Sanchez is the anti-Pat Boone.
Where the conservative crooner made early rock and roll "safe" in the '50s by taking all the edge of out of songs like "Tutti Frutti," Sanchez has made a career of refashioning the schmaltziest pop and R&B songs into dangerous, seductive dancehall and reggae.
The Kingston, Jamaica native (the "Sanchez" moniker was a reference to a popular footballer whose soccer skills the singer was said to favor) debuted in 1987 with a cover of Chris de Burg's "Lady In Red." Among his best loved tunes is a rather timeless dancehall version of "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone," an impossibly dated sounding and mostly forgotten 1986 ballad by Jermaine Jackson.
The crooner--who now calls Broward County home--is set to bring his catalog of covers and originals (hip-hop heads may recognize his "One In A Million" as the sample from Cam'Ron and the Diplomats' "Dipset Anthem") to the Best of the Best festival at Bayfront Park on Sunday. Ahead of his performance, Crossfade spoke to Sanchez about the appeal of covers vs. originals, getting props from Tracy Chapman and why he won't play soccer anymore.
Crossfade: Best of the Best is one of the only dancehall festivals running right now. What's the significance of it in your view?
It's a great exposure. Everybody from every end of the world comes to this gig. They have the ting together so I guess that's the reason why they're still doing good.
Do you do a different set at a big festival like this, versus say a club where everyone knows your music?
Of course, you have to drop one or two things in there so you have something that the people living here [in the U.S.] are more familiar with. You have to drop a little something in there for the teens coming up.
You're known for your cover songs. What songs out right now would you like to do a version of?
That song called "When I Was Your Man." [Sings Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your
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Man"]. That's kind of off key. That's my No. 1 song. And that song by Chris Brown. I forget the name. But I know Chris Brown has a big hit that all dem likkle girls love and ting. I would love to do them over but my caliber right now is I've been there, done that. It would be a good thing, but it would just be for the fun of it. All of my songs now, I'm writing. [There] are some things I had in myself over the years and just wanted to get them out but I never get the riddims. Because certain riddims [make you] talk about certain things. I needed some lift, got it and I'm working on it. Most of my riddims now, I played them.
You're playing all of the instruments?
Yes. I play drums, bass and rhythm guitars. I used to play in my church. My project is out on iTunes-- it's called Like a General. I think I have about three covers out of 15 tracks. Everybody kept saying, "No, singer, you can't finish the album without something we're used to. We want to hear you how we used to hear you." So I have a few covers.
Have you ever had the chance to compare notes with any of the singers you've covered?
The only person is Tracy [Chapman]. Well, I didn't really speak with her in person or on the phone. It was just something that was written and I read it. She was commending me on doing a good version of ["Baby Can I Hold You Tonight."]
You got your name from your soccer skills. Do you still play?
No. The last game I played, I was running with the ball, running so fast I didn't realize that the goalpost was easily movable. The speed I was going, I couldn't even brake. I tripped and I fell onto the top bar and tried to flip over, and when I went underneath it, I fell on my back and the front came down and fell on my mouth and I lost about four or five of my teeth. I decided not to play again. When my wife saw me she almost passed out.The football thing--I like it, I love it, I watch it. But I wouldn't play it again.
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Soccer is big in Jamaica. And from Bob Marley on down, it seems like every reggae artist plays. You ever played with any other artists?
No. It's something I have wanted to do. Because I know that no star is playing to hurt another, I would prefer playing with them. I know it's a friendly thing. You have some people you go up against, and they're going to want to kick you or hit you. Me nuh want to play. But I would play a 'friendly' [match] of course.
Best of the Best 2013. With Beenie Man, Beres Hammond, and others. Saturday, May 26. Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The festival begins at 4 p.m. and tickets cost $47 to $137 plus fees via bestofthebestconcert.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-358-7550 or visit bayfrontparkmiami.com.