Words by Jesse Serwer, Photo by Martei Korley
Uziah “Sticky” Thompson, the Jamaican percussionist whose career spanned from the ska era through to recent work with Ziggy and Stephen Marley, has succumbed to illness at age 78.
Thompson, who got his start on sound systems and deejayed under the name “Cool Sticky” in the 1960s, appeared as a vocalist on several notable tracks by the Skatalites, including “Guns of Navarone.” It was in the 1970s that he made his name as a percussionist, working frequently with Lee “Scratch” Perry (including the producers’ 1970 sessions with The Wailers) and Joe Gibbs. He later teamed up with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, joining the Riddim Twins as part of Black Uhuru’s instrumental unit, and in the house band at Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point Studios, where he played on classic recordings by Grace Jones and Tom Tom Club, among others. He also appeared on albums by Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Jimmy Cliff.
More recently, he became a member of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, with whom he also performed live. Ziggy was among the first artists to confirm his long-time collaborator’s passing, commenting: “One of the coolest person[s] I have ever known has moved on. Travel on brother Sticky.” Among the latest recordings to feature Sticky was Sly & Robbie’s Underwater Dub: that’s him above during the sessions for that April 2014 release, at Harry J studio in Kingston.
Here’s a small sampling of some of the most notable recordings to feature Thompson’s distinctive hand style (plus a live recording of him with the classic Black Uhuru lineup at Sunsplash).