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Soulful Sundays: Judy Mowatt

Though Judy Mowatt is best known as a member of the I-Threes, Bob Marley’s back up vocalists (Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths were the other two), she is also an accomplished songwriter who enjoyed a separate career as a solo recording artist.

Born Judith Veronica Mowatt in Kingston around 1952, Mowatt sang in a church choir and as a teen, was part of a dance group that toured the Caribbean. Later, she was a member of the trio, The Gaylettes, which had a major hit with the song, Silent River. Mowatt continued recording following the break up of the group and wrote several tracks for Bunny Wailer. However, because of contractual disputes, she used a number of different pseudonyms. Two of her tracks were on The Wailers’ Burnin album.

In 1974, Mowatt had a second hit with a cover of I Shall Sing, a song recorded originally by Miriam Makeba. When she and Rita Marley backed up Marcia Griffiths, they hit it off and a new group, the I-Threes, was born. They joined Bob in 1975 and continued to back him up until his death in 1981. During that time, Mowatt continued to record on her own. Her first solo album, Mellow Mood, was released in 1975. Her second, Black Woman, the first album recorded at Marley’s Tuff Gong studios, is thought to be the best album by a female reggae artist.

Mowatt followed up with Only a Woman and Working Wonders then took over producing her own music. She even founding her own label. In 1985, she became the first female to be nominated for a Grammy in the reggae music category for her album Working Wonders.

Formerly a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a Rastafarian group, Judy Mowatt converted to Christianity in 1990 and now sings Gospel music.

In 1999, the government of Jamaica awarded her an Order of Distinction for her contribution to reggae music.

Here’s Mowatt’s Many are Called.



Soulful Sundays: Luther Vandross – Happy Father’s Day!

For several weeks now, I’ve been mulling over what to write for Father’s Day and rejecting each idea that surfaced. I was undecided and a little conflicted about what to share — I like to keep private the few memories I have of him.

Sixteen years since he passed, I still think about my father quite a bit. Sometimes I hear an item on the news and wonder what he’d have to say about it.

I have no doubt, for example, that he’d be watching cricket and talking back to the television as if that would help the performance of the current West Indies team.

Ginger Lily, Soulful Sundays: Happy Father's Day
Ginger Lily, Soulful Sundays: Happy Father’s Day

We’d both be older now and moving into different roles. I wonder what our relationship would have been like.  Would he let me fuss over him? Would he still be the same jovial person I remember?

Because of his job, my father traveled extensively around the island and overseas. Sometimes as I drive around now, I wonder what it would have been like having him as my co-pilot. I know it would have been fun to see the country from his perspective and share mine with him. I would have loved, for example, to have him show me his favorite places, the ones that were near to his heart, and meet some of his old friends.

I’d have been especially touched to have him show me the place that molded him into the man he became. From the stories I’ve heard over the years, his childhood home in the cool hills of Clarendon was a lovely place to grow up. Standing in the shade of a breadfruit or a mango tree, I would have loved to hear the stories again. This time, the images I’d created in my mind of where the yam hills were or the spot where the little shop used to be, and the school where he developed his thirst for learning would be replaced by new pictures with smells and sounds built in. I know there’d be at least one person whose house we’d have to stop at so he could say hello. And we wouldn’t have left without finding a bar to have a drink.

So on this Father’s Day, I remember Ken and wish, like Luther Vandross sang in this song, that I could have one more Dance With My Father.

Happy Father’s Day!

Soulful Sundays: Tanya Stephens

Tanya Stephens represents the new crop of female reggae artist, those who are as brash and as confident as any of their male counterparts. Her strong lyrics and well-crafted songs reflect the world of the contemporary woman who’s capable not just of bringing home the bacon but, if needs be, frying it too.

Tanya Stephens
Soulful Sundays: Tanya Stephens

Born Vivienne Tanya Stephens on July 2, 1973 in Kingston, she was named, along with Lady Saw, another Reggae artist, “top female artist in Jamaica” by the Washington Post in 1998.

Give a listen to It’s a Pity, the single that gained her international recognition.




Soulful Sundays: JC Lodge

Born June Carol Lodge in London, England in 1958 to a Jamaican father and British mother, JC Lodge was taken to Jamaica as a child. She’s probably best known for her international hit, Telephone Love.

JC Lodge, image from the internet
JC Lodge, image from the internet

An accomplished artist and actress, Lodge recorded more than 12 albums. She returned to live in the UK in 2001.



Soulful Sundays: Phyllis Dillon

On this lovely Sunday, I’d like to share two songs from ska and reggae singer, Phyllis Dillon, who made her first recording, Don’t Stay Away, for producer, Duke Reid, in 1967. She was at 19. Dillon did a lot of covers of popular songs from the U.S.

Phyllis Dillon, photo from the Internet
Phyllis Dillon, photo from the Internet

Take a listen to Perfidia and One Life to Live.

Dillon, who was born in St. Catherine in 1948, moved to New York in 1967 and, for a while, would travel back to Jamaica to record. She ended her recording career in 1971 but resumed it twenty years later, touring Japan, Germany and the UK. In 1998, she returned to the studio with former Duke Reid session guitarist, Lynn Taitt, who had discovered her. She continued to perform until she became ill. Dillon died in New York in 2004. She was 56 years old.

Soulful Sundays: Rita Marley

Before Rita Marley became known internationally as the wife of reggae superstar, Bob Marley, and a member of his backup group, the I Threes, she was a singer with the girl group, the Soulettes. They began recording with legendary producer, Clement Dodd, in 1964. It was Dodd who suggested that Bob become their mentor and manager. And during this time, Rita and Bob fell in love.

She released her first single, Pied Piper, in 1967, a year after she married Bob and approximately 7 years after they met.

Soulful Sundays: Rita Marley Photo courtesy of Michael Chambers Photography
Soulful Sundays: Rita Marley Photo courtesy of Michael Chambers Photography

Between having children — she had three with Bob — and being a backup singer with the I Threes from 1974 to 1981, Rita probably did not have time to record another solo album as the next one is dated 1980. Following Bob’s death, she recorded more than 10 albums, the most recent in 2006, which saw limited success.

As the widow of the reggae superstar, Rita has worked tirelessly to preserve Bob’s memory. Following his death, she turned Bob’s home on Hope Road in Kingston into a museum and established a foundation which bears the late singer’s name.

In addition to her efforts to keep the Marley name alive, in 2000, Rita created her own foundation, which works to alleviate hunger and poverty among youths and the elderly in developing countries.

Rita, who was born in Santiago, Cuba in 1946 makes her home in Ghana, where she is known as Nana Rita.

Please give a listen to One Draw.

Photo of Rita Marley courtesy of Michael Chambers Photography. You can see more of Michael’s work on Facebook at Michael Chambers Photography.

Soulful Sundays: Derrick Harriott

Singer and producer, Derrick Harriott, has been in and around the music business in Jamaica for well over 50 years. I hadn’t thought about him until a few days ago when I noticed his record shop in Kingston. I was surprised.

Derrick Harriott, photo from The Jamaica Gleaner
Derrick Harriott, photo from The Jamaica Gleaner

Harriott is one of the pioneers of Jamaican music — one of its movers and shakers. He had his own label, Crystal, and produced several well known artists. At one point, he even had a show on one of the local radio stations. Harriott has several albums, including compilations, to his credit.

Give a listen to Walk the Streets and Close to Me. I also stumbled on to this interview he did last year.



Soulful Sundays: Bob Marley

I thought I knew every song that Bob Marley released. But on a visit to the Bob Marley museum in Kingston, I heard a song I didn’t recognize and heard it again at the premiere on Thursday of the latest documentary on the life of the Rastaman and reggae icon appropriately titled, Marley (more about that later). I kick myself now because I should have asked the name, now I can’t even remember the melody.

Bob Marley, photo from the Internet
Bob Marley, photo from the Internet

But anyway, it prompted me to think of featuring Bob as this week’s Soulful Sunday performer. Surprisingly, I hadn’t done that before though I’ve written about him in previous posts.

I saw Bob once at a concert in Montreal sometime in 1980. I don’t remember much about the evening, except that we had lousy seats — I could hardly see him when he came on stage and we left shortly after so that my boyfriend could make the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Ottawa to get some sleep before going to work the next day. A few months later, we heard that Bob was sick. The next news was that he’d died.

Robert Nesta Marley was born in St. Ann on February 6, 1945 in Nine Miles, St. Ann, Jamaica. Bob was always interested in music and decided to concentrate on his music after a brief stint as a welder’s apprentice. At 16, Desmond Dekker introduced him to Jimmy Cliff who in turn introduced him to producer, Leslie Kong for who Bob recorded his first singles, Judge Not, Terror and One More Cup of Coffee. None of the singles became hits and Bob left Kong, who’d only paid him $2 for his work.

In 1963, Bob and Bunny Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer), his childhood friend, began taking lessons from Joe Higgs who introduced him to Peter McIntosh. The three became good friends and later formed The Wailing Wailers. The group also included Junior Braithwaite (d. 1999), Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith (d. 2008).

The group’s collaboration with Clement “Coxsone” Dodd produced their first hit, Simmer Down, which sold 80,000 copies. They also recorded an early version of One Love, which was voted Song of the Century in 2009.

Bob, the Rastaman

Bob Marley was, without a doubt, the most well known Rastafarian there is. He became a Rastaman following the visit of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie to Jamaica in 1966. Through his music and his uncompromising stance, he legitimized Rastafarians, and when he sang about the plight of the poor in Jamaica, he touched poor people everywhere. Bob literally and figuratively brought the ghetto (Trench Town, where he grew up) and Rastafarians uptown (Hope Road where he lived and had his studio), to the other side of Jamaican society.

It’s difficult for me to select a Bob song that’s my favorite as I have many. Here are a few: War (from a speech by HIM, Haile Selassie I to the UN in October, 1963 – excerpt below) and Burnin’ and Lootin‘.

Excerpt of HIM’s speech, which Bob used verbatim in War:

“…until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil…”

Bob not only quoted from Selassie, he borrowed from Marcus Garvey as well as he did in Redemption Song when he sang, Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind. – Marcus Garvey, October, 1937

Bob, the Loverman

Bob wasn’t just about revolution however. His soft side can be heard in two of my favorites, Waiting in Vain and Turn Your Lights Down Low.


Soulful Sundays: Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller left long before he was able to share with the world all the music he had in him. He died tragically in a car accident in March, 1980.

Jacob Miller
Soulful Sundays; Jacob Miller

A prolific musician, Miller was leader singer of the reggae band, Inner Circle (of Bad Boys fame) and worked on several solo projects. He and the band were preparing for an American tour with Bob Marley when he died. He was only 27 years old.

Miller was a fun, playful person, whose onstage performances were always energetic. Despite his heft, he was electrifying on stage, moving around with the agility of someone half his size. He was also known to be always ready with a joke. But there was no joke about his music.

Miller made his first recording in 1968 with well known Jamaican producer, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and recorded several singles before signing on as lead singer with Inner Circle. Tenement Yard, was his first hit song with the band.