Freddie attributes such longevity to his days at Studio One, where he began his recording career at the age of seven. Singer Ernest Wilson, a neighbour of Freddie's back in Clarendon, had taken him there during the Ska era, when Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and Bob Marley were among the label's biggest stars. Whenever Ernest wasn't singing with Peter Austin in the Clarendonians, he and Freddie would record as Fitzy & Freddie, voicing songs like 'Do Good', 'Why Did You Do' It and' Too Young To Love'. Freddie then returned home for a while before staying at Al Campbell's house in Kingston, where they'd rehearse songs such as Freedom, Justice & Equality, Deep Down In My Heart and When The Grass Is Green together. Freddie later voiced some of them for Bunny Lee, as well as Coxsone. This was in 1971, shortly before he became lead singer with the Generation Gap, who played a mix of soul, Reggae and pop material. Two years later and Freddie joined the Soul Syndicate, led by guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith, who would produce some of his most enduring Roots tunes, including Mark Of The Beast and Leave Yah. The decision to voice more conscious material had coincided with Freddie joining the Twelve Tribes Of Israel in 1975, when Bob Marley and Dennis Brown were also members. Roots classics like Rastaman Camp, Africa Here I Come and Wine Of Violence all date from this period and Rasta songs would form an important part of his repertoire from thereon, even as he continued to voice soul and lovers rock material. Like Dennis Brown and Horace Andy, he'd been encouraged to experiment with all different kind of songs at Studio One, as well as learn instruments. In fact Freddie plays drums on a lot of Studio One sides from the late seventies, when Johnny Osbourne, Sugar Minott and Jennifer Lara were also Brentford Road regulars.
In 1979 Niney the Observer released his debut album Mr. McGregor, from where the tracks 'Lover's Rock', 'Chant Down Babylon Kingdom', 'Jah Can Count On I' and 'Rastaman Camp' are taken. Niney had already scored notable success with Dennis Brown, and gave Freddie a more contemporary sound than Coxsone. That same year also saw the release of 'Natural Collie', based on Norman Collins' 'You Are My Starship'. Freddie then recorded 'Jogging' whilst working on Judy Mowatt's 'Black Woman' album at Tuff Gong studio on Hope Road. The success of this track - inspired by early morning exercises on the beach at Bull Bay - persuaded Coxsone to release Freddie's 'Bobby Babylon' album, featuring tracks recorded years earlier. A follow-up set from Niney called 'Lovers Rock JA Style' followed in 1981, and then albums for Linval Thompson ('Big Ship') and Joe Gibbs ('Love At First Sight') in 1982. The title track of 'Big Ship' was Freddie's biggest hit yet. He then went back to Coxsone to update tracks for his second Studio One album, 'I Am Ready'. This run of releases confirmed his status as one of the most important artists to emerge from Jamaica during the early Dancehall period. Together with Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs, he would stand head and shoulders above most other Reggae singers of the eighties, and especially after signing to US label, RAS Records in 1983.
He was touring with the Studio One Band at the time, featuring keyboard player Pablove Black, bassist Earl 'Bagga' Walker and drummer Cleveland Browne, prior to the latter's success with Steely & Clevie. 'Come On Over' was Freddie's first album for RAS, and took the Dancehall style to fresh heights by virtue of its melodic arrangements and superior craftsmanship. It was also the original source for 'Reggae Feeling', 'Rhythm So Nice', 'Short Man' and this impressive cover of Bob Marley's 'Natty Dread', which he adapted to suit his own story. ('I take a walk over Channel One, and then I walk up to Gibbo's studio…') 1984 was the year Freddie visited Ethiopia and became the first Reggae artist to perform on a Native American reservation. He also announced the launch of his own Big Ship label, although this wouldn't be officially inaugurated until the following year, once 'Across The Border' had cemented his relationship with RAS in outstanding fashion. The title track had been conceived during a previous US tour, whilst it was his growing popularity in South America (and especially Columbia) that had inspired him to record the Sandpipers' 'Guantanamera' in Spanish, and which ensured him of a hero's welcome on subsequent visits. 'Love Will Solve The Problem', 'War Mongers', 'Out Of The Valley' (which he'd written in Ethiopia) and remakes of two Studio One tracks, 'Freddie' and 'Freedom, Justice & Equality', were among the many other highlights found on this second RAS set, which many rate as Freddie's best-ever album.
The third of his RAS trilogy was the Grammy nominated 'All In The Same Boat', which the Washington-based label released in 1986. Freddie voiced the title track on the recommendation of his driver, who'd played it constantly on the tour bus. By this stage, he'd gotten into the habit of building some of his rhythm tracks first, and then adding lyrics later. This was the case with both 'Hungry Belly Pickney' and then 'Push Comes To Shove', which he wrote on the plane to Jamaica. The modern sound of this album - with Mallory Williams' keyboards again taking prominence - led to accusations that his music had become more commercial, except Freddie's always understood the importance of competing on the international market, and has broader musical sensibilities than most Reggae singers in any case.
A year later and he signed to Polydor, who released his 'Freddie McGregor' album and then gifted him the two biggest crossover hits of his career. 'Just Don't Want To Be Lonely' was a cover of a Main Ingredient hit, and a song he used to sing with Generation Gap. It was produced by Donovan Germain of Penthouse, and reached No. 9 on the UK charts in June 1987, with 'That Girl' going Top 50 three months later. Polydor also re-released Guantanamera in 1989, although they parted company with their only Reggae act soon afterwards. Freddie, who'd freelanced very little during his RAS deal, went back to taking care of his core market instead. 'And So I Will Wait For You', 'Stop Loving You' and 'Prophesy' (taken from the Steely & Clevie album, 'Now') were soon dominating Reggae charts worldwide, even as Freddie embarked on a trio of 'Jamaica Classics' albums, featuring hits by artists like Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown and the Melodians, among others. By 1992 he'd been voted Top Male Vocalist for three years running in Jamaica, and four times in total. Over the next five years he'd record six more albums - three produced by Gussie Clarke, and others self-produced, with the most recent tracks being recorded at his own Big Ship studio in Kingston. Albums with Mikey Spice, Luciano and the Wailing Souls demonstrated how quality, not quantity, was still Freddie's guiding principle, as witnessed on own No. 1 hit, 'I Feel Secure', or tracks by his latest discovery, singer Paul 'Lymie' Murray.
Freddie's most recent albums have featured a range of producers from Jamaica, America and England, where hits like 'Give Jah The Glory' and 'Keys To The City 'were recorded. The results prove that he's still on top of his game whether voicing tough roots and reality tracks, infectious rub-a-dub tunes or the kind of tender ballads that have long made him a favourite of the ladies. He also remains an exceptional singer/songwriter when the mood takes him. More than thirty years after his breakthrough, his music continues to cross all boundaries and appeal to every sector of the Reggae audience - even when singing in front of London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which he once did on shows shared with John Holt. Today, Freddie has both youth and experience on his side, and what a combination that is proving to be…