Sanchez is a well-known reggae singer of covers—songs first recorded by other artists, often in other styles, including pop, country, and hip-hop—who has enjoyed enduring popularity despite criticism. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music revealed that Sanchez has been “critically dismissed as a cover-singing fad whose own lyrics were slight,” but that he has proven himself as a serious songwriter with such hits as “South Africa.” And while some reviewers have suggested that his singing abilities are limited, others have praised his distinctive, mellow voice. For a decade and a half, and on more than 20 albums of his own as well as those of others, his voice has leant a romantic dimension to reggae music, adapting with the genre as it has changed over the years.
Born Kevin Anthony Jackson on November 28, 1967, Sanchez began his singing career in church, then later moved into secular music. He was just six when he first sang at the church his parents attended in St. Catherine. At age 11 he was in the Sunday school choir of Rehoboth Apostolic Church, and by age 13 he was singing leads and conducting the junior choir and later the senior choir. Jackson’s taste in music changed after meeting new friends at St. Andrew Technical High School. They went to parties where sound systems—which were comprised of a deejay (or selector), music, sound equipment, technicians, Manágers, and supporters—played. Jackson discovered an affinity for the music he heard there, and he gradually replaced singing in the church choir with performing at parties.
At age 19 Jackson became a selector—someone who Manáges the turntables by selecting and playing records and CDs—for the popular Rambo Sound System. It was around this time that the system’s top deejays, Flourgan, Daddy Lizard, and Red Dragon, gave him the nickname that became his professional name. The trio christened him Sanchez, the name of a popular professional South American soccer player, after he executed an overhead scissors kick during a soccer game. Soon Sanchez was a triple-threat selector, meaning he selected, acted as mic chatter (someone who supports the selector by introducing music and building crowd enthusiasm), and dubbed (sang). Sanchez uses the name Bottle Drinks as a selector.
Despite his success as a selector, Sanchez had trouble realizing his dream of singing on records. He approached several record companies to no avail before Redman International gave him an opportunity in the fall of 1987, naming the artist Sanchez D on his early records. According to the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Sanchez D’s voice was “distinctive but untutored, and its roughness matched the equally gritty dancehall rhythms of the time.” His first hit record, “Lady in Red,” reached number 19 on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) record chart and sent record producers scrambling to convince him to sing for them. He also attracted notice, according to the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, with “Zim Bam Zim,” “riding a scorching, bizarre Sly and Robbie rhythm.”
Sanchez debuted on the United Kingdom charts in 1987 with the more traditional song “Tears.” It was the lead track on the Sanchez album, which appeared a few months later. The following year Winston Riley produced Sanchez’s second album, Loneliness. Sanchez’s rendition of “Loneliness Leave Me Alone” turned out to be the singer’s biggest hit ever. Sanchez’s second album in 1988, Sweetest Girl, produced another title hit.
In 1989 Sanchez’s popularity continued with the release of more albums and hit singles. A CDNOW reviewer remarked that on Number One Sanchez “breaks out a bit from just covering other people’s songs, and even shows a spiritual side (’Praise Jah’). Mostly he demonstrates a smooth, soulful style which he administers to his emotional ballads, but he has a dancehall side as well.” The album includes covers of Tracy Chapman’s “Baby Can I Hold You” and “Behind the Walls.” The dub version of the album, appropriately titled Number One Dub, “is a bit of a history-maker,” according to CDNOW, “in that it represents one of the very first dancehall dubs.” Sanchez’s live performances in the late 1980s attracted a large and passionate following, especially among female fans; the Encyclopedia of Popular Music pointed out that “60s-style screaming was de rigueur ai his concerts.”
Sanchez has continued recording numerous hits over the years, many of them romantic songs. Shadd
Born Kevin Anthony Jackson on November 28, 1967, in Kingston, Jamaica; grew up with parents in Stony Hill and Waterford communities; married Monica Williams; children: a daughter and a son.
Began singing as member of the St. Catherine’s Rehoboth Apostolic Church choirs, age six; became selector for Rambo Sound System, 1986; began voicing for top record producers, late 1980s; released first single and first album, Sanchez, 1987; released Sweetest Girl, 1988; released Simply Being Me, 2000; released Stays On My Mind, 2002.
Addresses: Home —c/o Monica Jackson, 13 Coronado Ave., Forest Hill Gardens, Kingston 19, Jamaica. Record company —VP Record Distributors, 89-05 138th St., Jamaica, NY 11435.
Douglas noted in the Cincinnati Post, “Sanchez has cultivated an Afro-erotic sound that sweetens the music at a hot and rhythmically bass-dominated dancehall party. The kind of songs to dance close to.” Referring to Sanchez’s success recording his own versions of popular American songs, Douglas remarked that Jamaica’s “music traditions … are steeped in covering American songs of all types.”
Sanchez told Douglas, “I love to cover songs that we Jamaicans hardly listen to, because we don’t listen to soul or classical pop.” He has done covers of “The Green Green Grass of Home,” “Let It Be Me,” “My Girl,” “Where I Wanna Be,” “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” and many more. In April of 2002 his cover of “Chemistry” reached number one on the New York top 30 reggae chart. It was his seventh number-one single on the chart and the first since “Pretty Girl” attained that position in 2000. A reviewer for the WORLDmusic TV website paraphrased what one producer said about Sanchez’s career path: “[R]ight now there is no singer in the business who can do a cover as good as Sanchez, and… there must be something special about a singer who can get such international fame from doing covers.”
Sanchez’s albums tend to be eclectic mixes of covers from varied genres with a few original tracks mixed in. A CDNOW reviewer praised the 2000 release Simply Being Me, stating that the “satin-throated lovers’ specialist sublimely blends styles.” The album includes the doo-wop classic “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” the ballad “Back at One,” the R&B tune “Where I Wanna Be,” Britney Spears’s pop tune “Sometimes,” and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s folk-rock tune “Alone Again, Naturally.” Original tracks include the ballads “Pretty Girl,” “Watching Over Me,” and “Margrette.” CDNOW’s reviewer placed the album at the “mellow, positive end of the dancehall spectrum,” characterizing it as having “just a touch of Rastafarian preaching, but devoid of all slackness and rude-boy ragga.”
Stays On My Mind, released in 2002, also contains a mix of material. It includes the self-penned compositions “Frenzy” and “How Could You,” such classic reggae covers as “Groovin’ Out on Life,” and the contemporary R&B covers “Incomplete” and “You Got It Bad.” The album and its title reflect “his impact on his legions of female fans,” according to OJ36 Records.
When Sanchez moved to Florida in 1999, some Jamaicans criticized him for forsaking his roots and taking money out of the country. But Sanchez plans to expand his audience to include American R&B and hip-hop fans. “That’s my greatest wish, not to throw away reggae music, but to get a different experience of another side of music,” he was quoted as saying in VP Records press materials. “If you’re a musician you can’t play one type of music, you have to spread your wings and be versatile.”
In 2002 Sanchez had three new projects in the works. The first, an album titled Frenzy, “will comprise more original stuff, more down to earth argument and nowadays stuff,” Sanchez told Reggae Jams. The second project is a gospel album with original material. The third project, to be released on his Sanmonic label, will feature Sanchez playing all the instruments and performances by his 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.
Sanchez, VP, 1987.
Number One, RAS, 1989.
Number One Dub, ROIR, 1989.
Praise Him, VP, 1995.
One in a Million: The Best of Sanchez (compilation), VP, 1997.
Perilous Time, Artists Only, 1999.
Who Is This Man, VP, 1999.
Simply Being Me, VP, 2000.
Best of Sanchez: Back at One (compilation), VP, 2001.
Stays On My Mind, VP, 2002.
Larkin, Colin, editor, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, third edition, Grove’s Dictionaries, 1998.
Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH), March 1, 2001, p. 5.
CDNOW, http://www.cdnow.com (May 7, 2002).
“Reggae Updates from Jamaica: Ward 21 Album Flops, Shaggy on UK Charts and More,” Lee Bailey’s EURweb, http://www.eurweb.com/articles/columns/04112002/columns634604112002.cfm (May 3, 2002).
“Sanchez,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 11, 2002).
“Sanchez,” Artists Only! Records, http://www.artistsonly.com/sanchez.htm (April 10, 2002).
“Sanchez,” ReggaeFusion, http://www.reggaefusion.com/Performers/S/Sanchez.html (April 10, 2002).
“Sanchez,” WORLDmusicTV, http://www.worldmusictv.net/artists/sanchez.shtml (April 10, 2002).
“Sanchez Launches New Album ‘Stays on My Mind’ and US Tour Featuring Terry Linen,” OJ36 Records, http://www.oj36records.com/new/newsofmay02.shtml (July 24, 2002).
“Sanchez to Release New Album,” Reggae Jams, http://www.reggaejams.com/new.htm (May 7, 2002).
Additional information was provided by VP Records publicity materials, 2001.
—Doris Morris Maxfield
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