JOHN Holt earned a lot of fans throughout the world in his 55-year career. In 2009, he broke new ground in one of reggae’s most fertile territories.

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john holt ripHolt travelled to Brazil for the first time in November that year with Gregory Isaacs for shows in Brasilia, Belém, Fortaleza and Sao Luis. Jimmy Cliff had a massive following in the South American country since the early 1970s and was friends with Brazilian singer/songwriter Gilberto Gil.

Other reggae acts had hordes of fans in Brazil but were unaware of their popularity.

They included Holt, The Gladiators, Eric Donaldson, Barbara Jones, Big Youth, Max Romeo and The Congos.

When Holt finally played Brazil, he was shocked at what the fans wanted.

“They didn’t know any of his hit songs. They wanted to hear songs he did from the 60s that he never sang again after he recorded them,” his manager, Copeland Forbes, recalled. “We had to get all these CDs with these (obscure) songs but once he heard the hook and chorus, it came back to him.”

Holt and Isaacs spent three weeks in Brazil, performing on outdoor shows to receptive audiences. Forbes says he was scheduled to return to Samba land for more shows this month.

— Howard Campbell



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