Ken Boothe was one of the most popular and soulful singers of the rocksteady era, arguably second only to Alton Ellis. Where Ellis was silky smooth, Boothe’s vocals were deeper and grittier, earning him a reputation as Jamaica’s answer to Wilson Pickett. First rising to popularity as part of a ska duo with Stranger Cole, Boothe forged a solo career on Clement « Coxsone » Dodd’s Studio One label during rocksteady’s prime, building a generous part of his repertoire on American soul covers. Even after the advent of Rastafarian roots reggae, he managed to score further hits with other producers, most notably the U.K. chart-topper Everything I Own.
Boothe was born in the Denham Town area of Kingston, Jamaica, on March 22, 1948. His mother and older sister were both singers as well, and Boothe grew up listening mostly to American soul music. He started performing in his teenage years, forming the duo Stranger & Ken with his friend Winston « Stranger » Cole. They cut several singles for Duke Reid and Leslie Kong before hitting their stride on Clement « Coxsone » Dodd’s Studio One label with a string of ska hits over 1963-1965: World’s Fair, Artibella, Hush, Thick in Your Love, All Your Friends. Dodd encouraged Boothe to record as a solo artist, and he and Cole both embarked on solo careers.