Lee Gopthal

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b. 1 March 1939, Constant Spring, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies, d. 29 August 1997. Gopthal is regarded as a pioneer in promoting Jamaican music. He moved to the UK in 1952 where he qualified as an accountant,…
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b. 1 March 1939, Constant Spring, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies, d. 29 August 1997. Gopthal is regarded as a pioneer in promoting Jamaican music. He moved to the UK in 1952 where he qualified as an accountant, and by the early 60s was representing producer Leslie Kong in the UK. Initially, Gopthal was involved in providing records for the West Indian population through his primary venture, Pyramid Records. By the early 60s Chris Blackwell had arrived in the UK and joined forces with Gopthal, who distributed Black Swan and Island Records pressings under the Beat And Commercial banner. The association led to the inauguration of the Muzik City chain, which sold Jamaican music within the Afro-Caribbean community. The shops were opened in and around London and included the legendary Desmond’s Hip City in Brixton. In 1967 Gopthal’s Pyramid label released Desmond Dekker’s ‘The Israelites’, which topped the UK charts two years after its release and is acknowledged as the first reggae tune to conquer the US charts. Gopthal and Blackwell co-founded Trojan Records in 1967, releasing Jamaican hits and allocating labels to represent the growing number of producers, including Lee Perry, Joe Gibbs, Duke Reid, Clancy Eccles and, for a brief period, Coxsone Dodd. Gopthal also worked with UK-based performers, including Dandy Livingstone, whose production of Tony Tribe’s version of Neil Diamond’s ‘Red Red Wine’ gave the company its first reggae hit on the UK chart. Following his label’s early chart success Gopthal also enjoyed mainstream hits with ‘The Liquidator’, by Harry J.’s Allstars, ‘Long Shot Kick De Bucket’ by the Pioneers, ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’ by Jimmy Cliff, and the double a-side, ‘Return Of Django’/‘Dollar In The Teeth’, by the Upsetters. The hits continued in abundance following the departure of Blackwell, who decided to concentrate on the lucrative rock market, although the Wailers later emerged as the label’s most significant asset. By 1974, with increasing financial problems, Trojan were unable to compete with the major record companies, and the label was eventually sold to Saga Records. Gopthal maintained a low profile within the music industry until the late 70s when he decided to pursue a career in commerce.