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  • Writer's pictureSoul City Cleveland

The Electrifying Legacy of David “Papa Dave” Smeltz

Updated: Mar 21

By Fanon Hill

"Reggae got soul

Got so much soul

Reggae got soul

Got so much soul

Listen to the beat

Move your dancing feet

Rock your body line

Move in time"

-Frederick Nathaniel "Toots" Hibbert, OJ

Spring has set the stage for rebirth and renewal! In Cleveland, the harmonious dance between Spring's embrace and rebirth is showcased by the lasting impact of David “Papa Dave” Smeltz.

“Papa Dave”, the founder and guitarist of the influential reggae band I-Tal, played a vital role in shaping Cleveland's reggae music scene. I-Tal's journey into reggae coincided with the genre's rise in the United States, spreading from the Caribbean and England. The band gained popularity locally, touring regionally showcasing the universal charm of reggae that transcends borders.

“Papa Dave’s” legacy extends beyond music to impact one of the most pressing issues in every community: the disease of addiction. He founded Clean House, Inc. to help those suffering from addiction to find a road to recovery. Equally significant, he authored Clean: From Reggae to Recovery, a genuine memoir that tells his gripping story of purposeful growth.

“Papa Dave” performs at a 2020 Waterloo Makes Music concert.

“Papa Dave” strongly believed in the transformative power of renewal through 'playing it forward'. During his journey, he crossed paths with individuals such as Cindy Barber, the executive director of the non-profit organization Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present and Future (CR:PPF). The mission of CR:PPF is to support and preserve Cleveland’s popular music culture and enrich local social welfare and economic growth by stimulating music-centered initiatives. Barber has been instrumental in safeguarding “Papa Dave’s” legacy for future generations by archiving CR:PPF sponsored concerts that showcased “Papa Dave’s” artistry, along with historic concerts that honor his enduring impact.

A profoundly soulful musician, "Papa Dave" has left a lasting imprint on Cleveland's music scene and the global reggae community. Beyond music, his influence extends to inspiration, and fostering unity within the community.

In 2020, during a CR:PPF Waterloo Makes Music concert featuring “Papa Dave” with his band the Smeltzones, a heartwarming moment unfolded during the last song of their set. The maestro, ever the embodiment of mentorship, beckoned to a child in the crowd, inviting him to ascend the stage and join him in a rhythmic dance with the percussion instruments. Together, beneath the canopy of the Waterloo Arts District’s glowing sky, they moved their dancing feet in the rhythm of regeneration.

Papa Dave” had soul, and his ability to connect through music enriched Cleveland's very heartbeat. 

Mr. David Hall Smeltz "Papa Dave," passed away on June 24, 2021 from COVID virus complications.

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