JOSEPH HILL - Culture Man
by Bob Baines
For those of us who learnt to love Roots Rockers alongside the sound of Punk in the Seventies the name Culture and their landmark album Two Sevens Clash holds a very special place. It was therefore a moment of great sadness to learn of the death of Joseph Hill, aged 57, in Berlin at the start of another European tour.
Hill started his career with the Soul Defenders at Studio One, but lack of success lead him, like many to singing for tourists to earn a living.
His formation of Culture, sharing vocals with Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes, was after his conversion to Rasta, and his faith shone through all of his music.
The vocal trio's first Joe Gibbs album Two Sevens Clash remains a classic and is their best known work. From the opening roar of the Lion to Zion through the proclamation of See Them A Come (I and I a Conquerer!), to the majestic closing I'm Not Ashamed (to shake out my locks), it is joyous journey. It was an album much loved by those of a punk persuasion, and the band were signed to Virgin's fledgling reggae label Frontline - via John Lydon.
The group made three albums before the label folded in 1980 or so. The music remains conscious, strident and full of wondrous harmony. The albums yielded many fine tunes and the collapse of Frontline did not derail the train, the fact that Joseph passed in Berlin at the start of another tour of Europe was testimony to continuing strength and power of his music. Culture toured the world and continued making records, and taking on digital rhythms.
Albert and Kenneth departed, returned and departed again but the spirit lived on, and continues in the sound of The Mighty Culture.