Shinehead Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Culturally Significant Debut Record ‘Billie Jean’ and His Birthday

Happy times are spilling over for Shinehead, who is celebrating both the 40th Anniversary of his debut record “Billie Jean” and his birthday! The classic recording on the African Love label signifies Shinehead’s unprecedented foray into the world of recorded music from sound systems. Notably, the Michael Jackson cover, along with other vibrant songs from Shinehead on the classic riddim, helped catapult Shinehead to international stardom. There’s a lot of rich history behind “Billie Jean” and the riddim, which Shinehead is anxious to share during the year long celebration.

“To be blessed with a record, which has played a pivotal role in Reggae and Dancehall music and culture for 40 years and another year of life in my youthful 60s are truly milestones to me,” says Shinehead gratefully.

Shinehead, a multihyphenate who was born in England and raised in Jamaica and the Bronx, got his start performing live with Tony Screw’s Downbeat the Ruler sound system and later African Love. Shinehead wowed new immigrants from Jamaica and other Caribbean nations with a combination of his rapid fire deejaying, crooning of pop ballads, rapping Hip Hop style and even whistling, As “Billie Jean” was first performed by Shinehead live on a sound system, the then rising artist incorporated the respective techniques into the debut record and ultimately his entire brand.

“Billie Jean” was a favorite among fans, music enthusiasts and naturally, sound boys. From the whistled start (a la Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”) to pitch perfect imitations of Michael Jackson’s yelps and a beautiful, yet raw, voice that spoke of a profound admiration for Pop excellence. Shinehead’s rendition of UK R&B artist Junior’s “Mama Used to Say” on the flip side of the “Billie Jean” 12 inch further cemented his legendary status as a musician. The latter similarly beamed with an opening whistle. This time around, the diverse artist drew for the sung intro to Tenor Saw’s “Who’s Gonna Help Me (Praise Jahovia).”

“If ever there was a riddim built for an artist – Billie Jean was built for Shinehead,” says music journalist Jeremy Freeman for

The Billie Jean riddim was a seamless match for Shinehead’s many skills, as he filled the sparse riddim with his infectious musical styles. Both sides used different mixes of the same riddim. The riddim was minimal, incorporating a drum machine driven simple pattern, heavy snare accents, offbeat fills and some keyboard stabs. It was the powerhouse bassline that rocked many a dancehall with it’s jarring and unexpected effect — the riddim had an intense “Jamaican” sound, but the slap of the snares had a layer of Hip Hop grit.

The Shinehead effect was indeed organic. The creative unimaginably transformed two massive US radio hits into something that was uniquely Shinehead, and moreover, uniquely New York Jamaican. Shinehead gained notoriety with the ‘Billie Jean’ cover and went on to release his debut album “Rough & Rugged” in 1986. This LP included another Michael Jackson cover, “Lady in My Life,” which was also based on the Billie Jean riddim and featured a whistle channeling Fiddler On The Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man!”

“Rough & Rugged” scored widespread popularity in New York and eventually reached mainstream listeners in the US, the UK, and Jamaica. As a result of this success, Shinehead became the first New York-based Reggae artist to sign to a major label when he signed a deal with Elektra Records.

In addition to the 40th Anniversary of Billie Jean, other 2024 milestones include the 30th Anniversary of his album “Troddin” and 25th Anniversary of the album “Praises.” The charismatic entertainer, who released the bangers “Never Had a Dream Come True” and “The Makings of You” during the pandemic, says he’s overdue for new music. While Shinehead envisions a Rocksteady project this calendar year, he is also set on more live shows, especially following the buzz of his landmark “Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise.”


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Media & Booking Contact:

Flair Lindsey
Caribbean Entertainment Publicist
Acclaim PR


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