Music is everything to her. To quote her “ I was born to sing and I am very happy when I’m before an audience.” Those are the words of Karen Smith, a very special Jamaican songbird who has the distinction of being the only jazz-oriented artist to have graced the Startime stage in its many years of existence.
The fact that her every Startime appearance has resulted in rave reviews, underlines the versatility of Karen, a cabaret star who is comfortable with almost every musical genre and delivers with an awe-inspiring passion which always leaves her audience wanting more.
Her affinity with music began when she used to stand over her mom , renowned Montego Bay educator Barbara Smith, playing the piano at home. With that kind of musical background, it was no wonder that she passed her piano exams with flying colours, and chose to do two years of voice training at the then Jamaica School of Music (now Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts).She also came under the influence of Barry Davies and Lloyd, two of Jamaica’s most renowned music teachers.
Prior to all that, Karen had hit the spotlight at age 13 when she won a Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation variety show, earning herself a prize trip to Trinidad and Tobago.
Fast forward to her adult years. After earning a commerce degree from Montreal’s University of Concordia, Karen pursued a career in banking as an NCB staffer, but after three years, her love for music won the career battle and the rest is history. Karen has become the star of the hotel cabaret circuit,; she has toured extensively, she has done very successful commercials for Grace Cock Soup and Mountain Peak Coffee with renowned musicians Peter Ashbourne and Boris Gardner, and she has been an opening act on many shows featuring top overseas acts.
With a wide repertoire which includes jazz, pop, R&B, reggae and even an occasional calypso, Karen loves being in the recording studio and is credited with a Sly and Robbie- produced hit single “Oh Me Oh My” which topped the charts in 1989 . She has also done two albums “Everything I Need” and “I Still Love You.”
She holds nine Jamaica Music Industry Awards and has been inducted into the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival Hall of Fame.
Karen is married to renowned bassist Jackie Jackson, an unsung music legend – a man who was house bass player for the legendary Treasure Isle studio and Tommy McCook & the Supersonics, a man who has choreographed many hit songs including ‘Israelites’ and ‘Intensified Festival’ by Desmond Dekker and the Aces as well as practically all the hit songs of Toots and the Maytals.