Thoughts on the passing of Amy Winehouse


Dead dead dead, dead as a Dodo…

Lilly livered get out clause…

As I begin to write this I have to say, that I, know bugger all of the ‘truth’ in this matter and my perspective can only ever be that of a listener and as a digester of whatever the media cared to throw at me during Ms. Winehouse’s career. Only her family and those close to her will ever know the truth. Everyone though has their angle.

Mourning

Many will not mourn the passing of Amy Winehouse. Many will see her as an average talent amongst much else that is jaw droppingly mundane in the scene of British popular music circa the 2000s. She was undoubtedly disturbed, self-indulgent, inward looking, tearfully sentimental in that way only the lost soul of a teenager can be, without a backward glance or self-critical say so; but she was one great singer, she was a talent I believe to rival the greats, or could have been, given the chance and the opportunity.

On an off day she could vocally out manoeuvre her nearest rivals and I believe probably leave them wishing she do something as stupid as fuck things up. She did this, most royally of course. Talentless ‘squeekers’ like Duffy could never fill the fissures now that a true star has fallen from the firmament.

Above all though, and depressingly so, once success hit, she was a commodity bought and sold and then personally let down I believe by family, friends and her management, by her record label, her minders and everyone else INVESTED in her.

27 and an adult?

Sure she was 27 and no doubt considered herself an adult and capable of making her own decisions when she passed away. Where were the management that professed love for her.. where was ‘love’ when handlers pushed her onto an Eastern European stage only half a month ago when SHE said ‘I don’t want to go on’ and was in no fit state to do so..? It seems as though those that should have cared weren’t there for her, or perhaps there was no opportunity to help. Whatever the true story behind the tradgedy of her addiction and struggle it seems to me, that she was let down.

So family have said that Amy was always a wild spirit who knew her own mind and couldn’t be controlled, I wonder if she was just looking, as young children do, for boundaries, for someone to love her enough to make up some rules, or someone to say ‘enough is enough’. No one did, and after her success no one wanted to dared, or could probably have got close enough to impose any single will upon her. However desperate the situation.

Of course there is always addiction, an affliction that she and many others have, but every addict I have ever known was in some way physically or sexually abused, or nurtured some deep schism in the dark recesses of their un-shared soul. It wasn’t so much the addiction in my experience as the need to plaster over the cracks that led to those that I have known harming and in one or two cases killing themselves as a result.

Devil at the Crossroads?

Many performers I believe are fractured people who ply their trade for more, much more, than financial reward. The average Joe doesn’t feel the draw or need to please other people and the love (supposed) that returns to them by way of this bargain. And will not understand the contract that Winehouse and others like her sign for themselves. Perhaps this is the contract, the very same one, that Robert Johnson who died at 27 years of age, or Jimi Hendrix who also suffered loss when his mother left the family home (and died at 27), signed with the Devil at the Crossroads.

Fractured

It is no surprise to me that she enrolled in Acting school in the same year as her father left home, one wonders what hole is created by loss and how it might be subsequently filled? The adulation associated with succesful performance seems a candidate fo gap filler. But no doubt, like many before her have found, once success comes your way, there is nothing real to fill the gaping hole of loss and sadness with, there is in the end, only you and if you have it, love for yourself. Is this who Amy Winehouse was? Only her family and friends will know, but I think it’s how I saw her and how I see her now.

But what I heard was someone with all the ability of Billie Holliday, (Tony Bennett likened her to Dinah Washington) but with the recorded output of a crowd pleaser. I think, had she lived to a ripe old age, circled by earlier successes and had re-negotiated the contract between herself and the World she might have had the opportunity to show us more than just a spark of genius.

She was that good. As it is, we’re left wondering and wishing.

Amy Winehouse was someone’s child, don’t forget that.

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Lloyd Knibbs dies


Legendary Skatalites’ Drummer Lloyd Knibbs passes away.

Primarily known for developing the sound of Ska alongside the Skatalites Ska ‘Supergroup’ of the 1960s Lloyd Knibbs was a true foundation stone in the sonic wall of Jamaican sound. A pivotal point about which the music has since turned.

Legend has it that he started off his percussive career on little else than boxes and bean tins, and was taken on for his rhythmic apprenticeship by the likes of Sonny Bradshaw and Eric Deans, both highly respected band leaders of on island show bands in the early and pre-Ska days of Jamaican music.

Like so much else in Jamaica ‘the drums’ are a physical trace of the African current running through the islands cultural life and Knibbs carried and channeled this tradition. More than any other instrument, percusssion retains a thread of history and ancestry within Jamaican music and as a drummer Knibbs was the living embodiment of ‘Roots Music’.

Yet is was his role in generating and creating Jamaica’s first truly self-proclaimed musical style that draws main interest.

Ska took the form of pre independence excitement and mixed it with musical influences far and wide, American Jazz, Black US R&B, Mento and Calypso; yet in this re-configuration a new overview was required, a new glue to stick all these diverging elements together in the new form, that of Ska.

If you listen to the arrangement and instrumentation of a typical Ska piece, more than any other element in the whole, the rhythm and therefore the drumming were re-invented, re-styled, re-configured, adapted and re-arranged to shape Ska and it’s individuality. Knibbs was the most important Ska drummer on the island at that or any other time and he therefore was quite possibly the most important figure in and to Ska music, a style which once invented lives on to this day in countless bands Worldwide.

Post Ska Knibbs made all the right choices and went on to drum for Tommy McCook and the Supersonics, the chief house band at Treasure Isle and the slickest and possibly most influential of the Rocksteady era.

He was born in 1931 in Kingston Jamaica, and died of Liver cancer, having returned in the last hours of his life to Jamaica from the States where he had lived for some time on the 12th May 2011.

Smiley Culture RIP – Dies in bizarre police raid knife incident


Smiley Culture, Police Officer no give him producer...

Smiley Culture is dead at 48.

Tuesday 15th March 2011

More crappy news as one of the few Reggae stars to cross over into the mainstream charts dies in a bizarre incident at his home involving the Police.

Police were apparently interested in his possible involvement in a conspiracy to supply Cocaine and were at his home to make an arrest when the incident, in which David Emmanuel, aka Smiley Culture may have possible inflicted injuries on himself. This comes from a statement by the Met police.

Smiley rose with the Saxon sound system and the fast chat UK toasting style, and his twist of chatting with a London accent and talking about the realities of growing up in the UK under the Suss laws of the 70s and 80s took centre stage as he rose to fame, mainly on the power of two tunes, ‘Police Officer’ which was sandwiched in between a release and re-release of his tune ‘Cockney Translator’.

On a purely personal note, I bought both at the time on 12″ fell in love with the Cockney accent and cheeky lyrics and the story telling of Police Officer.

On a recent visit to Chris Lane the part owner and producer for Fashion records the label that had the original hits with Smiley a few weeks ago, we spoke about those days and the sudden impetus these hits added to his work with Fashion, though we didn’t touch on his personal relationship with Smiley Culture, I wish I’d asked him more about the MC, in retrospect.

The Ethiopian, Leonard Dillon dies


2011 claims another great Jamaican singer

Leonard Dillon ~has passed away…

Lead member of the Ethiopians and later a soloist as ‘The Ethiopian’ Dillon was at the peak of musical fitness in the Rocksteady and Early Reggae eras. Cutting countless tunes to slaughter all musical opposition for the top Jamaican producers of the time, notably for Coxsonne Dodd, Edward Seaga at WIRL and Sonia Pottinger, tunes like ‘The Whip’ and ‘Train to Skaville’ ‘Engine 54’  and later in his solo capacity as ‘The Ethiopian’ the truly heaven bound ‘When will be the end?’ Keep a close lookout for any Studio One tunes with the name Jack Sparrow attached to them too, for this is also Leonard Dillon in his earliest guise.

The Ethiopians were a popular act in the 69s Reggae boom in the UK and contined to be a firm favourite with Jamaican music fans the world over.

One of the true giants of Jamaican music he died after a long and protracted struggle with cancer.

Only last year the rumour mills turned and I myself had an obituary out on the web before we were all told to our relief that he hadn’t passed away. Graced with another year with his family, he will be sorely missed by all now that he has indeed passed away.

Sonia Pottinger Reggae Producer passes away


Lady Pottinger passes away

Sonia Pottinger, grand lady of Reggae and for that matter Rocksteady (and with some little involvement with Ska too) has passed away, read about it here at the Jamaica Observer’s website.

Sonia Pottinger

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Sonia-Pottinger-remembered_8126254

She passed away on the same day as Keith Stewart of Keith and Enid (Cumberland) fame, and shortly after Gregory Isaacs a few days previously. All our heroes and the main movers in the Jamaican music industry are passing on. Sugar Minott earlier in the year of course too.

She recorded some of the greatest stars to come from Jamaica, Laurel and Bobby Aitken, Dave Barker, Dennis AlCapone, Ken Boothe, The Beltones and Culture, Bim and Bam, Stranger and Patsy, The Cables, and the Melodians, to name only a few. She also ran the catalogue of Duke Reid after his death from 1974 onwards, re-issuing some of the Duke’s biggest hits. Running labels like Gaydisc Gayfeet and High Note, her name is synonymous with Jamaican music.

Later she would defend her right to own the Treasure Isle catalogue in court.

Keith Stewart of Keith and Enid fame dies..


Keith Stewart stalwart of the early Jamaican music industry has died.

Read about it here at the Jamaica Observer site: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/The-end-for-Stewart-of–Keith-and-Enid–fame_8140277

His death will probably be overshadowed by news that verteran producer Sonia Pottinger has also passed away on the same day.

Stewart is best known for his duet work with Enid Cumberland as Keith and Enid and any self respecting collector of early Jamaican music will have some of the tunes they recorded on Chris Blackwell’s first record company the R&B imprint or the labels they were largely released on in the UK – Starlite & Blue Beat. Keith Stewart also recorded for S.L. Smith, Byron Lee, Neville Hinds and WIRL records.

Keith Stewart also recorded a number of Tourist orientated Calypso Lps and 45s.