chapter  7
16 Pages

‘Men Cry Too’: Black Masculinities and the Feminisation of Lovers Rock in the UK

In 1986, reggae giant Peter Tosh was interviewed in New York about his album, Captured Live and its lack of promotion in the US by his recording label, EMI. While being interviewed, Tosh spoke out against the ubiquitous nature of love songs in the music marketplace. Tosh’s antipathy towards romantic love songs can be read in the context of an anxious temporal moment for reggae music within the transnational and diasporic webs of Jamaican popular culture. Internationally, after the death of Bob Marley, the hope that roots reggae would continue to flourish among mainstream white audiences had failed to materialise (Bradley, 2001). By the mid-1980s, dancehall ‘ragga’ and ‘bashment’ were in the ascendant and the centrality of an erotic politics through themes of sex and sexuality (Cooper, 2004; Noble, 2008) had begun to usurp the hegemony of roots reggae. In the same year that Tosh declared his objection to love songs, lovers rock’s1 most successful artist,

Maxi Priest, scored a UK top 40 hit with his track ‘Strollin’ On’ (1986). Lovers rock was finding an international audience and the tectonic plates of reggae were shifting from militant decolonising responses against legacies of global racial injustice to a more individualised politics, ‘increasingly traced on the intimate contours of the body and the self, through practices of personal consumption, erotic hedonism and style as key performances of freedom’ (Noble, 2008, p. 106).