From 1979 through the late 1990s, RAS Records was one of the USA’s best and most active reggae labels, releasing notable projects from Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Steel Pulse, Dennis Brown, Inner Circle, Sanchez and numerous other notable Jamaican acts. Behind the label and its movements was Gary Himelfarb, a charismatic figure from Washington D.C. known as Doctor Dread. While the label has been largely inactive in the last few years, Himelfarb continues to be active in the reggae business in other ways, and in recent years he’s launched his own jerk potato chip company.
He’s now also the author of a revealing memoir. The Half That’s Never Been Told: The Real-Life Reggae Adventures of Doctor Dread recounts his experiences working with some of reggae’s most colorful figures, including Bunny Wailer, who wrote the book’s introduction. The book had us at the cover image of Dread with a green mesh-marina-sporting Gregory Isaacs, and from what we’ve read so far it lives up to that start with illuminating anecdotes and insight. Reggae historian Roger Steffens writes on the jacket: “Essential to an overstanding of what really a gwan inna yard. Highly recommended.”
The Half That’s Never Been Told drops March 3 on Akashic Books (whose founder, Johnny Temple told us he once interned for Himelfarb at RAS.) LargeUp and Akashic will be co-hosting a conversation with Doctor Dread the following day, March 4th, at the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library with special musical guest David Hinds from Steel Pulse. The event, which starts at 7pm (doors at 6:30pm) is free and open to the public. We’re told there will even be free beer from Brooklyn Brewery. It’s not every day you get to drink at the library, so mark this one on your calendar.