Once you are a music lover, especially Reggae, you will know who Joseph Hill is. He was the lead singer of the group popularly known as Culture. Joseph Hill was one of the talented early pioneers of reggae whose rich vocal and classic recordings made him one of the greatest reggae icons, along the line with Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, etc.
Apart from his masterful compositions and his invigorating style of writing his songs, the calm and humble gentleman who inspired a lot of musicians, did what many world leaders tried and failed. In over three decades as a professional musician, Joseph Hill didn’t only sing as a peacemaker but was practically involved in seeking peace worldwide.
During the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between the Jewish and Muslim populations inhabiting the lands covered by Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza strip, and the surrounding Arab nations, both Israelis and Palestinians were killed in the fighting. All efforts by world leaders to stop this terrible conflict dating from Biblical times were abortive.
Despite the mortar attacks and deadly missiles demolishing the Palestinian settlements and the killings, Joseph Hill bravely went to Israel to promote peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Mr. Hill’s bold attempt was seen as an ironic approach to world peace.
That wasn’t the end, after seeking peace in the Middle East, Mr. Hill visited Sierra Leone during the war. The forced recruitment of child soldiers by the Revolutionary United Front and the rebels’ atrocious behavior against civilians killed thousands of Sierra Leoneans.
The decade-long civil war left Sierra Leone flowing with blood and amputated hands and legs of victims when Mr. Hill landed in Freetown the capital.
As soon as Mr. Hill arrived in Freetown, he told the rebels “I will only go if you put down your gun.” The rebels quickly obeyed him and they lay down their guns. Afterward, they sent a message to the president saying “You are lucky that Paa Joe Hill is in Freetown, else we shall destroy Freetown within 24 hours.”
A bad farmer quarrels with his tools but the hand of the expert produces fruits. Near the hotel, Mr. Hill lodged in Freetown, was a tree. Every morning a bird comes to the tree. Out of the sound of the chirping bird, Mr. Hill composed a song with it. Is it not amazing? It wasn’t surprised when Prime Minister Miller recognized him as “towering representative of our homegrown idiom, reggae.”
Born in the rural Jamaican parish of St. Catherine in 1949, Joseph Hill started his musical career in the late 1960s as a percussionist. During the Rastafarian influence on reggae in 1970s, Mr. Hill formed Culture producing more than 30 albums.
While on tour in Europe in the year 2006, Mr. Hill suddenly fell sick and succumbed to his illness. His selfless sacrifice seeking peace worldwide and his ebullient musical achievements placed him in the history of reggae as a great artist.