Jamaican musicians and fans shocked at passing of soulful roots reggae singer ‘Peetah’ Morgan at age 46

Screenshot of Jamaican reggae band Morgan Heritage's lead singer, ‘Peetah’ Morgan, taken from the band's ‘Perfect Love Song’ music video on YouTube.

Lead singer with the Jamaican “family reggae band” Morgan Heritage, Peter (“Peetah”) Morgan, passed away on February 25. Although the Morgan family did not disclose the cause of death, a close associate of the band commented that he may have suffered a stroke (unconfirmed by the family).

On its X page (formerly Twitter), Morgan Heritage wrote, “It is out of sincere love that we share that our beloved husband, father, son, and brother and lead singer of Morgan Heritage, Peter Anthony Morgan, has ascended today. Jah come and save us from ourselves because love is the only way. […]”

Peter, the son of well-known reggae singer Denroy Morgan, who died in 2022, was one of five siblings. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1977, he moved back to Jamaica with his family soon after. The family formed the group Morgan Heritage in 1994; that same year, they released their debut album “Miracles” and gave their first performance at Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica. Two original band members, Una Morgan and Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan, subsequently left the group, which then consisted of “Peetah,” Roy “Gramps” Morgan — who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee — and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan.

The group became known globally as a “conscious” reggae band, with lyrics infused with social awareness backed by roots reggae rhythms. They were more popular overseas than in Jamaica itself, and toured the United States and Europe many times performing many of their most popular songs, including “Don’t Haffi Dread (To Be Rasta),” “Down by the River,” “She’s Still Loving Me,” and “Reggae Bring Back Love.”

Younger Jamaicans, though familiar with the name, had not heard much of their music, although the group won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2016 for their album “Strictly Roots.” The album spent 44 weeks on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart, peaking at Number One. The band, which has produced 12 studio albums to date, was nominated for another Grammy in 2017.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness posted:

The prime minister shared photographs of himself with the brothers, “Gramps” and “Peetah,” at an Independence Day celebration on August 6, 2023, when he and Minister of Culture Olivia “Babsy” Grange presented Morgan Heritage with the Reggae Icon Award.

Minister Grange shared:

She added:

Tributes poured in from many local and overseas-based reggae musicians once news of his death came in, with many expressing shock.

Among the most powerful and emotionally charged tributes was from Jamaican deejay Buju Banton, who, on Instagram, recalled first hearing Morgan Heritage over 25 years ago in Bushwick, Brooklyn: “I was completely in love with the sound, the work ethic and the good vibe I felt. That day, I immediately added them to my European tour dates and would go on to bring that sound to the world […] We have always kept it honest with all we have done for our people and people of the world by extension.”

Banton shared that he and “Peetah,” whom he regarded as “the brother [he] never had,” spent the last two weeks together “working on a very special project.” Lamenting that he was saddened by the sudden turn of events, he added, “You are totally a reggae music superstar who gave from where our father said we should, our hearts. All those memories, all that laughter, all those tours. I am going to miss you Peter and I will comfort myself with this thought. You cannot come to us but we must come to where you are. Until then Peter, I love you.”

Fellow Grammy Award-winning singer Kabaka Pyramid also posted on Instagram, “Physical life is temporary. Thankfully the soul is eternal. Cherish life each and every day. My deepest i-dolences to the @morganheritage family. Such a great human being and impeccable singer @peetahmusic. An inspiration to us all. Give thanks for a great life that seems so short lived 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾”

One radio station and sound system operator shared:

Veteran British reggae DJ David Rodigan shared:

The popular Jamaican music festival Reggae Sumfest posted footage of the singer performing at last year’s festival (July 2023):

Peter Morgan was known – and much loved – for his soulful interpretation of socially conscious lyrics. One fan posted:

Another posted on TikTok that his lyrics were always thought-provoking:

“If you follow reggae music and country music, it’s a lot of storytelling,” Morgan told The Associated Press in 2018. “In reggae we tell the story of people suffering.”

His sweet tenor voice certainly expressed the struggles of life beautifully.

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