Stranger Cole was born Wilburn Theodore Cole in 1945 in Kingston, Jamaica, receiving the nickname "Stranger" because he resembled no one else in his family.
Cole began his recording career with producer Duke Reid, scoring a hit with his 1962 debut, "Rough & Tough," a full-tilt ska number with a wild harmonica solo. His Louis Jordan revival song, "Run Joe," was a hit in 1965, and featured members of the Techniques on harmony vocals. Stranger frequently used duet partners, most notably Patsy Todd and Ken Boothe, and later in his career, Gladstone Anderson (their version of "Just Like a River" is one of Cole's finest songs), stemming from an apparent shyness in the studio, but Cole developed into a soulful vocalist, and his songs radiate a kid of joyful personality that is rare in most reggae. Cole left Reid as the ska era waned, becoming sort of a maverick, cutting sides with several Jamaican producers, including Sonia Pottinger, Lee "Scratch" Perry (including the wonderful single, "Run Up Your Mouth"), and Bunny "Striker" Lee, before relocating to England in 1971, where he toured extensively. Cole moved to Toronto, Canada, in 1973, where he released three albums on his own label, The First Ten Years of Stranger Cole (1978), Captive Land (1980), and The Patriot (1982). In 2003, Trojan Records released Bangarang: The Best of Stranger Cole 1962-1972, a long overdue retrospective of this fine Jamaican singer's career. ~ Steve Leggett