The reggae foundation roots singer Jerome Ballin, known as Ronnie Davis, has died after suffering a stroke on January 23, 2017. He was surrounded by family as he peacefully passed on January 25. Davis, a native of Westmoreland, was a music legend a a former member of the Itals and The Tennors. He also founded the group Ronnie Davis & Idren and performed as a solo artist for many years. His career spanned 50 years and experienced a recent revival with the release of the album “Iyahcoustic,” on which he worked with top session guitarist Mitchum ‘Khan’ Chin and percussionist Congo Billy.
His musical career began in the 1960s when he formed a group called The Westmorlites. He received his big break in 1969 when he was invited to join The Tennors by Clive Murphy, the director of the group, to replace Maurice Johnson who had recently died. Davis recorded several singles with The Tennors, but always eyed a solo career. His first chart-topping tune was “Won’t You Come Home” produced by Lloyd Campbell in 1975. He recorded a lot of material with Bunny Lee, who produced his “Hard Times” solo album in 1977 and worked with other producers, including Phil Pratt, Lloydie Slim, and Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Davis achieved major success with The Itals: the group’s “Rasta Philosophy” recording received a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album in 1987. Davis pursued his solo career while remaining a member of The Itals, having several album releases in the 1980s. He left The Itals in 1995 to form the vocal group Ronnie Davis & Idren, which featured his friend Roy Smith, Robert Doctor and Lloyd Rickets, who was also a former member of The Itals. Their first album “Come Straight” was released in 1997 to high praise. Davis toured with The Pocket Brand in 2007 and 2008. He joined with Keith Porter and David Isaacs to tour as The Itals in 2009; Davis and Porter continued to tour after the deaths of Isaacs in 2009 and Lloyd Ricketts in 2011.
In 2012, The Tennors reunited after a hiatus of nearly 35 years, with George Murphy, known as “Clive Tennors,” Davis, and new member Henry Buckley, Jr., known as “Sadiki.” In 2016, The Davis album “Iyahcoustic,” produced by Sadiki on the Skinny Bwoy Records label, was released. Also in 2016, Davis, 66, made his first music video with “I Won’t Cry,” which was directed and produced by Sadiki, from the album “Iyacoustic.” Davis said he enjoyed doing the video, which was unlike anything he had ever done before.
“I am heartbroken by the news of Ronnie’s passing. We have been through so much. Ronnie is like a little brother to me” said Clive Murphy the leader and founder of the Tennors “The world has lost a great musician who loved life, God and his family”
Ronnie Davis is survived by his common-law wife Jennifer Ottey, his mother in England, his brothers and sisters, his daughters Shauna, Stacy, Simone and Jasmine, sons Ryan, Christopher, Jason, his grand-children, his extended family, and his many friends and fans.