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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Thirty years ago, a song brought the Jamaican capital, Kingston, to a standstill. It was called "Two Sevens Clash." "Two Sevens Clash" was so popular that an album was eventually built around it. And that record has been reissued for the 30th anniversary.

Here's music critic, Tom Terrell.

TOM TERRELL: Back in the '70s, I used to think that music, especially roots reggae music, mattered. Roots reggae is an uncompromising mixture of Marcus Garvey's up-you-mighty-race philosophy, Rastafarian spiritualism and Jamaican folkloric rhythms.

(Soundbite of song "Two Sevens Clash")

TERRELL: In 1976, Joseph Hill, Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes formed a roots reggae vocal trio they called Culture. In March of the next year, Culture released the single "Two Sevens Clash."

(Soundbite of song "Two Sevens Clash")

CULTURE (Reggae Band): (Singing) Wat a liiv an bambaie, when the two sevens clash.

TERRELL: Group leader Joseph Hill based his lyrics on an obscure prophecy of Marcus Garvey that says on the day the two sevens clash, the ruled will rise up against the rulers.

(Soundbite of song "Two Sevens Clash")

Mr. JOSEPH HILL (Vocalist, Culture): (Singing) My good old prophet Marcus Garvey prophesize, say: St. Jago de la Vega and Kingston is gonna read. And I can see with my own eyes, it's only a housing scheme that divide.

CULTURE: (Singing) Wat a liiv an bambaie, when the two sevens clash - it dread.

TERRELL: The "Two Sevens Clash" single quickly became a requested staple of the mobile sound systems that played for parties in the island's urban and country communities. The song's popularity slowly began to boil to the point that on 7/7/77, the day when the two sevens really clashed, the entire capital city of Kingston reportedly became a ghost town. Everyone, politician to businessman to ghetto residents, stayed indoors.

(Soundbite of song "Two Sevens Clash")

CULTURE: (Singing) Wat a liiv an bambaie, when the two sevens clash - it dread. Wat a liiv an bambaie, when the two sevens clash.

TERRELL: The apocalypse never happened. But from that point on, Rastafaris were taken seriously in Jamaica, and Culture became revered as the guiding light of roots reggae music. Fans demanded an album.

(Soundbite of song "Black Starliner")

Mr. HILL: (Singing) They take us away from our homeland. They take us away from our homeland. And we are slaving down here in Babylon. And we are slaving down here in Babylon. They are waiting on an opportunity. They are waiting on an opportunity. For the Black Starliner, which is to come.

TERRELL: Lead singer Joseph Hill delivered nine more tunes that defined the roots reggae genre. He used Culture as a vehicle for instilling consciousness and pride in being black, in being Rastafarian, in being Jamaican.

(Soundbite of song "I'm Not Ashamed")

Mr. HILL: (Singing) I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed to shake up my knots - not even in the street. I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed to shake up my knots - not even in church.

TERRELL: The album "Two Sevens Clash" was an unexpected hit beyond Jamaica. Both Joe Strummer of The Clash and John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols cited the album as having influenced their songwriting. In fact, Lydon returned the favor by recommending Culture to Richard Branson at the initial signing of Virgin Records' frontline imprint. The band went on to play for adoring fans in Japan, France and Germany, where Joseph Hill died unexpectedly last year. Thirty years after the song he wrote brought Jamaican society to a standstill. "Two Sevens Clash" remains one of the greatest reggae albums ever made.

BLOCK: The music is from the group, Culture. Our music critic is Tom Terrell.

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