On March 29, at about 9:45 p.m. local time on a humid night in Kingston, Jamaica, the lead singer of the reggae music trio Mighty Diamonds, Donald “Tabby Diamond” Shaw, 67, was shot dead near his home on McKinsey Crescent, Olympic Gardens. Also shot dead was another man, Owen Beckford, and three others were shot and injured in the attack, which took place at a popular community social spot.
From the crime scene, The Jamaica Gleaner tweeted:
BREAKING: Reggae musician ‘Tabby Diamond’ of the legendary trio Mighty Diamonds is among two people shot dead in a drive-by attack on McKinley Crescent in the St Andrew South Police Division. Three other people injured.
- Andre Williams video
Read more: https://t.co/Mesrjr2iXV pic.twitter.com/td4GU98DW7
— Jamaica Gleaner (@JamaicaGleaner) March 30, 2022
A video showing Shaw singing and dancing with friends on the street outside his house, allegedly just before he was killed, was widely circulated on social media:
We will miss the the ‘two steps Rock & lean back’ trademark Skankin of Tabby, lead singer of the legendary Reggae group #MightyDiamonds who has passed on.🙏🏾🇯🇲 pic.twitter.com/9Zu3xsNGoP
— DancersOfJamaica (@Dancers_Jamaica) March 30, 2022
While police are still investigating the murders, there is speculation that they may be linked to a long-running gang dispute. Shaw's son is currently in custody on a murder charge, and Shaw may have been deliberately targeted, the police surmise.
Culture and Entertainment Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange shared her condolences, observing:
Tabby’s killing is as senseless as it is tragic and leaves an awful void in the Jamaican music landscape.
Shaw's soulful tenor voice was instantly recognisable, backed up by smooth harmonies from his former school friends Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson and Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson. Formed in Trench Town in 1969 (and initially called Limelight), Mighty Diamonds became famous for their “conscious” music infused with Rastafari beliefs, which often focused on social issues of the time.
The trio reportedly held the record for the longest surviving reggae group, still touring both overseas and at home up until last year. They recorded over 40 albums together. Although Tabby Diamond rarely made music without his other two band members, in 2020 he released a single entitled “This World (Is Going Up in Flames).” The video, recorded in his neighbourhood, featured young children playing and was reflective of Tabby's gentle and loving nature.
Mighty Diamonds got their major break in 1975, when they began to record with Joseph “Jo Jo” Hoo Kim‘s Channel One Studio. Their debut album “Right Time,” released by Virgin Records in 1976, became a reggae classic, filled with melodies and thoughtful lyrics. They reaped — and maintained — considerable international success, producing an album called “Deeper Roots” in 1979 and the Gussie Clarke-produced “Changes,” which included the extremely popular song “Pass the Kutchie”. There were many subsequent versions of this song, including British-Jamaican reggae band Musical Youth's “Pass the Dutchie”, which altered the original lyrics to remove mention of the ganja pipe, and became a huge hit in the United Kingdom.
In a newspaper interview, Shaw's former producer reflected:
Tabby's sound and persona and his voice were all basically compatible. He was smooth, cool, not a problematic person, pleasing, touching to the soul. He took everything in stride, he was one of the humblest persons I knew, nothing was a problem to him, he didn't talk much. He would smoke weed and when it was time for him to sing, he was like a bird from heaven.
Members of the local music fraternity expressed shock at his death, with popular dancehall deejay Beenie Man tweeting:
Tread careful in Jamaica. These are some cruel times. 🙏🏿 #RipTabbyDiamond
— Beenie Man (@KingBeenieMan) March 30, 2022
Reggae singer Nadine Sutherland paid tribute:
Respect! One of the best voices in the Reggae Music Industry. You gave the world a lot of joy. Rest King. pic.twitter.com/pYxjJI5j9R
— NadineSutherland (@Nadinesutherlan) March 30, 2022
She followed up with a lyric which seemed to prophesy difficult times:
‘Rememba wey Marcus Garvey sey, time ago dread'! – Mighty Diamonds, Tabby Diamonds on lead. https://t.co/Zlt2zdpHwf
— NadineSutherland (@Nadinesutherlan) March 30, 2022
Commentator Wayne Chen quoted another Mighty Diamonds lyric:
“When the right time come,
some ah go charge fi murder”
R.I.P. Donald ‘Tabby Diamond’ Shaw, Jamaican singer and songwriter; founding member of The Mighty Diamonds.https://t.co/Cxe8Bpml4h pic.twitter.com/Gz1Bf35zwU
— Wayne Chen (@wcchen) March 30, 2022
As Jamaican social media users lamented over the tragic incident, there was a general concern about violent crime in the country:
#NewsUPDATE: Jamaicans are front and centre with criminal violence for yet another day, and this time the victim is a music icon.
‘Tabby Diamond’ of the legendary reggae group, Mighty Diamonds whose real name is Donald Shaw, was shot and killed last night https://t.co/6FayuN4n2H pic.twitter.com/ky5uBGRi2O
— Jamaica Social (@CassiusWatson) March 30, 2022
A passionate U.S.-based fan of vintage reggae, Stephen Cooper, tweeted his shock and sadness:
This is how I'm gonna remember Tabby Diamond–singing, dancing, and doing his thing at the Dub Club. What a brutal world when a peaceful Rastaman, a legendary singer, a man like Tabby, can just be shot and killed in the twilight of his life. It's gonna take time to process this. pic.twitter.com/GZ35Q8C3UP
— Stephen Cooper👨🏻⚖️ (@SteveCooperEsq) March 30, 2022
In a radio interview, a police officer discussing the crime said that murders had declined by 40 percent and shootings by 41 percent in the troubled area. Despite this, the general perception of rising crime persists in light of Tabby's murder. One Jamaican music executive shared on Twitter:
Something has to give with the all these murders of young children and now Tabby Diamond of the Mighty Diamonds.
Waking up to this news is stressful.
— oDessa (@oblessa) March 30, 2022
Dub poet and radio commentator Mutabaruka tweeted a question many Jamaicans are asking, summed up in the Mighty Diamonds’ song from back in the 1970s:
The Mighty Diamonds – Why Me Black Brother? Why? #TabbyDiamond https://t.co/5rWiU2j579
— Mutabaruka (@Mutabaruka_Ja) March 30, 2022
As Jamaicans try to find answers to that question, they mourn a much-loved musician whose songs resonated out of his troubled community to the wider world, and an elder who was called “Grandfather” by the children in his neighbourhood.