto mechanics and onto the track. His consistency in the 100m is almost mechanical, as he has more “sub-10” clockings (under 10 seconds) than any other sprinter.

Sheryl Lee Ralph

Roles in blockbuster films (“The Mighty Quinn” “The Flinstones”) a starring role in a hit TV sitcom (“Moesha”), a Billboard Top 10 single (“In The Evening”) and a Tony award-nominated role in a Broadway smash (“Dreamgirls”) are but a few of the career highlights for US-born, Jamaican-raised diva Sheryl Lee Ralph. She has also been a passionate advocate for AIDS research, through her self-produced showcase, “Divas Simply Singing”

Malika “Kapo” Reynolds

Some may reject the label “Intuitive” as being a limiter to our artists. But however one sees the term, its icon is beyond debate. Popularly known as “Kapo”, Mallica Reynolds was no mere craftsman. A bishop in the Revivalist church, he was keen to bring the spiritualist leanings of that faith into his works, along with a deep appreciation for Jamaica’s lush natural environment. His “Shining Spring” was chosen as a wedding gift to Prince Charles and his then bride, Lady Diana.

Randolph “Mass Ran” Williams

His lanky frame and toothy grin were his virtual calling cards during his long life and storied career.  Arriving in Jamaica at the age of six from his native Panama, he first gained fame as an integral part of Marcus Garvey’s  vaudeville troupe at Kingston’s Edelweiss Park. That led to appearances in the National Pantomime, and thereafter, in all Jamaican media, as well as in feature films (‘A High Wind In Jamaica”) Most notable are his collaborations with Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett as  “Miss Lou & Maas Ran.”



Edwin Allen

He was a giant in education and not just in founding the school that would come to bear his name. Motivated by an abiding love of country and a commitment to maximizing the potential of Jamaicans through formal learning, Edwin Allen pioneered the “total education” or “Comprehensive” concept that saw Grammar, Commercial and Technical/Vocational skills being taught in the same setting. He thus offered a palce in the secondary system to many who would have otherwise been so denied, as well as championing adult literacy and overall community development.


Allan “Skill” Cole

The latter-day Reggae Boyz achieved the unheard of by qualifying for football’s World Cup, but for sheer individual prowess, not one of them could hold a candle to the man known universally as “Skill”. Fiery yet charming, his feats for local club Santos and with the national team made him a folk hero, recognized by no less a person than the great Pele. He also turned his hand to coaching, and even ventured into the music business as one-time road manager for Bob Marley.

Florizel Glasspole

To a position that many thought steeped in non-essential pomp and ceremony, Florizel Glasspole brought a teacher’s sense of correctness and a common man’s sense of humour and plain-speaking. Whether waxing eloquent about his love of “feminine beauty’ or delivering  the Throne speech to Parliament, he made many Jamaicans feel far more at ease with the post of Queen’s representative.

Bob Marley

The one Jamaican whose name is universally known, Robert Nesta Marley descended from the hills of St Ann and then rose from the slums of Kingston to worldwide renown. A “natural mystic” to use his own term, he was intensely spiritual in performance yet disarmingly down to earth in manner, a combination that endeared him to millions and made his messages continually resonant ,a fact reflected in the global honours bestowed on him: “Song of the Millennium” for One Love (BBC) and “Album of the Century” for Exodus (Time magazine)


If Bob Marley is the “King” then Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley were undoubtedly his “court regents”. Each an outstanding singer in their own right, collectively they blew away the conventional notion of “background vocalists”. They were right there, alongside the Legend and very much a part of the legend and the lore of Jamaican music, as any live footage of Bob Marley in concert will confirm.

Edna Manley

While its undeniable that Jamaican art existed prior to Edna Manley, its no less undeniable that it was never the same after her arrival. “Negro Aroused” “Horse of the Morning” and her scores of other important paintings and sculptures gave new direction to the Jamaican aesthetic, and gave a tangible face and texture to the aspirations of a people yearning to define themselves.

Norman Manley

As his wife excelled in the arts, so Norman Washington Manley excelled in statesmanship. Many of his initiatives in social welfare are still practiced, albeit modified, in today’s Jamaica. Moreover, he charted a course for regional integration which, had it been sustained, might have made Jamaica and the region the envy of the world.


Michael Manley

Building on the foundations established by his illustrious father, Michael Manley ushered in a new era in Jamaica’s socio-political life beginning in 1972. A communicator and orator par excellence, he articulated a vision of a world free of the domination of the existing colonial powers and from the tensions of the Cold War standoff between communist Russia and capitalist America. His domestic record may be mixed, at best, but his international esteem is beyond doubt. 


Portia Simpson-Miller

Championing “people power” is nothing new for Portia Simpson-Miller, now Jamaica’s longest-serving active political representative. First swept to the Prime Minister post by virtue of a party poll and a wave of national euphoria, she overcame defeat at the subsequent general elections – and questions of her intellectual capacity  - and bided her time in Opposition to make a triumphant return, this time with a national mandate of her own.

Merlene Ottey

Some may use the term “Bronze Queen” as an epithet, as if to suggest that merlene Ottey lacked what it takes to win the big one. But no one who has followed her career and watched her compete can doubt that she gave her all as a sprinter. Her seven Olympics appearance are more than any track athlete, and though a gold medal eluded her, she has gold aplenty from the World Championships and Commonwealth Games. She is in fact, the most decorated female track athlete in history and thus, simply, “The Queen”.



Douglas Orane

Its as  detrimental to act without thinking as it is to think without acting, and at Grace Kennedy, Douglas Orane has proven himself very adept as both thinker and doer. Under his leadership the company has been transformed from a local trading giant to a global consumer goods and services conglomerate. Orane has also proven himself to be a man of service, through his participation in both the private sector and in the Senate.


Edward Seaga

It is almost certain, to paraphrase one noted pundit, that history will judge Edward Seaga far more kindly than he was viewed while in public life. The US-born, Harvard-educated former Prime Minister was often derided as an autocrat, but those who hold fast to such narrow assessments, overlook his visionary role in institutionalizing Jamaica’s culture (the JCDC and the Festival celebrations), galvanizing entrepreneurship and formalizing skills training, among others.