Maxi Priest

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About Maxi Priest

Maxi Priest’s velvety voice helped make him one of the world’s biggest reggae stars in the 1980s and ’90s. Veering away from the politically inclined roots sound of Bob Marley, Priest’s R&B-leaning lovers rock—exemplified by hits like 1990’s U.S. chart topper “Close to You”—leveraged reggae’s easygoing syncopation for maximum knee-wobbling effect as he made audiences swoon across the UK, Europe, and the United States. Born Max Elliott in 1961 to Jamaican immigrant parents in southeast London, he grew up singing gospel with his family in a Pentecostal church before making his debut in 1981 at live dancehall performances as a member of the famed Saxon Studio International sound system. His commercial breakthrough came in 1988 with a breezy, Sly and Robbie-produced cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” (a single from his third album, Maxi), and over the next decade he increasingly embraced elements of R&B and pop in collaborations with artists like Shaggy and Roberta Flack. He kept busy throughout the 2000s and 2010s, and his bluesy 2020 effort United State of Mind (recorded with Robin Trower and Livingstone Brown) shows Priest’s lovely voice only growing richer with time.

Lewisham, London, England
June 10, 1961

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