Reggae’s Royal Family: Morgan Heritage lead singer ‘Peetah’ exits the stage at 46


Peter Morgan was one of the members of Morgan Heritage. He died last Sunday aged 46. 

During their first trip to Kenya in April 2009, the Jamaican band Morgan Heritage, allowed a handful of journalists to attend the band’s sound check before their concert at the Carnivore Grounds.

The group’s lead vocalist Peter “Peetah” Morgan was in charge of the session, listening to each instrument while singing a few lines of the hits from their setlist. Each time the band would stop playing whenever he signalled that the sound was not in harmony and after each pause, they would go again until everyone was satisfied.

That sneak peek into the workings of Peter, and his brothers Memmalatel “Mr Mojo”, Nakhamyah “Lukes” and Roy “Gramps” Morgan, (their sister Una arrived in Kenya later that evening in time for the concert), offered proof of the high standards that had propelled them to become one of the leading lights of reggae music.

That was also the start of Morgan Heritage’s love affair with Kenya that motivated them to establish a network in Nairobi and eventually collaborate with a host of African artists over the past decade.

The death of Peter, 46, which was announced last Sunday, has triggered an outpouring of tributes by the global community of fans of the band popularly known as Reggae’s Royal Family.

Peter Morgan will be remembered as the lead voice on timeless anthems like A Man Is Still A Man, Don’t Haffi Dread, Nothing to Smile About, Down by the River, and Best Friend.

Few groups have had a bigger impact on contemporary reggae than Morgan Heritage and Peter was right at the heart of the group’s success, not just as the frontman but also as an articulate personality on and off stage.

While his soulful voice was the identity of the group’s classic hits, his long, flowing dreadlocks with a white patch, were a striking presence each time he stood at the centre of the group’s performance.

Their “Roots Rock Reggae” brand is a fusion of classic reggae, based on social and political messages, and rhythms flavoured with elements of dancehall, R&B, pop, hip-hop and in recent years, Afrobeats. That style has appealed Morgan Heritage to transcend the confines of reggae and crossover to a broader music market.

“The future of Morgan Heritage is ever bright, our projects are to introduce each member to the audience and to make more progress,” said Peter Morgan in an interview with this writer in 2009. At the time he was addressing the anxieties of fans that the solo projects they were embarking on were a precursor to the dissolution of the group.

The strength of Morgan Heritage has been the individual strengths of the siblings. While Peter sang lead vocals supported by keyboardist Gramps, Mr Mojo was the percussionist and rapper. Guitarist Lukes has since left the group to concentrate on his artiste management company while Una had to step back from music to recover from ill health.

dn Morgan 1104 c

Peter Morgan was one of the members of Morgan Heritage. He died last Sunday aged 46. 

Morgan Heritage spread its influence around Africa through collaborations with a new generation of African stars.

“When you land in Zimbabwe, when you land in Malawi, when you land in Tanzania, when you land in Kenya, and hear that it is reggae music playing most of the day how can you walk away from that?” asked Peter in a 2015 interview.

Their 2019 album Loyalty was led by the single Africa Jamaica featuring Tanzanian star Diamond Platnumz and Stonebwoy from Ghana and the video for the single Pay Attention featuring Nigerian dancehall artiste Pato Ranking was shot in Nairobi and the Maasai Mara.

“Peter Morgan was an outstanding vocalist, super humble Rasta man and so easy to work with,” recalls Eric Musyoka who was among the producers on the album. “He was very chilled and quiet but when he stepped into the recording booth, his voice would make you tear up. He had amazing vocals.”

The group’s last album Homeland was a combination of reggae and dancehall with Afropop featuring collaborations with African stars like legendary Ivorian Alpha Blondy, Made Kuti, son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, Ugandan stars Jose Chameleone and Eddy Kenzo. Other stars on the 2023 album are Senegalese legend Youssou N’Dour, Shatta Wale, Rocky Dawuni and Stonebwoy of Ghana, Jah Prayzah of Zimbabwe and Kenyan star Otile Brown.

In the title track, Peter opens by singing the opening verse “standing on top of Mount Kenya, looking over the world as the sun blesses my skin” We have to use music to shine a light on Kenya to the world and put the youth at the forefront of that movement,” said Peter.

Peter Anthony Morgan and his siblings were born in Brooklyn, New York, where their father legendary Jamaican singer Denroy Morgan, had emigrated in 1965. They were educated in Springfield, Massachusetts and moved to Jamaica in the mid-1990s.

Their first recording contract was with the global giant MCA Records, the label under which they released their debut album Miracle in 1994. They won their first Grammy Award for the album Strictly Roots in 2015 and earned a nomination for the same award for the album Abrakedabra in 2017.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.