Burning Spear

Nickname Burning Spear
Full name Winston Rodney
Country Jamaican/ African
Genre Roots Reggae
Activity Singer/Songwriter Reggae Music Arranger/Composer
Instruments Lead Vocals/ Congo & Bongo Drums
Members The Burning Band
Previous members Rupert Willington & Delroy Hinds
Official website

Burning Spear aka Winston Rodney is a great Jamaican roots reggae vocalist and musician. Burning Spear is a Rastafarian and one of the most influential and long-standing roots artists to emerge from the 1970s. He was born in Saint Ann's Bay, Saint AnnJamaica. 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 Burning Spear as a major US musical influence along with James Brown. Rodney was greatly inspired as a young man by the views of the visionary and prophetic Jamaican international Hero 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, The original Burning Spear singing group 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 "Dub Plate" 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".

 These recordings featured the backing band The Black Disciples, which included Earl "Chinna" Smith, Valentine Chin, Robbie Shakespeare and Leroy Wallace. 

The group worked with Ruby on their third album, Marcus Garvey (1975), which was immediately successful and led to a deal with Island Records to give the album a wider release. Island remixed and altered the speed of some of the tracks, much to the annoyance of fans and the group, leading Burning Spear to set up his own Burning Music label for future releases where he would have full control, although further releases followed on Island including Garvey's Ghost, a dub album, and the Man in the Hills album. 

In late 1976, Winston Rodney split from both producer Jack Ruby and group members Willington and Hinds, and from that point on He continued on using the name Burning Spear for himself alone. Dry and Heavy followed in 1977, self-produced but still on Island, and with a sizeable following by now in the United Kingdom, he performed in London that year with members of Aswad acting as his backing band for a sold-out show at the Rainbow Theatre, which was recorded and released as the album Live!. Aswad also provided backing on his next studio album, Social Living (1978), which also featured Sly Dunbar and Rico Rodriguez. A dub version of the album, Living Dub (1979), was mixed by Sylvan Morris. His profile was raised further by an appearance in the classic Jamaican reggae movie known as rockers Rockers, performing the song titled "Jah no Dead".

In 1980, Burning Spear left Island Records and set up the Burning Music Production Company, which he signed to EMI, debuting on the label with Hail H.I.M., recorded at Marley's Tuff Gong studio and co-produced by Aston Barrett. A Sylvan Morris dub version followed in the form of Living Dub Volume Two. In 1982, Rodney signed with Heartbeat Records and went on to relaese a series of well-received albums on the Heartbeat Records Label, including the 1985 Grammy nominated Resistance. He returned to Island in the early 1990s, releasing two albums before rejoining Heartbeat.

This arrangement in which Burning Music Productions delivered completed albums of music to EMI, Island and Heartbeat Records for worldwide distribution lasted for many years. When Heartbeat ceased releasing new material, Burning Music took matters into their own hands and began to release music solely through their own imprint. Albums released by Heartbeat through an agreement with Burning Music include: The World Should Know (1993), Rasta Business (1995), Appointment with His Majesty (1997) and the Grammy award winning Calling Rastafari (1999) which was the last completed album to be solely pressed by an outside label.

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Burning Spear spent decades touring extensively, and several live albums have been issued including Burning Spear Live, Live in Paris, Live in South Africa, Live in Vermont, Peace and Love Live, Live at Montreux Jazz Festival and (A)live 1997. Touring the world time and time again, the band’s live sound matured and grew more sophisticated. Burning Spear always records and perform with a classic 3 piece reggae Brass/Horns section, typically including Trumpet Trombone & Saxophone. While remaining firmly rooted in authentic roots reggae, Burning Spear music also features hints of soulfull riddim & blues vibes, with accents of free jazz and afro funk, creating a classic orchestral hypnotic sound which is best described as The Burning Music Experince. Overall Burning Spear & The Burning Band are high preists of reggae and highly skill full reggae physicians, constantly recording and performing Excellent & Magnificent roots reggae music with high levels of phenominal and supreme musical arrangement and composition.

His 1999 album, Calling Rastafari brought his first Grammy Award win in 2000, a feat which he repeated with Jah Is Real in 2009. In 2000 Home To My Roots Tour he performed in Cape Town, South Africa alongside other roots reggae icon Joseph Culture Hill.

In 2002 he and his wife, Sonia Rodney who has produced a number of his albums, restarted Burning Music Records, giving him a greater degree of artistic control. Since the mid-1990s, he has been based in Quueens New Yoork New York City. Burning Spear was awarded the great nattional honour of Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer by The Government of Jamaica on October 15th 2007.

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Since establishing their own label, Burning Spear aka Winston Rodney and Sonia Rodney have released nearly forty singles, CDs, DVDs and vinyl albums on the Burning Music imprint. Many of these albums have been deluxe editions of albums previously available on other labels and often include bonus tracks and DVD footage. In this way, Burning Music is able to assure the quality of the Burning Spear music available in the market and guarantee that music from all phases of Burning Spear's career is available for his worldwide listeners to hear.


Burning Spear has won two Grammy Awards for Best Reggae Album; one at the 42nd Grammy Awards in 2000 for Calling Rastafari, and one for 2009's Jah Is Real. He has been nominated for a total of 12 Grammy Awards.

Nominations for Best Reggae Album:

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Burning Spear discography

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Studio albums

Live albums



  • "We Are Free" (1970), Bamboo - B-side of Irving Brown's "Let's Make It Up"
  • "Zion Higher" (1971), Banana - B-side of King Cry Cry's "I Had a Talk"
  • "Live It Out" (1971), Coxsone
  • "Get Ready", (197?), Coxsone
  • "Creation Rebel" (197?), Coxsone
  • "Call on You" (197?), Coxsone
  • "What a Happy Day" (197?), Coxsone
  • "Rocking Time" (197?), Coxsone
  • "Marcus Garvey" (197?), Fox
  • "Slavery Days" (197?), Fox
  • "Swell Headed"
  • "Foggy Road"
  • "Resting Place" (197?), Fox
  • "Children of Today", Spear
  • "The Youth" (197?), Spear
  • "Old Marcus Garvey" (1976), Island
  • "I & I Survive" (1976), Island
  • "The Lion" (1976), Island
  • "Civilised Reggae"/"Social Living" (1978), Island
  • "She's Mine" (1982), Radic
  • "Jah Is My Driver" (1982), Radic - 12-inch
  • "Marcus Garvey" (1987), Island - 12-inch
  • "Tell the Children" (1988), Blue Moon
  • "Great Men" (1990), Mango
  • "Free the Whole Wide World" (1994), Tribesman
  • "Never" (2006), Collective
  • "Education", Burning Spear
  • "Travelling", Klassic Vinyl


  • Home to My Roots (2004), Burning Music/Nocturne
  • Live in Vermont (2008), Burning Music
  • Live in Peru (2010)
  • Rastafari Live (2012), Hudson Street

Top Tracks

Marcus Garvey 1

Marcus Garvey

Slavery Days 2

Slavery Days

Old Marcus Garvey 3

Old Marcus Garvey

Tradition 4


Jordan River 5

Jordan River

Man In The Hills 6

Man In The Hills

Live Good 7

Live Good

Columbus 8


Resting Place 9

Resting Place

Give Me 10

Give Me

Top Albums

100th Anniversary
100th Anniversary
29 tracks
Man In The Hills
Man In The Hills
Best of the Fittest
Best of the Fittest


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