Winston Rodney OD (born 1 March 1945), better known by the stage name Burning Spear, is a Jamaican roots reggae singer and musician. Burning Spear is a Rastafarian and one of the most influential and long-standing roots artists to emerge from the 1970s.
Winston Rodney was born in Saint Ann’s Bay, Saint Ann, Jamaica. As a young man he listened to the R&B, soul and jazz music transmitted by the US radio stations whose broadcasts reached Jamaica. Curtis Mayfield is cited by Rodney as a major US musical influence along with James Brown. Rodney was deeply influenced as a young man by the views of the political activist Marcus Garvey, especially with regard to the exploration of the themes of Pan-Africanism and self-determination. In 1969, Bob Marley, who was also from Saint Ann, advised Rodney to approach Coxsone Dodd‘s Studio One label after Rodney sought his advice during a casual conversation.
Burning Spear was originally Rodney’s group, named after a military award given by Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of an independent Kenya, and included bass singer Rupert Willington. The duo auditioned for Dodd in 1969 which led to the release of their debut single “Door Peep” (the session also included Cedric Brooks on saxophone). They were then joined by tenor Delroy Hinds. The trio recorded several more singles for Dodd, and two albums, before they moved on to work with Jack Ruby in 1975. Their first recording with Ruby, “Marcus Garvey”, was intended as an exclusive track for Ruby’s Ocho Rios–based Hi-Power sound system, but was released as a single, giving them an immediate hit, and was followed by “Slavery Days”.