The Melodians are one of Jamaica's greatest Rocksteady groups, cutting a series of classic singles during the late '60s and early '70s that included the internationally famed "Rivers of Babylon" and "Sweet Sensation." In 1966, when driving rhythms of ska were abandoned in favor of the slower, more soulful Rocksteady, Jamaican performers discovered a freedom of expression they had previously been denied. In overcoming the limitations of ska the dawn of the Rocksteady age begun. A few groups rose to notoriety with none more popular than The Melodians.
The group was formed in the Greenwich Town area of Kingston in 1965 by Tony Brevett (brother of Skatalites bassist Lloyd Brevett), Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton. Close friend, Renford Cogle.assisted with writing and arranging material. In 1966 The Melodians made their recording debut with Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One label with the releases "Lay It On". "Meet Me", "I Should Have Made It Up" and "Let's Join Hands (Together)" Early in 1967, The Melodians moved over to Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label recording successfull hits "You Have Caught Me," "Expo 67," "I'll Get Along Without You," "You Don't Need Me" (which featured U-Roy), and "Come On Little Girl". These recordings established them as the sweetest-sounding vocal trios on the Rocksteady circuit. In 1968, over a financial dispute with Reid The Melodians left Treasure Isle and joined up with producer Sonia Pottinger releasing two more hits, "Little Nut Tree" and "Swing and Dine."
Eager to exert more control over their destiny, the trio joined fellow artists, The Gaylads, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe, in launching the Links Label. Although their resulting release on the label, "Sweet Rose", "It Comes and Goes" were popular, internal disputes among the artists resulted in the demise of Links records.
Late in 1968, the trio joined Winston Lowe's newly launched "Tramp" label, where they continued to supervise and produce their own material, which included "When There Is You", "Ring Of Gold", "You've Got It" and "Personally Speaking". They also found time to record one-off sessions for both Sonia Pottinger and Coxsone Dodd before returning to work with Reid early the following year, cutting a number of titles the most notable being, "Everybody Bawlin"
In 1969, The Melodians began recording for producer Leslie Kong breaking through to a wider international audience releasing some of the most highly acclaimed smash hits such as. "Sweet Sensation" "Rivers of Babylon," of which became the group's signature tune. "Rivers of Babylon," whose lyrics quoted parables from psalms 137 also marked the emergence of Rastafarian spiritual consciousness in the group's songwriting of which was also revered in a later realease "Black Man Kingdom Come." "Rivers of Babylon", was copied by Bony M, who enjoyed international success scoring over a million sales and becoming the second highest selling single in the UK in 1978.
Other successful releases with Kong included "It's My Delight", which was issued by Trojan in the UK (where it reached the UK pop chart, in January 1970) "A Day Seems So Long", "Say Darling Say", and "It Took A Miracle." However, in August 1971 the Jamaican music industry lost one of its finest talents when Kong, who still at the height of his success suffered a fatal heart attack.
Despite the shock, the group overcame the tragedy to record some of their finest material, which included the Tony Brevett-produced "This Beautiful Land" (featured on the history of trojan vol.2, cdtal-900). They also worked with a series of local producers, returning to Pottinger once again to cut two medleys of their old hits "The Sensational Melodians" and "The Mighty Melodians", and later worked with Sid Bucknor releasing "In Our Time,"Warrick Lyn" "You Are My Only Love," Lee Perry "Round and Round" and N.E.Williams "Your Turn To Cry."
Towards the end of 1972, the trio returned to work with Duke Reid for a last time to record "Passion Love" and "Love Makes The World Go Around" and also reunited with Sonia Pottinger yet again to cut "Black Man Kingdom Come". In 1973 Dowe left the group, despite "Rivers of Babylon" finding a whole new audience via its inclusion on Jimmy Cliff's soundtrack for The Harder They Come, The Melodians disbanded.. Dowe and Brevett both went on to record solo singles. Brevett, had already recorded material without the group, including "You Took Me By Surprise" for Martin Riley, the Bunny Lee-produced "Don't Give Up", and a number of self-produced singles, most notably "Don't Get Weary", "Over Hills and Valleys", "So Ashamed" and "Black Girl". Following the break-up of The Melodians, Brevett cut a series of excellent singles, "Words of Prophesy" for Israel Rockers label, "Star Light" for Planit, along with "I've Got To Get Back Home" and an updated version of "Over Hills and Valleys" for Vivian 'yabby u' Jackson. Meanwhile, Dowe, who had previously cut solo sides for Byron Smith and Leslie Kong, proved even more prolific, recording a number of popular singles for Pottinger, resulting in his debut album, Build Me Up, issued early in 1974. Over the next few years, Dowe continued to work with Pottinger as well as recording "Down Here In Babylon" for Pauline Morrison, a re-make of "Your Turn To Cry" for Prince Tony Robinson and "Things You Say You Love" and "Come On Pretty Woman", both issued on the Virgonian label. Like Brevett, he also produced a number of his own recordings, most notably, "A Deh Pon Di Wicked", "No Sweeter Way" and "Unfaithful Mankind."
Throughout the remainder of the 70's, Brevett, Dowe and McNaughton occasionally re-formed to record, with their collaborations including "Dry Up Yuh Tears", "What Am I To Do", "It's All In The Family" and a version of the drifters "I'll Take You Where The Music's Playing" for Pottinger, and "Why Little Girl" along with remake of "Passion Love" for Channel One. Other releases bearing their name included "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying" and an updated version of "Swing and Dine" for Harry J's (Harry Johnson), a Vivian Jackson-produced single, "Stop You Gang War" B/W "Learn to Love One Another" and three singles issued on the Studio One Label: "Burning Fire", "Loving Feeling" and an updated version of "Little Nut Tree". In 1983 the trio re-formed and recorded the album, Irie Feelings for Ras Records, who also issued "Warning" "Push a Little Harder" as a single. That same year UB40 covered "Sweet Sensation" on their hit Labour of Love album.
In 1992 they recorded "Song of Love" issued on the Tappa Zukie Label. Throughout the later 90's they continued touring internationally, performing their classic hits.as well debuting appearance at The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in California in 2002. In November 2005 The Melodians embarked on a successfull West Coast Tour.
On the evening of Saturday January 28, 2006 after a rehearsal in preparation for a performance to take place the following weekend at the Jamaican Prime Minister's residence, Brent Dowe, at the age of 59 suffered a fatal heart attack. The remaining original members Tony Brevett and Trevor McNaughton have continued touring in Europe and the US as well as recording in honor of Brent Dowe.
In 2013, in Celebration of their 50th Anniversary, being their Golden Jubilee The Melodians released a new album "Lyric to Rhythm" a dedication to Brent Dowe.
The album features 17 brand new unreleased tracks of which six were recorded prior to Brent's untimely passing. The Melodians will be touring across the US, Canada, Europe and South America in support of their new release.