“Great Canadian Reggae Lion” Jo Jo Bennett dies at the age of 81


Joseph “Jo Jo” Bennett, an influential member of the Canadian reggae scene and respected teacher, died Tuesday at the age of 81, friends told CBC News.

The flugelhorn and trumpeter of the renowned band The Sattalites was a two-time Juno Award winner. Bennett was known not only for his musical talent, but also for his caring for others and his larger-than-life personality.

“He gave a lot of joy to his music,” said Bennett’s bandmate and lead singer Fergus Hambleton.

“He was an extremely musical person and he was an extremely encouraging person,” said Hambleton.

“That made him a great teacher and a great player.”

Before Hambleton and Bennett were bandmates, they were teachers. In the early 1980s they founded The Sattalites Music School, a teaching group that operated on the Pay What You Can principle.

The band later formed with five other members: David Fowler, Bruce McGillivray, Junior McPherson, Rick Morrison and Bruce Robinson.

The fusion of Hambleton’s alto and Bennett’s flugelhorn was at the center of their unique sound.

Hambleton and Bennett explain why Canadian and Jamaican musicians work well together 2:01

But he’s not only known for playing reggae, said Julian King, a music promoter in Toronto for more than 20 years. He also played jazz and a little rock ‘n’ roll.

“Jo Jo was a musician first and reggae was his thing,” said King.

Bennett was a friend and mentor to King.

“He’s definitely one of our favorite sons and fathers and godparents of reggae music … I call him the Big Canadian Reggae Lion,” he said.

Blair Moody, a friend of Bennett’s for more than 40 years, said the musician “always gave”.

Moody said Bennett, known as “Guru” and “Teach”, always supported the idea of ​​a music school.

“A few dollars in your pocket and a horn under your arms”

Bennett, born July 13, 1940 in Kingston, Jamaica, began his music career at the age of 10 when he enrolled at Alpha Boys’ School to study jazz and classical music.

“He learned so much here … came out with a few dollars in his pocket and a horn under his arms,” ​​Moody said.

“Jo Jo was an accomplished musician, an accomplished teacher, hence his nickname.”

Moody said Bennett had multiple strokes a few years ago but seemed to be in good shape every time.

The Sattalites, a reggae band formed in Toronto in the early 1980s, won two Juno awards and is considered Canada’s oldest reggae group. (Submitted by Blair Moody)

Moody, who took him to doctor’s appointments and watched baseball and hockey with him, said he was at his bedside the day before he died.

He said it was difficult to see his health deteriorate within a few weeks of his birthday in July this year.

“He’s a Rasta man. He said, ‘I’ll check this, I know,’ and he basically refused all medical procedures based on his belief,” he said.

“He is an integral part of what Jamaica has given the world, he has made the world a better place.”

Bennett’s legacy is highlighted on a mural in Toronto’s Reggae Lane in Little Jamaica.

King said October is due to celebrate Bennett’s life.

For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from racism against blacks to success stories within the black community – see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



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