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Prince Buster (1938 – 2016)

by Kirk Fox

Prince Buster, a legendary pioneer of ska music, has died at 78.

Prince Buster, a legendary pioneer of ska music, has died at 78, according to multiple news sources. 

His son Kareem Ali has confirmed that Prince Buster died Sept. 8 in a South Florida hospital. 


He was born Cecil Bustamente Campbell May 24, 1938, in Kingston, Jamaica. During the 1950s, he sang in several bands around Kingston. He also had developed a reputation as a good street fighter. He took on the name Prince Buster as Buster was his nickname, and he added Prince for his boxing exploits. 

He was a pioneer of ska music in Jamaica. Buster had many hit ska singles in his home country. A new style of music in Jamaica, called rocksteady, took over after ska. Buster had many hit songs as well in that genre. He took on a new persona for his rocksteady music, calling himself Judge Dread.

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He was the first Jamaican artist to have a top-20 hit in Britain. That song, “Al Capone,” was released in 1975. He had a down period in the 1970s when roots reggae became popular. 

His influence came back in the late 1970s as his music fueled the ska revival in England. The popular ska band Madness was heavily influenced by Buster. The band had a top-10 hit with a cover version of Prince Buster’s song “One Step Beyond.”

Buster did make a brief comeback, touring in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 2001, Buster received the Order of Distinction in Jamaica for his contributions to the development of the country’s music industry.

Prince Buster converted to Islam after meeting Muhammad Ali. He is survived by his wife, Mola Ali, and his children.

Neville Staple of the ska band the Specials tweeted, “Rest in peace Prince Buster. & tanks fe the inspiration. With love from @NevilleStaple.”

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