R.I.P: Noel “King Sporty” Williams, 1943-2014

king-sporty-deep-reggae-roots

King Sporty, Justin Yap and Roland Alphonso -“El Cid” (1965)

Williams’ earliest known recording is this 1965 ska instrumental with tenor sax man Roland Alphonso of the Skatalites, recorded for producer Justin Yap, during a famed, 18-hour session at Studio One.

King Sporty – “Thinking of You” (1973)

Sporty, who first came to Miami in the 1960s well before the wave of migration that brought many Jamaicans to South Florida in the ’70s, had settled in the city by that decade, launching his own label, Konduko. By that time he’d also expanded his sound beyond just reggae. This R&B love tune has all of the hallmarks of the “Miami sound” associated with Henry Stone’s TK and Alston labels (and artists like Sporty’s own wife, Betty Wright) including an early example of an insistent, disco-style drum beat.

Timmy Thomas – “Why Can’t We Live Together” (1972)
timmy-thomas-why-cant-we-live-together

Timmy Thomas wrote, sang and performed “Why Can’t We Live Together” but Sporty deserves some credit for being the first to see the vision in the most unique and unusual of all ’70s soul hits. Notable for a haunting, stripped-down sound that featured only a Hammond organ and an early drum machine, “Why Can’t We Live Together” still resonates with its calls for interracial harmony. Thomas and Sporty continued to work and perform together throughout the decade—here’s a clip of Sporty performing a reggae, soul and jazz-spanning set at Miami’s Gusman Theatre with his Deep Root Band, featuring Thomas on keys.

Click here for more of King Sporty’s selected discography