Jacob Miller Death – A Huge Loss To Reggae

Jacob Miller died on March 23, 1980, in a vehicle accident in Jamaica. He was 27 years and 324 days old, and an internationally respected reggae musician when he died. He wrote songs, sang, and played guitar on his own solo recordings and with the band Inner Circle. Reggae artists are relatively unrepresented in the forever 27 club, but there have been famous early deaths in the genre – notably Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Other performers who became legendary reggae figures in the 70s have survived and thrived and have become the grand old men of roots, including Bunny Wailer and Burning Spear. But for Jacob Miller, an early death at 27 was a fate he could not escape, even with the help of Jah (Rastafarian for God).

A native-born Jamaican, Miller spent his later childhood years in the big city of Kingston. Drawn to music at a young age, he started making the rounds of the many recording studios in the capitol and eventually drew the attention of Clement Dodd. He ran a studio where he was involved in local up and coming artists, and he recognized Miller’s talents. After recording 3 songs for Dodd’s Studio One, Miller began a musical relationship with reggae pioneer and legend Augustus Pablo. He had several regional hits on the Rockers Sound System label with Augustus, and became a well-known island figure on the dance-hall circuit.

In late 1975, the reggae group Inner Circle was looking for a replacement lead singer, and Miller came to their attention. He fit in immediately and his signature vibrato became the easily recognized voice of the popular band. A contract with Capitol Records in 1976 led to the band releasing 2 albums over the next couple of years. At the same time, Miller maintained a solo career with several of his singles making the charts. He appeared in a movie about reggae called “Rockers” alongside such luminaries as Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, and Big Youth, as Inner Circle played a bar band and performed a number of their hits.

In the spring of 1980, Miller accompanied reggae superstar Bob Marley and Island records millionaire mogul Chris Blackwell on a trip to Brazil, where they were celebrating the establishment of the first company outpost on the South American continent. During this trip plans were made for Inner Circle to be the opening act on what would turn out to be Marley’s final world tour. Such an opportunity would have given the group a huge boost, and with an album recorded and ready for release and support, they were eager to hit the road. After his return to Jamaica from Brazil, Miller was driving alone on Hope Road in Kingston when he was involved in a deadly collision with another vehicle and died on the scene. His recorded legacy shows that he was a talented and savvy performer, and had an unlimited potential when he died at 27 and became a member of the infamous club.

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