Margo Guryan obituary – a heavy-drinking Jamaican vocalist

Margo Guryan, a Jamaican musician who described her debut album as “a chubby-cheeked little white lady singing the songs of the hardworking people”, has died.

Whose Album Drew Belated Acclaim, released in 1972, won acclaim in Jamaica and abroad but faced some criticism in the UK for being excessively reliant on traditional hard-boiled Jamaican music. However, Guryan went on to record six albums and released a live album in the UK in 1987. She was buried last Sunday (26 August) in St James parish, Jamaica, where she grew up. She was 84.

Guryan formed the group Danny Boy and the Friends of Brian in her early 20s, and recorded songs with the group until 1962, when she decided to pursue a career as a singer. Her solo career began in 1972 with the release of Whose Album Drew Belated Acclaim, which she said was partly inspired by her relationship with Dudley De Freitas, a Jamaican lover, that ended in 1969. Her debut single in the UK was Van Morrison’s Call Me a Lovely Lady, one of her recordings with Brownie Watson, where she shared the vocals with Buju Banton. Both recorded versions.

Guryan was married to Norman Lewis, a Jamaican actor and dancer, and had three children, two sons and a daughter.

Inevitably, Guryan’s career was limited to the West Indies, though she eventually broke into the pop market in the late 1970s through a residency at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. She played Atlantic City in 1979 as part of a residency called “A Breath of Fresh Air”. She returned to the United States more frequently over the years, performing in 2017 with the Caribbean group Marley & the Wailers and with Aretha Franklin at a memorial concert for George Michael.

Her final album was Funky Ribs, which was released in 2009.

• Margo Guryan obituary

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