The man with the golden voice, Glenroy Anthony Smith, known to the musical world as “Ernie” was born into music. His family had an inherent love of music. His father Arthur Smith played the guitar, his mother Linneth, sang in the church choir and Ernie performed in school concerts and plays.
After high school he formed a singing group with two of his brothers and two sisters. He later formed a band – the Vandals – with members of his family and friends. One of his dreams was to become a Radio Announcer. At the interview they told him, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. He then presented himself as a songwriter, to Federal Records. He told them, “I have written this song, maybe you could find someone to record it”. He sang his song with piano backup. They told him, “We have a band coming in at 2.00 p.m., you stay and record it.”
So began the illustrious professional musical career of ERNIE SMITH, with his original composition “I Can’t Take It”, which Johnny Nash later recorded as “Tears On My Pillow”. Ernie has since made an indelible mark on Jamaican music with memorable classics like “Bend Down”, “Ride On Sammy”, “One Dream”, “Pitta Patta”, “Key Card”, and “All For Jesus”.
In 1972 at The World Popular Song Festival of The Yamaha Foundation in Tokyo, he won the Grand Prize with his original composition of “Life Is Just For Living”, competing against songwriters like Neil Sedaka and Michel Legrand.
Ernie became the first Jamaican musician to win first prize in an international music festival. For this historic achievement, he became the first musician in the field of Popular Music to be honored by the Jamaican Government with the Badge of Honor for meritorious service in the field of popular music.
In 1976, Ernie was forced into exile in North America because of what was considered to be controversial political commentary in his song, “As We Fight One Another For The Power And The Glory, The Kingdom Goes To Waste”. Ironically, the once-banned song is still relevant and even more popular today. Decades after its release, it is the ‘battle song’ for Jamaican talk shows and community activists.
While in exile, Ernie thrilled audiences in Canada and the Diaspora. Critics hailed his album “To Behold Jah” as one of the most important albums to come out of Canada for the year 1979. Ernie is renowned for bringing Reggae to mainstream Canada
Ernie has written well over 200 songs, several of which have been recorded by other artists, including Johnny Nash, Rita Marley, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Sanchez, Twiggy, Ken Lazarus, John Jones, Judy Boucher, Tinga Stewart, Goldie Hawn, Eddie Lovett, Yellowman, Grace Thrillers and Pluto Shervington.
Ernie has played on many stages around the world including repeat performances at Madison Square Garden – New York, multiple venues in Europe, the USA , Canada, Central and South America the Caribbean and of course his homeland – Jamaica.
Ernie returned to Jamaica in 1988 and by the early 1990’s he had reclaimed his place in the music industry and widened his fan base. His anthology (1997) “After 30 Years: Life is Just For Living“ won great acclaim and is still in demand today. Ernie’s other works include an early indictment of the negative direction the ‘new’ Dancehall was heading – “Dancehall: Ernie Cleans It Up” (1995). In this work he used positive lyrics over the then current styles. Over the years, Ernie has maintained that there will be a fusion of reggae with diverse musical styles. He has been proven right. His “Rebel Music” (1974) included in his compilation “After 30 Years: Life is Just for Living:” (1997) is nothing short of prophetic.
His compilation of Folk Songs of Jamaica is widely sought after. His album “COUNTRY MILE” (2009) received positive attention.
On October 30, 2010 Ernie had the signal honour of receiving a Congressional Proclamation from the United States House of Representatives at the behest of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Certificate of Recognition from the Executive Chamber of the State of New York under the hand of Governor Paterson and the Pinnacle Award in memory of the struggles of founders of the Rastafarian community in Jamaica.
With Ernie Smith time has no boundary, and today, he is as vibrant and fresh as ever and ready to move on through any challenge his musical journey may encounter.
His latest Release: COUNTRY MILE is fresh, current and hypnotic. It is Ernie’s offer to you, to enjoy, while discovering or, re-discovering the essence of Jamaican musicality and versatility.
Ernie has, over the years, proved to be an extremely popular Startime performer and that undeniable brilliance will be on show once again, when he steps one more time on to the Startime stage July 13 to thrill the fans with his unique and ever-popular repertoire, guaranteed to have the fans singing alone.