Wycliffe 'Steely' Johnson, half of the influential production duo Steely and Clevie, has died. The keyboardist, who was in his early 50s, passed away in a New York City hospital yesterday morning.
CaribbeanFever.Com has learnt that Johnson suffered heart failure around 5 a.m. Tuesday September 1st and died at 10:32 a.m. at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Long Island, New York.
His medical problems began last December when he was being treated for kidney failure at the University Hospital of the West Indies. He went to New York for further medical treatment, where it was discovered he had a benign tumour on his brain the size of an orange. It was successfully removed at Brookhaven but he later contracted pneumonia.
Johnson also suffered from diabetes.
Although the Trench Town-born Johnson was best known for creating some of dancehall's biggest techno jams of the 1980s and 1990s with drummer Cleveland Browne, he started his career as a studio musician.
He worked with several producers, including Augustus Pablo, and was a founding member of the Roots Radics studio band for producer Henry 'Junjo' Lawes, owner of the Volcano label.
Johnson and Browne became an official unit during the 1980s, after playing on Bob Marley and the Wailers' Confrontation album. They were members of producer Lloyd 'King Jammys' James red-hot team that played on a flood of hit songs by Admiral Bailey, Shabba Ranks and Nitty Gritty.
While they were one of the most in-demand producers in 1990s dancehall, Steely and Clevie said one of their most cherished projects was a Studio One tribute album they recorded in 1992.
The set featured covers of 10 songs from the legendary studio. One of them, Dawn Penn's No, No, No, became an international hit two years after the album was released by Heartbeat Records and resurrected the career of Penn, who first recorded the song at Studio One in 1969.
"The first song I played on a piano was No, No, No. I always wanted to do the song, it's something Clevie and I premeditated for years," he said in a 2001 interview.
The following year, the duo hit it big again when their production of Sean Paul and Sasha's I'm Still In Love With You entered Billboard magazine's pop chart. The song was originally done in the 1960s by Alton Ellis and his sister Hortense.
Culture Minister Olivia Grange paid tribute to Johnson, saying in a statement, "Jamaica has lost another brilliant musician but we must give thanks for Steely's creativity and abundance of talent which enriched our music immeasurably."