Tag Archives: rip

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.

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.

 

RIP – Gregory Isaacs Dead at 59


Gregory Isaacs dies at his London home after a long illness

Truly Extra Classic

One of the greatest names in Reggae music has passed away this morning (25th October 2010), Gregory Isaacs, the ‘Cool Ruler’.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer some time ago. However strangely there are some other reports online saying that it was liver cancer that he had battled against.

Whatever the diagnosis, one fact remains. He was truly a superstar of Reggae music; taking that music worldwide on countless tours and spreading that music’s message and melody worldwide on countless recordings.

Night Nurse was of course his most famous outing, but classic songs like Mr. Cop, his cover of Dobby Dobson’s Loving Pauper and Poor and Humble didn’t just excite the Reggae crowd, it defined them.

Popularity

In the mid 1970s only two singers abroad and one other at home in Jamaica could rival or exceed Gregory Isaacs’s popularity, Bob Marley and Dennis Brown ‘a foreign’ and Jonnie Clarke ‘inna yard’.

The Supreme Stylist

His laid back style and effortless approach was well suited to the smoke-laden 1970’s golden era of Roots Reggae; and as the epitome of  solo singer and frontman, Gregory Isaacs inhabited the stage with a confidence that shone with what seemed to many like a cock sure self-assured arrogance.

The Cool Ruler – Photograph by Beth Lesser who owns copyright.

Born in the Ghetto

Like many of Reggae’s most succesful singers Gregory Isaacs was born in a Kingston slum in 1951 but managed through nothing but raw talent, desire, necessity and determination to succeed. Not only did he break the notoriously tough home market, but he went on the become one of Jamaica’s most loved performers and to have many hits there. Over and over again he proved himself in a country where it is said everyone is a singer. You probably couldn’t get a tougher audience, or more competition.

Over a long career

He started his recording career pre 70s and after a false start he hit with vocal group ‘The Concords’ who recorded for Rupie Edwards, and a very fine, crisp and clean harmony group they were, check them out if you haven’t yet heard them! Don’t Let Me Suffer is a great tune and one of the best Edward’s ever produced for anyone. (In this writer’s opinion.)

Wonderfully Lazy

Gregory’s own record label

Over time he honed his style until it sounded like he was exerting the absolute minimum of energy required to deliver his songs either to his audience or for the tape machine’s ferric oxide.

He had the sort of vocal performance that could at a stretch give rise to the fantasy image of studio technicians prodding Isaacs awake at the end of each take, or tape editors cutting the snoring off of the mix before mastering!

He often sounded wonderfully under-whelmed and gloriously lazy; like a man who couldn’t care less if you came to the gig or bought his music. Surely there has always been something dashingly attractive about anyone talented, who doesn’t give a damn.

Just remember though momentarily that this on the surface of it ‘apathetic’ approach is a dangerous game for Gregoy Isaacs to play; as having come from a Kingston ghetto and the associated poverty of growing up in such a place he must have had nerves of steel and sublime confidence that his approach, style and self direction was what would make him successful, and it did. Thank goodness. Otherwise, it could have been back to the slum.

African Museum

Gregory Isaacs recorded with many of the greatest producers to come from Jamaica – GG Ranglin, Rupie Edwards, Niney, Gussie Clarke, Harry Mudie, and Lee Scratch Perry, but Isaacs produced too, starting his label African Museum with then friend Errol Dunkley in the early 1970’s.

Dunkley and he had originally met in around 1969 when Gregory took Errol Dunkley to see producer Rupie Edwards. Isaacs and Dunkley went their separate ways only a few years after starting African Museum but the label and the later shop continued onwards in an effort to remain independent of other producer’s manipulation of Isaacs and his fellow artistes. He funded further releases on the label with further work for other producers.

In 1982 – and on….

When all was going well for Isaacs internationally he was arrested for illegal firearms possession in Jamaica and incarcerated there for 6 months. It transpired at this time that he was a Cocaine addict and was involved in drug dealing and the gangland of Kingston. Unfortunately for his many fans this affected his voice and of course, sadly, Mr. Isaacs health.

As time then passed his once lazy delivery began to sound energy less and extremely ‘nasal’ and those that knew his great work of the past mourned the loss of the Cool Ruler’s extra classic voice.

He claimed many times that his addiction to Cocaine was over, but rumours persisted.

Sadly missed – this time its personal

It was a real shock finding out that he’d gone today, I hadn’t heard any rumours that he was ill, though fairly close to the Reggae rumour mill; and so when I was told couldn’t quite grasp that we have lost both Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaacs in this year alone. Gregory however remains one of my all time favourite artists, and I’ll be shaking the dust off of Loving Pauper and listening to the I-Roy cut tonight too.

Sugar Minott passes away


Sad news coming in today that Lincoln Sugar Minott has passed away.

As yet unconfirmed by any direct source, the word is that he’d been ill for a time and passed away on the 10th July.

From Dave Hendley on the Pama Reggae Forum – http://s7.zetaboards.com/PAMA_FORUM/topic/8318245/1/#new

‘Just come off the phone from David Rodigan. Sugar died yesterday, details are a bit sketchy and unsubstantiated but he’d been ill for a little while.
Very shocked and saddened to hear this. I had lots of dealings with Sugar in the late 70s & early 80s & I always considered him a friend- He was a truly lovely guy and a hugely talented artist. Quite unbelievable news.’

It appears that he had problems with Angina and had a heart attack late on Saturday night.

A loss

I believe that what makes the passing of Sugar so sad is that he was only 54 and had in his short life helped so many people along the way. Staying amongst his people and in his community and guiding and nurturing new talent with Youthman Promotion his organisation. Some might argue that he and the Lone Ranger were virtually solely responsible for the revival and survival of Studio One during the 80s too, such was their effect on riding afresh the old and now classic rhythms of Studio One.

You only ever hear good things about Sugar Minott too, he was obviously a good man, not just a great singer.