Hezron Clarke Bio-The Life I Lived Continues (Soulful Salvation)
“What is my job as a singer?” asks popular Jamaican singer/songwriter Hezron Clarke. “When you are not feeling so good, my job is to make you happy, to ease your frustrations, if you are struggling, to let you know that things will get better and to tell you as a woman how beautiful you are but your purpose is beyond your beauty, you are an incubator of greatness. As a singer I am supposed to tell the people’s story, to feel it the way they would feel it and execute it in the realest way, because that’s me, a representative of the people.”
Hezron’s deeply soulful expressions of personal challenges, societal concerns and romantic desires has made him a favorite among reggae fans as well as lovers of quality music, irrespective of genre. Hezron’s finest collection of songs to date are showcased on his sophomore album The Life I Live Continues (Soulful Salvation) due in November 2016, a follow up to his self-released, critically acclaimed double CD debut, The Life I Live(d).
The excitement surrounding Hezron’s forthcoming album began in December 2015 with the promotional release of its first hit single Taxi Driver (Stone Love Productions) an irresistible lovers rock tune that finds the touring artist pleading with his cabbie to take him home to his woman as soon as possible. Hezron followed that with Mobay, produced by Addis Records, which laments the worsening crime and escalating murder rate in his Montego Bay birthplace. Hezron’s gravel-edged, emotive voice renders these very different song topics with equal conviction. “It is one thing to be vocally talented but to represent reggae takes vocal sincerity more than vocal ability,” Hezron explains.
The album also includes Treat Her Better, a tender song urging respect for woman, directed at the men in their lives, and Good News, a stirring reminder of hope in the darkest of circumstances. “Jamaicans love reggae because its lyrics incorporate our survival stories, the social and political issues we face and the spiritual, humble love relationships between a man and a woman and on this album I think I have captured the different moods and feelings representing the common man.”
Born into a musical family in the Moy Hall district of Montego Bay, Hezron began singing as a child in the church choir, where his great vocal talent was first recognized. In his teen years he absorbed melodious pop hits by Madonna and Michael Jackson as well as the powerful messages in the music of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The dancehall stars of the era, Shabba Ranks, Ninja Man and Bounty Killer were also great influences and Hezron worked with local sound systems to perfect his own tough-edged toasting style.
Coming from a humble background, at 19 years old Hezron left Jamaica and moved to Miami, determined to better his life. He studied corporate law at Broward Community College and worked nights as a security guard at a Miami Beach hotel where one night he heard a reggae band playing. “Music was always in my blood, it remained a calling even though I pursued other things, but I felt like I had lost my way,” recalls Hezron, who gravitated towards singing R&B while living in America, listening to young artists like KC and JoJo and Dave Hollister as well as iconic Jamaican singers Beres Hammond and (the late) Dennis Brown. “I decided to go on stage one night and I told the band I could sing. I was off key, but they heard something in my voice they really liked and told me to come back. From then I started writing songs and focused on a career in music.”
Hezron’s good looks, versatile songwriting skills and expressive baritone (often compared to the late soul legends Sam Cooke, Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross) caught the attention of several major labels including Def Jam, Warner Music and Sony. For various reasons, none of the deals proposed to the artist ever materialized. He signed with Miami based Chatterbox, a subsidiary of Shang Records, co-owned by Specialist the mastermind behind the early 90s crossover success of Shabba Ranks and Patra. Shortly thereafter Hezron moved to Atlanta where he began recording for Wall St. Productions.
Struggling to make ends meet in the early days of his career Hezron sold small quantities of marijuana, which led to his arrest. A law was passed that retroactively upgraded his misdemeanor crime to a felony and an order of deportation was issued. Rather than remaining in America and fighting the case with (inadequate) legal representation, Hezron chose to return home; that was the best decision he could have made because his musical ambitions had never strayed far from Jamaica’s positive reggae vibrations. “Reggae is my culture, it was always in me, but to find your place in it is not easy,” Hezron reveals, “you can’t go in and out of Jamaica, you have to live there, and now, after all this time, I know that I can represent reggae in the truest sense.”
Reggae fans in Jamaica and beyond were introduced to Hezron’s spectacular, nuanced vocals and poetic lyrics with the 2008 release of his first number one single So In Love, produced by veteran hit maker Bobby Digital. More hits followed: the melodic lovers rock tunes Forever and Always and Can’t Come Between earned Hezron unwavering adoration among his female fans while the poignant depictions of poverty, violence and other grim realities on Land of The Warriors, Inna De Ghetto and the acoustic Can’t Tek De Pressure brought respect from his industry peers. “Jamaica never really changes in terms of social issues, the poor continue to be poor and Rastafari gave us a music to sing about those things; R&B doesn’t accommodate those messages, reggae music does, so it is my responsibility to write those kinds of songs,” Hezron explains.
The aforementioned songs featured on The Life I Live(d) established Hezron as one of the finest singer/songwriters of his generation. iTunes U.S. featured The Life I Live(d) on its New & Noteworthy Reggae section throughout the week of its May 27, 2014 release; Germany’s Reggaevile.com enthused “Hezron possesses all the skills necessary to climb to the very top”; Belgium’s RebelBase.be raved “it’s highly doubtful we’ll see a better Jamaican release this year”, and U.S. based Jamaicans.com called the album “phenomenal”, adding, “the captivating entertainer is set to become a household name with this masterpiece collection.”
Indeed, Hezron’s evocative lyrics and warm captivating vocals have garnered widespread acclaim over the years, prompting many reggae fans to wonder why he has not yet attained household name status. The immigration issues that once prevented Hezron from performing in major music markets have been resolved; he can now travel the world supporting The Life I Live Continues while pursuing his maximum career potential. “This album is about everything that I have experienced; songs like Mobay tell the kids that crime isn’t worth it, my life is evidence of that,” Hezron offers. “There have been many setbacks but I never gave up because music is my true calling and I wanted to do it my way.”