Tenor Saw, Clive Bright, was born December 2nd 1966. He had with out question one of the most original voices in Reggae music. At a young age he sang in his Seventh Day Adventist church. Bright fell in love with singing and approached several local music producers only to be turned away. When he was 17 years old producer George Phang gave him a shot with his first single “Roll Call” on the “Queen Majesty Riddim”. It became an instant success in the dancehall. Shortly after he began working with Sugar Minott’s Youth Promotion sound system and released hits like “Pumpkin Belly” on King Jammy’s now classic Sleng Teng riddim, “Fever” the title of his album, “Lots of Sign” and his biggest hit “Ring the Alarm”. Most of the riddims were digital interpretations of classic 1960’s or 70’s Jamaican hits from producers like Coxsone Dodd or Duke Reid. This was Reggae’s early digital era and Tenor Saw’s voice was infectious on the riddims.
After a string of early hits Tenor Saw focused on stage shows. He moved to Miami where he worked with the Skengdon crew and recorded “Dancehall Feeling” and “Bad Boys”. He also recorded “No Work On a Sunday” produced by Donovan Germain. Tenor Saw loved to perform but did not record as often as many artists in his day. However the ones he made are classics to this day. Later he moved to New York and toured cities all over the US, Europe and Japan doing club, festival and concert dates. Here is Tenor Saw performing at Japan Splash in 1986 at 19 years old.
Tragically in August 1988 at only 21 years old Tenor Saw was found dead in Houston, Texas. The details surrounding his death are not clear and leave room for doubt and suspicion. It was ruled as a hit and run accident but he was found in rural Houston with two broken legs, severe trauma to his head and had contracted bronchial pneumonia from the time of his injuries to the time of death. A black man from a foreign country being found dead alone outside of Houston Texas in the 80’s is the plot for a powerful movie. Riddled with cover ups and crooked police officers, a crooked judge and a young lawyer on a crusade for justice. Tenor Saw was a great loss to Reggae music. The life of any artist can be rough even when they are experiencing early success. We hope that young artists while enjoying their successes will pay attention to the stories of those that went before them and appreciate the journey. Sometimes it is too short.
Here is a video of the life and career of the young and talented Tenor Saw…