You can hear echoes of his staccato vocal style in contemporary singers from Sizzla Kalonji to Iba Mahr, but there was only one Jacob Miller. “Killer” took reggae by storm as the lead singer for Inner Circle in the ’70s, bringing an unprecedented level of energy and presence to the studio and stage.
Miller voiced tracks for Clement Dodd at Studio One as a teenager in the late ’60s, and teamed with Augustus Pablo’s Rockers International for classic singles like 1974’s “Baby, I Love You So.” But it was his work as the frontman for Inner Circle that made him an icon. Miller’s time with Inner Circle was short—just five years separate his earliest recordings with the Bad Boys of Reggae, and his 1980 passing in an automobile accident—but together they left behind a large pool of classic recordings.
Just this year, Inner Circle revisited one of its best known recordings with Miller, 1976’s “Tenement Yard,” on “News Carrying Dread” a collaboration with reggae’s top young draw, Chronixx. A re-issued Tenement Yard riddim also featured new vocals from Assassin and Jesse Royal.
Thanks to YouTube, we can also experience the live shows that helped to build the Jacob Miller legend, like the Heartland Reggae concert featured in the documentary Roots Rock Reggae, and Inner Circle’s performance on France’s Music Machine TV show. Other vocalists may have taken some of his techniques, but the entire package is impossible to replicate.
So today, on what would have been the singer’s 63rd birthday, let’s take a look back at some of Miller’s classic performances.