Ska pioneer and Jamaican music legend Prince Buster has died at 78, several years after suffering a stroke, his wife, Mola Ali, said Friday.
Born Cecil Bustamante Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1938, he became one of the island’s most revered musicians as Prince Buster, performing in and producing popular ska bands in the 1960s including the Vikings and the Folkes Brothers.
Music was “his passion, his life,” his wife said in a phone interview. “He built a studio in the home. Every night, he started music at about 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and about 3 or 4 at night is when he turned that off.”
A prolific musician, he recorded thousands of records, including such hits as “Al Capone” and “Judge Dread.” He helped ignite the ska movement in England and later helped carry it into the rock-steady era in the mid-1960s. During a ska revival in the late 1970s, a group of British musicians named their band Madness after one of his hit songs.
Prince Buster traveled extensively while performing, and he loved to garden, bringing seeds back home from all over the world. He was a devoted husband at home, Ali said. They had three children during their 47-year marriage. He also fathered children outside of marriage, his wife said, adding that she didn’t know exactly how many.
Prince Buster couldn’t walk after a massive stroke in 2009, but he still could communicate and travel. Ali said he died at a Miami hospital on Thursday after suffering heart problems.