There’s only one reference to Jesus in my iTunes folder. that’s Jesus on a Greyhound by Shelby Lynne, whereas there’s 29 where the first word is Jah. Jesus is not of any interest to me musically or otherwise but when I became involved with reggae I quickly realized that it was a socially conscious music with a strong Rasta religious component. I’m very interested in the music and in Rasta but I must say that I have a hard time with the Selassie/Jah reverence but I accept it and I enjoy the music as much as I enjoy a lot of European religious music, in most cases having no idea what the songs are about but appreciating the overall sounds, case in point, Faure’s Requiem.
Having said that let me offer a sample of alternate variations on the theme of Jesus et.al. Jah is Jehovah, Jehovah is Yarwey from the Hebrew old testament, many Rasta believe that Selassie is the second coming of Christ and they accorded him the name Jah Ras Tafari. Here’s some Jamaican songs of praise.
1. Jah Live – Bob Marley
2. Rivers Of Babylon – Ronnie Davis
3. Nyah Bingi – Jimmy Riley
4. Hold On To Jah – Reggae George
5. A Yah Weh De – Barrington Levy
6. Give Thanks – Johnny Clarke
7. Jah Jah Give Us Love – Cornell Campbell
8. Give Thanks And Praise – Bob Marley
9. Have Faith In Jah – Michael Palmer
10. Praise Jah With Love And Affection – Don Carlos
11. Jah Praise – The Maytones
12. Jah Oh Jah – The Viceroys
13. Forever Loving Jah – Bob Marley
There was a post here recently concerning famous people that you’ve met etc. It made me think about lots of reggae personalities but Toots Hibbert in particular. I’ve seen Toots perform dozens of times over the years and we became friends, he’s an amazing guy and probably rates as my favorite musical personality. Here’s a couple of anecdotes that’ll give you some insight into the man.
1. I bumped into him in Kingston one day and we stood there chatting, he told me that he was going into he studio at Federated records the next day to start recording his new album and if I’d like to come I’d be welcome. I arrived mid morning and Toots and all the guys were sitting outside on a bench in the sun, I asked him ‘What’s happening’ and he told me that his drummer had just received in the post one of these new electronic drum machines [this was early '80's] and he was trying to figure out how to program it; we all just sat and waited. This went on and on and finally about 3pm I told him that I had to leave, too bad, I didn’t get to hear any of the new tunes but I had lots of conversation with Toots and many of the musicians and the Maytals.
2. I often found myself in Toots dressing rooms either before or after shows, there was one occasion, I think it was an all-day reggae festival at the UCLA Pauley Pavillion, Toots was the headliner and was due to go on last. It was about 10.30 pm and one of the promoters stuck his head in the door and said ‘Toots, you’re up next’, Toots replied ‘You need to talk with my manager, I’m not going on until I get my money, and I mean in cash, no cheques!’
The promoter didn’t know what to do, he said ‘We don’t have that sort of cash’, Toots said ‘Talk to my manager.’ The word came back to us that they were frantically counting out the money from the 5 box offices at the stadium, the figure I remember was $30,000 and the were counting it out in fives, tens and twenties. About midnight the manager came in and said ‘OK, we’re all set’ and so Toots went on and did his usual great 90 minute set. Been burned too often.
3. Another time I was in his dressing room before a show and it was fairly crowded, probably twenty odd people there, all talking, drinking and smoking. At some point his manager stood on a chair and said ‘We’re going to have to clear this room, Toots needs to get ready and he’s on in half an hour’, I was sitting on a settee next to Toots and I stood up as everyone streamed out, Toots put his hand on my arm and said ‘No, not you, you stay’, so I sat back down and we continued talking. At some point he said ‘OK, I need to get dressed’ and he stood up and stripped down to his shorts. His clothes were laid out on a table and he picked up the trousers, a pair of very fine, very thin black leather, ‘Give me a hand with these’ he said, they were very tight fitting and had a lace-up down the back, ‘Pull that as tight as you can get it’ he said. Next on was a matching leather sleeveless vest that was open down the front, he then put of a metal belt that looked just like one of those that are awarded to boxing champions and finished it all off with a gold pendant. He then put on a pair of tight black boxing boots that I laced for him ‘cos with those tight pants he could no longer bend down far enough. Now he was ready!
Toots is not a big guy but he’s very fit and very athletic, he looks about like a bantam weight boxer and that’s what came next. The room was a decent size and there was a table in the middle, Toots started jogging around that table dodging and weaving and throwing punches just like a boxer in training, he kept this up for maybe 5-10 minutes until the sweat was pouring off of him. About then the door opened and the stage manager said ‘Mr Hibbert, you’re on’ and Toots without breaking his step went straight out of the door, down a corridor and up some steps to the side of the stage with me running right behind him. The stage door was open, the band were playing his opening number and the announcer was doing his ‘Give a warm welcome to Toots and the Maytals routine’ as Toots raced to the mic and into his opening routine.
I posted this youtube video a couple of weeks ago but I’ll post it again here and you’ll recognize the outfit that I just described and also the energy level that Toots brings to his performances.
There was a piece last week in the Huffington Post, it was about the house that Bob Marley grew up in in Nine Miles in St. Anne parish and how it influenced his music. They published a picture of it, here’s their picture.
The guy in the picture told me about when Bob lived there and that the painted stone is the one mentioned in Talking Blues.
Compare the two buildings, look at the slope on the ground in the Huff pic, look where there doors are, look where the outside toilet is, look at the stonework, it’s a total fraud and Huffington makes it impossible to contact them to point out the fraud. Take Huff Post with a pinch of salt.
Here’s Talking Blues, and here’s the lyric:
Yeah, oh yeah, no!
Cold ground was my bed last night
And rock was my pillow too
Cold ground was my bed last night
And rock was my pillow too, yeah
Lloyd Parks, one of Jamaica’s hottest bass players and leader of ‘We the People’, the onstage group backing many of the artists in this playlist. I became obsessed with reggae in 1972 with the release of Bob Marley’s first album, ‘Catch a Fire’ and the almost simultaneous release of the Jimmy Cliff film, The Harder they Come. It was not easy to find reggae in California in those days but the audience slowly built so that by the early 80′s there was a decent sized group of us that had become friends as we’d regularly met at the various reggae events. Tom, one of that group ran a travel service and he had the brilliant idea of offering a group price for those of us that would like to go to Jamaica for the new event there, ‘Reggae Sunsplash’ in Montego Bay. The price included airfare and hotel plus a 2 day stay at a luxury beach resort in Negril, we grabbed at it so fast that he had a planeful in no time. It became an annual event. Sunsplash was a four day event, it ran from Wednesday through Saturday, theoretically from 8pm ’til midnight at Jarrett Park, a cricket ground. On my first day there I was walking in town and I saw a sign over the door of an outer office at a hotel, the sign said ‘Sunsplash Media Office’; I decided to take a look. I’d always photographed every reggae event and I gave my friends who ran a small LA based magazine called ‘The Reggae Beat’ free access to any they wanted plus I wrote an occasional piece for them. There was a lady sitting at a desk in the media office, when she saw my Nikon plus my camera bag she asked ‘Who are you shooting for?’ I said ‘The Reggae Beat’ in LA and that was all it took, she filled out a form, added my name to her list and handed me one of those ‘All Access’ passes that you hang round your neck plus a dozen free tickets! The best part of all was that I was now on their books and known and for the next 10 years I always had an ‘All Access’ pass without even asking! And I returned every year through the ’80′s. As I mentioned Sunsplash ran four nights, never from 8-12 but usually from 11-12 until past dawn, usually about 7-8am! With six to eight acts per night times four, that equals approx 50 per year, times ten, well you figure it out, but what it came down to was that over the decade I probably saw 99% of all of Jamaica’s reggae artists and as a result of all that back stage access I got to know many of them! And I have literally thousands of photos to show for it. I started out to do this as a podcast with a narrative track but the way I edited the music it would be intrusive so instead I’ll treat it as one long playlist.
Here’s a list of the artists in sequence.
1. John Holt – Sweetie come brush me,
2. U. Roy – Wear you to the Ball tonight.
3. Big Youth – Every Nigger is a Star.
4. Toots and the Maytals – Pressure Drop.
5. Judy Mowatt – Black Woman.
6. Gregory Isaacs – Oh what a Feelling.
7. Eric Donaldson – Sweet Jamaica.
8. Alton Ellis – I’m still in Love.
9. Dennis Brown – It’s Magic.
10. Big Youth – I Pray Thee Satta Masagana.
11. U. Roy – Rule the Nation.
There’s quite a few videos of Sunsplash ’82 at youtube, if you go to the one of Toots and pause it at 28 seconds, the handsome chap with the red, gold and green cap slapping hands with Toots, that’s me!
It may be a song much used & abused by karaoke maniacs, bedroom youtubers, & egotistical pop stars but let us not forget what a phenomenal tune it really is. Cat may have sold it to PP for £30 back in the day – but which version of the three do you prefer? Or do you know of a better one (I have looked for a noisy indie rock version, and failed, but would love it if there was one in existence)?
‘Spill points are available, and there are bonus ‘Spill points if you can
explain why Tom Waits is holding a bunny. caption the Tom Waits & bunny photo.
Look away purists!
Inspired by Maki’s happy music posts, I guess, just seems to be what i feel like listening to lately.
1. Toots and the Maytels – Funky Kingston
2. Garnett Silk – Death Go Away
3. I Wayne – Life Seeds
4. Jah Cure – Love Is
5. Steel Pulse – Global Warming
6. Lutan Fyah – Natural Herbs
7. Ras Shiloh – Always on my Mind
8. Terry Linen – Better Man
9. Gyptian – Wine Slow
10.Lady Lex – Love Doctor
11.Wayne Wade – Love You Too Much
12.Ziggy Marley – Beautiful Day
Yes, it’s Hawaii time ! As you may have gathered I am a bit of a fan, having , in the mid 90s, spent more than is entirely sensible or sane on several trips to these lovely tropical islands. Today, children, we are going to concentrate on the music of this blessed ( and cursed a bit too) land. My thesis is that Hawaiians have played a bigger role in the development of our music than most people realise. Several elements that we regard as traditional American things acutally developed way out in the Pacific in the days when Hawaii was still an ( sort of ) independent state. Not least guitar based music, slide guitar, “Slack key” tuning and, by extension, electric guitars ( the first electrics were slide guitars).
So onwards we go , plunging forth like an experienced surfer into the (musical) waves ( doest that work as a metaphor ? I’m not sure it does…)
I really do not know very much about Hawaiian Music but I had a lot of fun discovering things I wanted to share with everyone. The variety of things going on in Hawaii was really surprising, and it I think the mix of US and Pacific and Asian influences with traditional influences also make this a very interesting place to visit on our travels. It is going be a lot of fun ! ! ! Continue reading
He’s Gonna Step On You Again – John Kongos
Freedom To The People – The Heptones
You Know You know – Mahavishnu Orchestra
Dig Deep In Your Soul – Bobby Boyd Congress
Feel Flows – The Beach Boys
The Lady With The Braid – Dory Previn
People Make The World Go Round – The Stylistics
The Jolly Boys are a very traditional Jamaican Mento group who I thought had fizzled out in the 60′s, apparently not, they recently released an album with this cut on it. As you can see they’re all old guys but still going strong.
It’s pretty widely known that reggae is a male dominated medium, sure there’s well known women artists but numerically they represent a fairly small percentage of the whole genre, though I suppose that’s not unusual in music generally. Anyhow over the years there’s been a small group that I’ve enjoyed and listened to regularly since back in the ’70′s.
Probably the best known women artists are the iThrees, Bob’s back-up singers, they all had musical careers before and after the Wailers and they’ve all recorded independently. They are, Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffith and Bob’s wife Rita.
Judy, also a successful songwriter had a hit with her 1980 album ‘Black Woman’.
Marcia who in the ’60′s teamed up with Bob Andy for a worldwide hit with ‘Young Gifted and Black’ released a steady stream through the 80′s.
Another female group who had some early success were Althea and Donna who’s 1978 single ‘Uptown Top Rankin’ was featured by John Peel and went to #1; the tune started out in 1967 as ‘I still love you’ by Alton Ellis, was then co-opted my Marcia Aitken in ’70 for ‘I’m still in love with you boy’ and it wound up as Uptown Top Rankin, you can’t keep a good tune down.
Bob discovered and encouraged a 12 year old girl who he thought had talent, Nadine Sutherland, she cut her first singles in Bob’s Tough Gong studio within her first year; I have photos of her there in her school uniform.
A singer who I liked a lot was Sophie George, she was a real ‘roots’ girl, she was from the ghetto and she sang about it.
There was a young woman in LA who I thought was a great reggae talent, her name was Barbara Paige, she had a 1981 album ‘Hear me now’ that was recorded at Tuff Gong with the best of the Jamaican talent.
Carlene Davis is another Jamaican artist, she had an early success with ‘Stealing Love on the side’ but that conflicted with her ‘christian’ values and she ultimately rejected reggae and became a gospel singer; she’s married to Tommy Cowan, a very successful producer and DJ and has since earned a PhD.
When I first met J.C.Lodge she was a beautiful young woman living with her boyfriend Errol in a small apartment in Kingston, she made her living as an artist. Joe Gibbs heard her sing and asked her to sing ‘Someone loves you honey’ a big hit for Charlie Pride in Memphis, she did and he liked it so well that he recorded her and released it and it went to number one in Jamaica and in Europe. She’s since gone on to much bigger and better things.
Hortense Ellis is the sister of Alton Ellis, she started singing professionally in the Ska era with her brother for Coxone Dodds, she’s on his ‘I still love you’ cut. She had several successes through the ‘lovers rock’ era in the 80′s.
Sister Carol is a Jamaican who emigrated to NY, Brigadier Jerry heard her sing and encouraged her to take it seriously, she did and has released several albums. She’s also a very accomplished actress, you may have seen her in several Jonathan Demme films, like Married to the Mob and Rachel Getting Married.
The pictures are of Judy Mowatt.
Those are the women artists that we’ll hear and the cuts are:
1. Many are called – The IThrees.
2. Black Woman – Judy Mowatt.
3. Stepping out of Babylon – Marcia Griffith.
4. One Draw – Rita Marley.
5. Someone loves you honey – J.C. Lodge.
6. Tenement Yard – Sophie George.
7. Until – Nadine Sutherland.
8. Everything I own – Carlene Davis.
9. Uptown Top Rankin – Althea & Donna.
10. Jah Mysterious Works – Hortense Ellis.
11. Babylon must fall – Barbara Paige.
12. International Style – Sister Carol.
Ari Up of the Slits has died at 48.
Punk writer John Savage gives his tribute here, and I thought I’d post my favourite two Slits songs.
“Heard It Through The Grapevine”
A week from today (June 1) is my anniversary. This is the song we first danced to at our wedding. Of course it has a story (although not an extremely interesting one). When I first met David (23 in 93) he had just purchased this brandy-new Bob Marley 3 CD set of previously unknown material. On zillion (I think). I’ll bet goneforeign remembers – the albums were called Kinky Reggae, Lively Up Yourself, Rainbow Country. I was glad he liked Bob Marley, cause I did, too, but it was more than that…
I’d never been in love before in my life, and something about lying in David’s small bedroom, listening to these, looking for a sign or portent around every corner – Well, it felt like every song was about US. (The arrogance of youth, eh?) Listening to them since, I realize I was wildly wrong, but – not about this song. This one was definitely about us in the spring of ’93.
So…the question is…what’s your song? If not the song at your wedding, then the song that represents a relationship, or the song you’d like to represent a relationship. Any variation on this theme is accepted.
Quick before the sun changes its mind, nothing like Brazilian reggae to get in the summer groove
…or How To Make It In Jamaica.
This doc follows three Jamaican artists on the road to fame and success, but only one will make it. Fear not, this is not Jamaica’s Got Talent or Jamaican Idol. It also features a couple of greats, especially Toots and Sly. Brushy One String isn’t one of them unfortunately, I hoped we’d see more of him.
Download here, or pick it up in the box.
I recently watched the film ‘Rockers’ again, for the umpteenth time, possibly the best reggae film ever made, everyone is in it, except for Bob and Toots, but they were having plenty of international exposure anyway. Here’s one of my favorite cuts from the film, it’s Kiddus I and “Graduation in Zion”, he’s in the studio recording it.