Another pillar of reggae music has transitioned. Cecil “Skelly” Spence, one of the founding members of Israel Vibration, known for songs like “Rudeboy Shufflin” and “There Is No End,” has passed away. The news was confirmed via the group’s Instagram page.
It was revealed that he had been struggling with arthritis and was seeking therapy to remedy his situation.
“In the last few months he was doing therapy on his right hand and shoulder due to arthritis. Last week he was not feeling well and went to the hospital in New York where he just discovered he had an aggressive cancer with no possibility of treatment,” part of the post read.
It was also revealed that his last words were to send love to all his fans, and he also asked that they continue to pray for him.
Several well-known reggae artists like Gramps Morgan and Rohan Marley paid their respects in the comment section of the post.
Israel Vibration has a rather unique story that started with them meeting each other at a rehabilitation centre. The trio included Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin, Albert “Apple Gabriel” Craig, and Cecil Skelly Spence, and they all suffered from childhood polio. Some twenty years after they met at the Mona Rehabilitation Clinic, they formed the group.
They became a well-known name in reggae in the 1970s at a time when Rastafarianism was starting to take hold in Jamaica. Spence and Craig were the ones that got together in Kingston and sought out Bulgin. At the time, he was working as a tailor.
They originally named themselves Israel Vibration Israel Vibrates but eventually became known as Israel Vibration. Their success as a band was not immediate either, as in the early years of their career, they mostly survived by panhandling.
The group would eventually get the opportunity to start recording via a grant from the Twelve Tribes of Israel branch of Rastafari. The opportunity came after Hugh Booth, a member of the Twelve Tribes, heard them singing and was impressed.
Israel Vibration was ready for the chance, and in 1976, their debut release was the single “Why Worry,” which did well and earned them a call-up to share the stage with the greats of the time, including Dennis Brown, Inner Circle, and Bob Marley. The track was released on the Twelve Tribes label late that same year.
In 1978 they released their first album, The Same Song, which earned them international recognition. They were able to penetrate that market because of the input of their producer at the time, Tommy Cowan.
Following some controversial moments in trying to put out their third album, the trio moved to New York in 1982 to get better health care. Eventually, they split up and tried to launch solo careers.
They would get back together in 1987 and make their fourth album, Strength of my Life. In the end, the group came down to just two, Skelly and Wiss, as Apple once again left to pursue a solo career. On March 7, 2020, Apple died after suffering a stroke. Lascelle “Wiss” Bulgin is the last remaining member of the trio.
Our condolences go out to his family and fans at this time.