Puma Jones

Sandra “Puma” Jones (5 October 1953—28 January 1990) was an American singer, best known for her involvement with the Grammy Award-winning group, Black Uhuru.

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Jones graduated from Columbia University with a Masters Degree, before becoming a social worker in New York City. She studied dance with the Chuck Davis troupe where she took particular interest in African dance. After becoming disillusioned with city life she declared a need to “discover her roots” and headed for Jamaica – ostensibly on vacation, but intending to seek employment.

She sang with Miriam Makeba and Ras Michael, and the Sons of Negus. In 1978, through Ras Michael, she was introduced by a mutual friend to Derrick “Duckie” Simpson, who was looking to augment Black Uhuru following line up changes that had brought Michael Rose into the band. She joined Black Uhuru for the recording sessions of the 1979 album, Showcase. She went on to sing on seven studio albums, which represents the group’s most critically acclaimed period, culminating in Anthem earning the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1985 (the first year of the award’s existence).[1]

Jones was keen to exert her opinions on religious and social topics that feature in Black Uhuru‍ ’​s work. This was in a period where reggae musicians were often accused of being trite and dismissive of females in Jamaican society. The main inspiration of Black Uhuru, Michael Rose, quit the band in 1984, to manage a coffee farm, leaving Jones, Simpson and new member Delroy “Junior” Reid to try and keep the momentum going with the Brutal album in 1986.

Jones was committed to continuing with the band, but sometime leading up to the recording sessions of 1987’s Positive album she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As the illness worsened she was forced to step down and the album was completed with Olafunke as an uncredited backing vocalist. Jones returned to New York City for treatment, but died on 28 January 1990, aged 36. She was later buried near her family home in South Carolina.

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