Aitken, Lorenzo “Laurel”
- David Simonelli
was born Oliver Anthony Stephens on 22 April 1927 in Santiago, Cuba, to a Jamaican father and a Cuban mother. One of six brothers, he spent his early childhood in Cuba, speaking Spanish; over the years, he learned Italian and French as well, and his multilingual singing abilities would contribute to his international marketability as a pop singer. His father moved the family back to Kingston, Jamaica, in 1938, where Stephens absorbed many different styles of music over the radio and in the streets—American rhythm and blues heard over New Orleans radio stations broadcast across the Caribbean, the hits of jazz crooners from the United States and Britain, and mento, the local guitar and horn version of calypso in Jamaica. In 1942, at age 15, he sang in a major local talent show Vere John’s Opportunity Hour, winning and collecting 2 pounds; he entered Opportunity Hour ...
A version of this article originally appeared in The Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography.