Joe Higgs’ Life Of Contradiction LP is, without doubt, one of the most seminal reggae records of all time. Originally recorded for Chris Blackwell of Island Records, the rights of Life Of Contradiction were then given to Joe Higgs, affectionately known as ‘The Father Of Reggae’, who released the album in Jamaica and the UK in 1975. It was immediately obvious that this was a unique collection and coming from a different direction to the other reggae releases of the period. Although Joe had first recorded some of the songs in the early sixties, it was as if he was at last able to realise a vision of his own music that had been previously denied to him: either by financial constraints or from not having the right situation with the right musicians.
The album bristles with ingenuity, word play and heartfelt conviction. Joe’s songs were always well structured and less groove based than the music that was coming out of Jamaica at the time of the release. Consequently the album has always stood out and has retained its timeless feel.
Joe Higgs was the very first artist out the ghetto music scene to have lyrics which primarily dealt with every day troubles. In his own words, “Reggae music originated from the confrontation of the struggle…It is the kind of strength that you have to accumulate. It is the confrontation of the soul, man. It has to have a basic vibrant song which is to be heard in a ghetto playin’ the bass and drums very loud. Those harbor the basic songs. It should be accepted in a part of the world in the same sense; freedom, that’s what it’s askin’ for; acceptance, that’s what it means. An understanding. That’s what the music says. A certain love comes from hard struggle, long suffering. A certain love that through pain, you gorge yourself with that hope for freedom. Not to give up.”
Joe Higgs was also the foremost element in giving direction to The Wailers in the early 70’s. The sound of this record parallels those of the early Wailers albums in the post-Lee Perry 70’s. Here are some comments from the widely-known Wailers crew regarding the immensely underappreciated Father Of Reggae Music:
“Joe Higgs was a brother amongst the Wailers for years. He offered encouragement and he inspired us and kept us together.” – Peter Tosh
“We looked up to Joe Higgs. He was something like a musical guardian for us. He was a more professional singer because he was workin’ for years wit’ a fella named Delroy Wilson as Higgs & Wilson. They had a lotta hits and they had the knowledge of the harmony techniques, so he taught us them.” – Bunny Wailer
“Joe Higgs helped me understand the dynamics of reggae music. He taught me many tings and is one of the main factors in my international success. Joe Higgs is a genius.” – Bob Marley