VINTAGE REGGAE SHOW AND DANCE
Max Alfred “Maxi” Elliott (born 10 June 1961), known by his stage name Maxi Priest, is an English reggae vocalist of Jamaican descent. He is best known for singing reggae music with an R&B influence, otherwise known as reggae fusion. He was one of the first international artists to have success in this genre, and one of the most successful reggae fusion acts of all time.
Maxi Priest was born in Lewisham, London, the second youngest of nine brothers and sisters. His parents had moved to England from Jamaica to provide more opportunity for their family and he grew up listening to gospel, reggae, R&B, and pop music. He first learned to sing in church, encouraged by his mother who was a Pentecostal missionary. Maxi grew up listening to Jamaican greats such as Dennis Brown, John Holt, Ken Boothe and Gregory Isaacs as well as singers like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, the Beatles, Phil Collins and Frank Sinatra.
As a teenager, he lifted speaker boxes for the Jah Shaka and Negus Negast sound-systems. He was a founder member of Saxon Studio International, and it was with Saxon that Maxi began performing at neighbourhood youth clubs and house parties.
Priest’s musical career began with him singing on the South London reggae soundsystem Saxon Studio International, after which some independent single releases followed. His first major album, Maxi (titled Maxi Priest in the US and Canada), was released in 1988, and, along with his cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”, established him as one of the top British reggae singers.
He is one of only two British reggae acts (along with UB40) to have an American Billboard number one: “Close to You” in 1990. A duet with Roberta Flack, “Set the Night to Music”, reached the American Top Ten in 1991. His duet with Shaggy in 1996, “That Girl”, was also a hit in the United States, peaking at number twenty.
In the latter half of his recording career, Priest has favoured working alongside other artists, both established and up-and-coming. He has worked with Sly and Robbie, Shaggy, Beres Hammond, Jazzie B, Apache Indian, Roberta Flack, Shurwayne Winchester, Shabba Ranks and Lee Ritenour.
It was reported in some newspapers in the Birmingham area, including the Birmingham Mail on 13 March 2008, that Priest would be replacing Ali Campbell as the new lead singer of UB40, and that he had recorded a cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” with the band, based on information from “an unnamed source close to the band.” Priest had joined UB40 on tour in 2007, culminating in sold-out shows at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Solihull in December. Another local newspaper, the Express & Star that had reported that Priest would be the new UB40 frontman, included a statement from band spokesman Gerard Franklyn which contradicted the claim, stating: “Maxi is collaborating with the band to record material but he won’t be the new lead singer, that will be Duncan Campbell, the brother of Ali and Robin Campbell. He will only be appearing with them for this new recording.”
In 2012, Maxi Priest recorded a cover of Japanese band L’arc~en~Ciel’s song “Vivid Colors” for the band’s English-language tribute album.
In 2013, Priest recorded a remix version of Hindi song “Kabhi Jo Baadal Barse”, featuring Indian singers Rishi Rich and Arijit Singh.
His 2014 album Easy to Love entered the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart at number 2.