Boris Gardiner was born January 13, 1943 in Kingston. He attended the Franklyn Town Elementary School, and then the St. Monica’s College. His career in music began at the age of 17, after suffering from a heart condition called tachycardia. He was admitted to Kingston Public hospital for five weeks over a two-month period and was told by his doctor that there was nothing they could do for him to be well again; he would live with this condition for the rest of his life. Boris never went back to school, as he was constantly dealing with the weakness and fatigue from this condition. Furthermore, he also needed to walk a substantial amount to get to school, which was difficult for him to keep up with.
Band and Musician Journey
One day a musician by the name of Richard Ace, the leader of a singing group called The Rhythm Aces, came to Boris’ home and asked him if he was interested in leading his singing group. Boris, who was known to be a stand-out singer from his Primary School days, told Richard that he would give it a try.
Richard Ace, Boris, Dennis Moss and Delano Stewart rehearsed for weeks in preparation for their first show, at the Penguin night club on Deanery Road in Vineyard town. The band’s unmistakable groove and distinctive sound were an instant hit, and they began performing at many night clubs in Kingston thereafter. They soon recorded their first song, Angela, which was “an invitation” of sorts to the recording world. Their second single, a song written by Boris called A Thousand Teardrops, exploded in popularity to reach No. 2 on the JBC Radio top 20 charts (the number 1 radio station in Jamaica in the 60’s). Another hit followed, titled The Meaning Of Christmas, written by Boris and his brother Barrington Gardiner. The song has been rerecorded by Boris four times since, and still enjoys regular radio play every Christmas. After a couple of years, The Rhythm Aces came to an amicable end with all members going their separate ways. Boris then went on to join one of Jamaica's top bands at the time, called Kes Chin and The Souvenirs, singing in the band along with the late Dobby Dobson and Maurice Wynter. It was here that Boris began expanding his knowledge of other instruments, learning both guitar and percussion and eventually becoming the band’s rhythm guitarist.
Boris left Kes Chin after a couple of years due to bad management. Following this, he got a job with a band called Carlos Malcolm Afro/Jamaican Rhythm Band. After the bass player Audley Williams resigned and migrated to Canada, Carlos was unable to find a bass player who fit the part. He started coaching Boris as the band’s bassist and within a year Boris was playing like a pro, reading scores and writing music. After five years in Carlos Malcolm’s band, Boris decided that it was finally time to make his mark with his own band, and in 1967 he put a group together in a Steak House Restaurant called The Bronco,situated in Cross Roads, Kingston. In 1968 Boris also started playing bass in recording sessions at Studio One Recording Studio, performing on multiple recordings of hits by many Jamaican Stars like Bob Marley, Phillis Dillon, Marcia Griffiths, Bob Andy, The Heptones, Pat Kelly and The Techniques, and Alton Ellis. Boris also played Bass on his own international hit, I Wanna Wake Up with You, which was No. 1 in the UK and all over the world.
Boris the Jingle and Film Composer
Boris received his first assignment to compose a jingle from the Jamaican Lottery Company, which was just starting up at the time. This jingle was titled ‘Win Your Lot In The Lottery!’, and from there he started composing jingles for Moo Young Butler’sAdvertising Agency. To name just a few of the many jingles Boris worked on: Bank on NCB; It Takes Strong People to Build a Strong Nation (NCB), composed by Radcliff Butler and arranged and performed by Boris; Come Join The 5% Mortgage Revolution, a Victoria Mutual jingle performed by Alaine Lawson; and the Island Dairies Jingle, Island Dairies is Jamaica's Best, performed by a then teenage Nadine Sutherland.
In 1973 Calvin Lockhart came to Jamaica with the intention of making a movie. He wanted the film to be all Jamaican, and so he asked Boris if he could write some music for the movie. Calvin Lockhart gave Boris the name of the movie, which was “Every Nigger Is a Star”. Boris thought that it sounded challenging to come up with a song to that title, but he simply said, “OK – I’ll give it a shot.” Though the only experience Boris had with scoring music was for the Jamaica Pantomime, he phoned his brother Barry and told him about the project. The following week they started composing and came up with two songs: Every Nigger Is a Star and I’m Home Again, which were both accepted for the film. Boris then went to Channel 1 Studio with a host of musicians and singers to record the two songs and ended up with an album which included a few additional instrumentals.
After the movie was completed, it premiered at the Carib Theatre to a packed crowd. The next morning, the Daily Gleaner penned a scathing critique of “Every Nigger Is a Star” and dubbed the movie a big flop. The very next night, the theatre was almost empty – the film ended up being the flop of the decade. However, 1000 singles and 2000 Albums were pressed, which all sold out. These recordings were never pressed again. Over 40 years later, Boris got a call from none other than the legendary American rapper Kendrick LaMar! He wanted to use a sample of the record Every Nigger Is a Star as the first track of his new Album, “To Pimp A Butterfly”. Boris gave him the clearance to go ahead. The album was subsequently certified Platinum and won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. The very next year in 2017, a movie called “Moonlight” was being filmed, and the producer contacted Boris with a request to use the song in the movie. Boris again gave him permission to go ahead, and “Moonlight” went on to win four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
“It just shows – whatever you do, you should do it to the best of your ability, because it could do wonders for you later in life.”- Boris Gardiner
1986 - CANADIAN REGGAE MUSIC AWARDS - International Award for Top Reggae Single “I Wanna Wake Up With You”
1986 – ROCKERS AWARD – Reggae Single of the year “I Wanna Wake Up With You”
1996 – JAMAICA MUSIC INDUSTRY AWARD - Heineken Star Time
2006 – The Order of Distinction (O.D.)
2008 – ANNUAL CANADIAN REGGAE MUSIC AWARDS – International Award Of Merit.
2016 – JAMAICAN REGGAE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION – Musician Honour Award For Extraordinary Impact On The Reggae Industry
2019 – MARTINS INTERNATIONAL REGGAE AND WORLD MUSIC AWARD (IRAWMA) - Lifetime award
2019 – MINISTRY OF CULTURE, GENDER, ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORT - Reggae Gold