Soulful Sundays: Third World

I’ve seen Third World perform so many times, I’ve lost count. They are the only act I can say that about. The first time in Washington, DC, my friends and I went to see them and during the intermission, two of us decided to move closer to the stage. Isn’t that where all the cool people hang out?

Reggae band Third World
Reggae band Third World

Well, we were so close that the next day, I could still hear the constant bzzzzz from the speakers. It took a few days for my hearing to get back to normal and I swore I’d never get that close to speakers again – and I haven’t.

The reggae band Third World was formed in 1973 by Michael “Ibo” Cooper (keyboardist) and Stephen “Cat” Coore (guitarist and cellist). With their mix of Rhythm & Blues, classical music and reggae, they still are unlike any other reggae band. They’ve worked and collaborated with The Jackson Five, Bob Marley and the Wailers and Stevie Wonder.

Third World has recorded more than 20 albums and produced several hits, including the two featured today – Try Jah Love, which was written by Stevie Wonder, and (1865) 96 Degrees in the Shade, a song about the 1865 slave rebellion in Morant Bay.

Despite several changes in their lineup – Cat Coore was later joined by “Bunny Rugs” Clarke,  Richard “Ritchie” Daley (bass), Lenworth “Ruption” Williams (drums), Maurice Gregory and Norris Webb (vocals) and a decline in their popularity around the 1980s, the band continues to perform including at this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Their most recent album, Patriots, features collaborations with Toots Hibbert, Marcia Griffiths, the late Gregory Isaacs, Tarrus Riley, and Stephen and Damian Marley among many others.

The 10 time Grammy nominated reggae band has received numerous awards including the United Nations Peace Medal (1986), the Jamaica Music Industry Award for Best Show Band (1992 and 1996).

Take a listen to another version of (1865) 96 Degrees in the Shade.



Soulful Sundays: Ken Boothe

I listen to music a lot, I wouldn’t say all the time but pretty regularly. As I cleaning up around the house yesterday, I let iTunes DJ set the mood.

Ken Boothe, photo from the Internet
Ken Boothe, photo from the Internet

At first, the music was jazzy and breezy, then it took a sharp turn into old school reggae with a Ken Boothe song, Everything I Own that took me back, way back. I stopped what I was doing and listened.

You sheltered me from harm

Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Was all the years I had with you

And I would give anything I own

Give up my life, my heart, my home

And I would give anything I own
Just to have you back again

If there’s someone you know
That won’t let you go
And taking it all for granted
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away

And you don’t hear a word they say

And I would give anything I own

Give up my life, my heart, my home

And I would give anything I own

Just to have you back again
Just to talk to you, words again

If there’s someone you know

That won’t let you go

And taking it all for granted
You may lose them one day

Someone take them away
And you don’t hear a word they say

And I would give anything I own
Give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give anything I own
Just to have you back again
Just to talk to you, words again
Just to hold you, once again

I thought of the lyrics which are so simple and yet so profound. Everything I Own, was written by an American, David Gates. It was a hit in Jamaica and reached Number One on the UK Singles chart in 1974. An interesting fact about the song –  instead of singing it as written, Boothe sang Anything I Own.

Boothe, who has been performing since the 1950s, has recorded more than 25 albums and compilations. Another of Boothe’s hits which he also wrote, The Train is Coming was featured in the movie, Money Train.

Ken Boothe was born in Kingston in 1948. In 2003, the government of Jamaica awarded him an Order of Distinction (OD) for his contribution to Jamaican music.

Soulful Sundays: Prince Buster

I was out walking one morning and heard this song as a car cruised by. Right away, it took me back to a time of simplicity and innocence. It was planted in my head and I hummed it all day.

I wasn’t old enough to dance to it but I’m sure the adults around me did. The song is a Prince Buster number called Wash, Wash. I’m including  two versions: the live one, which looks to be from a night club performance and it shows how Jamaicans were dancing at the time. On the recorded version, you hear the pops and hisses in the music, something I miss when I play CDs.

Prince Buster, image from the Internet
Prince Buster, image from the Internet

Anyway, a little about Wash, Wash. Although we had radio in Jamaica from the 1930s, it was controlled by foreign interests and much of the music we heard came from overseas. Music of the 50s and 60s, still relied heavily on R&B and other music coming from the US and musicians covered and borrowed freely from what they heard. Wash, Wash was one such song. Written by Beasley Smith, it was covered by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and several others, including today’s featured performer, Prince Buster.

Prince Buster was born Cecil Bustamante Campbell in Jamaica in May, 1938. He took the name he was called as an amateur boxer, “The Prince” and combined it with his nickname, Buster (from Bustamante) for his stage name. Prince Buster began singing in night clubs around Kingston in 1956 and was hired eventually by well known Jamaican record producer, Clement “Coxsone”  Dodd as security for his sound system.  Prince Buster, the amateur boxer, was the perfect person Dodd needed for crowd control at his sound system parties, which sometimes got a little rowdy.

What’s a sound system, you ask? Well, it’s truck that would carry giant speakers and a turntable and stop in a particular community and play music. The music drew people who came out and danced in the streets but sound system owners knew they had to keep them entertained so they hired “toasters,” usually men who could “toast” or rev up the crowd by reinterpreting the lyrics of a song to fit a situation he’d toast about, calling out to dancers, etc. The more skillful the toaster, the bigger the crowd, the bigger the party, the bigger the following the sound system would eventually develop. Different sound systems had their own “sound” and following. Think of it as today’s social media – MySpace for offline contact. Every so often, I still see giant speakers piled one atop the other in communities across Jamaica.

Prince Buster produced  Oh Carolina by The Folkes Brothers in 1960 which featured Rasta drummer, Count Ossie. It was a landmark in Jamaican music history as it was the first time anyone had included African elements in the music.  Oh Carolina was a hit in Jamaica and the UK and put Prince Buster on the musical map. Throughout the 1960s he wrote and produced hundreds of songs for the UK label, Blue Beat, that produced Jamaican rhythm and blues and ska.

Prince Buster recorded more than 20 albums and was awarded an Order of Distinction for his contribution to music. He now makes his home in Florida.

Soulful Sundays: Byron Lee

Byron Lee, founder of the group Byron Lee and the Dragonaires passed away in 2008 but his band, originally Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, renamed Byron Lee’s Dragonaires, continues to entertain. The band has more than 30 albums to their credit.

Byron Lee, photo from the Internet
Byron Lee, photo from the Internet

“From my mother, who was of African descent, I received the soul, rhythm and love of music and from my father, who was Chinese, I received my shrewd business sense.” Byron Lee

In the 1950s, Lee started playing music with Carl Brady, Ronnie Nasralla, Alty East and Ronald Peralto. They used a door, box for drums, spoons, grater (the kitchen implement, used in mento, traditional Jamaican music) for percussion and Lee’s antique guitar. Their first gig was at St. George’s College from which they had graduated. They continued playing parties, weddings and school dances until 1957 when they turned professional.

Lee was a both a musician and a businessman, and from the start presented a band that was well dressed, took minimum breaks, played good music and gave its audiences their money’s worth.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires became one of the best ska bands of the 1960. In 1961, they were cast as  a hotel band in James Bond’s Dr. No that was filmed in Jamaica and in 1964, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires represented Jamaica at the New York World’s Fair.

In 1965, Lee who was also known as the Dragon, began incorporating calypso in the band’s repertoire and touring Trinidad & Tobago and other islands. They performed for the first time in Trinidad’s annual carnival in 1974. In the 1970s, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires were better known in the rest of the Caribbean, which played largely calypso music, than they were in Jamaica, where reggae dominated the airwaves.

Take a listen to Ragga Ragga.

In 1990, thanks to Lee’s efforts, Jamaica had its first carnival.

“This is a dream I have nurtured for years and the right time is now. I wouldn’t be a Jamaican if I didn’t try to bring to my country, some of that happiness I see Carnival brings to other people.”

Byron Lee lives on in the music of his band, Byron Lee’s Dragonaires.

Soulful Sundays: Freddie McGregor

Freddie McGregor, aka Big Ship, is one of those reggae musicians who, although he’s been in the business since the 1960s, has remained relevant. Whether its ska, lovers rock, reggae, Roots reggae, dancehall or dub, Freddie’s done it. This versatility and his solid showmanship have earned him a loyal following both in Jamaica and internationally.

Freddie McGregor, photo from the Internet
Freddie McGregor, photo from the Internet

Freddie McGregor was born in Clarendon in June, 1956. In 1963, he and two other musicians formed the group known as The Clarendonians and recorded for Studio One, one of Jamaica’s best known labels. His popularity soared in the 1980 when he released a string of hits. He also started his own label, Big Ship, and later Big Ship Recording Studio, where he produced several reggae artists.

Freddie McGregor has over thirty albums to his credit and was nominated for a Grammy in 2003 for All For You.

Take a listen to I Was Born a Winner , one of my favorites, and Big Ship. Trying to find out who did keyboards on I Was Born a Winner. If you know, please tell me.

Freddie & Me
Freddie & Me

I’ve seen Freddie in concert a handful of times in Jamaica and the U.S. The last time, I found myself near the entrance to the stage and when he finished his performance, I did something I never would have done even ten years ago — I went over, greeted him and asked to take my photo with him. He was very gracious and agreed. I got my photo and felt like a teenager and a groupie. But it was fun! Since then, I’ve not felt the least bit shy about introducing myself to musicians or getting them to sign my CDs when I see them at performances. Other than that, I leave them alone — it’s their private time.

Anyway, hope you enjoy these selections from Freddie as much as I do.


Soulful Sundays: Rolando Alphonso

Jamaican tenor saxophonist, Rolando Alphonso, was born on January 12, 1931 in Havana, Cuba.  He was brought to Jamaica by his mother when he was two years old.

Rolando Alphonso, photo from the Internet
Rolando Alphonso, photo from the Internet

In Jamaica, Alphonso learned to play the saxophone and worked as a studio musician, backing performers such as Jimmy Cliff, the Wailers, the Maytals and most of the other leading performers of the 1960s. Alphonso also worked for two of the most influential music producers in Jamaica – Duke Reid and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. It was while working Dodd’s Studio One that he and fellow musicians, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo, and Jerome Hinds, among others, formed the ska band, The Skatalites. Ska was the new music at the time in Jamaica. The Skatalites disbanded a little more than a year after they formed and was re-formed in 1983. They continue to play.

Alphonso was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in 1977.

He moved to the U.S. in 1980 and lived in Brooklyn. He died from an aneurysm in Los Angeles in 1998.

Here’s Alphonso on Jah Shakey and Guantanamera.


Greenwood Great House

Greenwood Great House has the best collection of Victorian-era furniture, musical instruments, and china in Jamaica, perhaps even the Caribbean.

Part of the 84,000 acre estate that belonged to the wealthy Barrett family whose relatives were the British poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her aunt, Sarah Moulton Barrett, who was also called Pinkie. Moulton Barrett was born in Jamaica and was immortalized in the painting, Pinkie, by the British artist, Thomas Lawrence. Both Pinkie and Thomas Gainesborough’s Blue Boy, hang in the Huntington Gallery in San Marino, California. A copy of Pinkie’s painting can also be seen at Greenwood.

Not only does Greenwood Great House have the best collection of antiques, it is one of a few great houses that were never burned during the 1831 slave revolt that destroyed most of Jamaica’s great houses. It has also been occupied continuously since it was built in 1790 by Richard Barrett, a member of the family and a former speaker of the Jamaican House of Assembly.

Greenwood Great House - china cabinet
China cabinet
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder
Step ladder
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder unfolding
Step ladder unfolding
Greenwood Great House - Step ladder chair
Step ladder chair
Greenwood Great House - antique furniture
Antique furniture
Greenwood Great House - screw-press
Screw press

Household linens were put between two pieces of flat board. The top piece was then lowered all the way down by a screw, that way flattening and smoothening the clothes.

Greenwood Great House - chamber pot
Chamber pot
Greenwood Great House - bed
Antique bed
Greenwood Great House - Wind organ
Wind organ
Greenwood Great House - Rosewood inlaid piano
Rosewood inlaid piano

This rosewood inlaid piano was built by John Broadwood, who also made pianos for Beethoven.

Greenwood Greathouse is located in the community of Greenwood, St. James. It is 15 miles from Montego Bay and 7 miles from Falmouth. Open daily from 9-6 p.m. Guided tours cost US$20 per person.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

How Greenwood Great House Is Connected to Pinkie

Greenwood Great House, the entertainment home that once belonged to the family of Pinkie, subject of the famous painting by Thomas Lawrence, looks largely the same now as it would have when she left Jamaica more than 200 years ago.

Though she died of whooping cough at age 12, about a year after its completion, because of the painting’s resemblance to Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, she has become more easily recognizable than her famous niece, the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Pinkie was born Sarah Goodin Moulton Barrett in Jamaica in 1783. Her father was Charles Moulton Barrett. She left the island with her brothers around 1793 to further her education in London.

Greenwood Great House, image from the Internet
Greenwood Great House, image from the Internet

The Barretts had established themselves in Jamaica in 1655. Hersey Barrett, was an officer in the unsuccessful 1655 raid on Hispaniola (now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) that was led by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables. Following their defeat in Hispaniola, the British captured Jamaica, which was less fortified, from the Spaniards later that same year and Hersey Barrett was granted lands on which he settled.

Greenwood Great House - dining room
Greenwood Great House – dining room

In time, the Barrett’s fortune from sugar grew. They owned 84,000 acres straddling two parishes – St. James and Trelawny – and 2,000 slaves. When Pinkie’s brother, Edward, father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was head of the family, he reportedly received income in excess of 60,000 pounds a year, a considerable sum in those days.

Greenwood Great House
Greenwood Great House

The family resided at Barrett Hall, which was located in the hills a few miles from the border of St. James and Trelawny, and entertained at Greenwood Great House, further down the hill. They also owned the nearby Cinnamon Hill Great House, and a house in London, which is near what is now Selfridges.

The 15-room Greenwood Great House is a Georgian-styled mansion that was built in 1790 by Pinkie’s cousin, Richard Barrett, who was a speaker of the House of Assembly and custos rotulorum (representative of the governor) of St. James.

Greenwood Great House - Pinkie painting
Greenwood Great House – Pinkie painting by Thomas Lawrence. Image Wikipedia

During the Christmas slave revolt of 1831, many of the more than 200 great houses in Jamaica were razed. Fortunately for the Barrett family, they had been good to their slaves and their properties were spared.

Greenwood Great House, which was purchased in 1976 by Bob and Ann Betton and carefully maintained, has always been occupied. It houses the finest collection of antique furniture in the Caribbean, the Barrett family’s Wedgwood china and their library numbering about 300 books with some first editions dating to 1697.

Also included in the collection is a grandfather clock which tells the time and date (it was accurate the day I visited), a punch clock, clothes press, desks with secret compartments, a step ladder that unfolds into a chair, paintings, letters, and rare musical instruments, among them a rosewood inlaid piano made by John Broadwood, who reportedly was the only piano maker whose work satisfied Beethoven. The instruments have been restored and are all in good working order. In this video, Bob Betton, demonstrates one — the polyphone, an upright music box that plays parts for several voices or instruments.

One fascinating piece is a chatelaine, which the lady of the house would have used to keep items such as scissors, thimble, notebook, pencil, etc., handy. It would have been worn attached to her belt.

Greenwood Great House - Chatelaine
Greenwood Great House – Chatelaine

Just outside the main house, are two posters: one advertising for the purchase of “Negro Coopers,” the other announcing that a slave woman, Mary Gold, had run away. It’s unclear whether they are connected to Greenwood. There’s also a mantrap, a horrific looking contraption that was used to capture runaway slaves, as well as a bathtub that was carved out of a single piece of wood, water jars and farm implements.

A few yards from the house is the kitchen, now a licensed bar called The Level Crossing. Our guide explained that as the slaves carried food from the kitchen to the house, they were required to whistle. The thinking being that if they whistled, they wouldn’t be able to steal the food. On the other side of the kitchen/bar are the souvenir shop and garden.

The 17-foot verandah at Greenwood Great House provides a commanding 180 degree view of what would have been the Barrett family holdings, which stretched east to west as far as the eye could see and right down to the Caribbean Sea. From this vantage point, you can also see how the land curves into the sea. Standing on the verandah, it isn’t difficult to grasp what it must have been like to be a Barrett, with all you own — land and slaves — right at your feet.


Not surprisingly, Greenwood Great House is said to have its own ghosts, two to be exact, but the Bettons do not emphasize that information. They don’t have to — there’s so much more than that to see and experience at Greenwood, a magnificent relic of 19th century plantation life.

Greenwood Great House -- part of the view from the verandah
Greenwood Great House — part of the view from the verandah

Getting there: Greenwood Great House is located 15 miles from Montego Bay, 7 miles from Falmouth, off the main highway in a community called Greenwood. Make the turn at the shopping plaza and follow the signs up the hill.

Hours: 9-6 p.m. everyday

Guided tours: US$20

Phone: 876-953-1077

Soulful Sundays: Burning Spear

I’ve been a fan of Burning Spear (the Spear) since high school. It was the height of the Black Power Movement in the U.S., a movement that had spread to the Caribbean and expressed itself in a growing consciousness and pride in our Africanness. The Spear’s third album, Marcus Garvey, became an anthem, an indictment of the times. Marcus Garvey words come to pass, Burning Spear sang and we cheered.

It was one of the first albums I bought; it almost never left my room or my sight. I played it every chance I got. There were many favorites.

Burning Spear, photo from the Internet
Burning Spear, photo from the Internet

Burning Spear, who took the name of the former president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, was born Winston Rodney in 1945 in the parish of St. Ann.  Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley have been credited as his major influences. The Spear has been connected with several legendary Jamaican producers and studios of the 1960s and 70s. He was with Island Records until 1980 when he formed his own label. Burning Spear Music Production company and Burning Spear Records handle his bookings and music.

Now living in New York, the Spear tours extensively. Nominated 12 times, he won Grammy Awards for Best Reggae Album for Calling Rastafari (2000) and Jah is Real (2009). In 2007, he was honored by the Government of Jamaica with an Order of Distinction (OD).

I saw Burning Spear in concert in New York a few years ago. The show was memorable for several reasons. First, it was the Spear. Second, it was the only time I remember going to a show on a Sunday night, getting home after 3 a.m., and going to work the next morning. (It was after this show, I think, that I discovered Red Bull.)

When we arrived, there were only a few people in the audience. However, by the time the opening acts had warmed us up sufficiently and the Spear took the stage, the crowd had swelled considerably. There was no place to stand in this standing room only show. I could hardly see him — and my friends and I had been standing only a few yards from the stage.

Here are a couple of my favorites — Marcus Garvey and Slavery Days. Take a listen.


Soulful Sundays: RIP Whitney

Last night, I heard the shocking news: Whitney Houston had died. I sat in total disbelief, glued to the television set, watching as the news scrolled across the ticker. Even after I saw the word was, as in Whitney Houston was….it didn’t feel real. No, Whitney Houston can’t be dead. But she was.

Whitney Houston, photo from the Internet
Whitney Houston, photo from the Internet

In the footage that played over and over, she looked vibrant, alive. Nothing in these images predicted this end. I thought she’d gotten it together. She looked so good the last time I saw a photo of her, much better than in that other photo – you know the one, when she looked emaciated and fragile.

We’ll never know what hurt she tried so unsuccessfully, so tragically to salve — not that we really need to know. Her loss will, no doubt, leave a gaping hole in many hearts, especially that of her mother, Grammy Award winning gospel singer, Cissy Houston, her cousin, Dionne Warwick, and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who also reportedly has her own substance abuse issues.

Whitney Houston, a mezzo-soprano, was born in Newark, NJ on August 9, 1963. She was a model, singer, actor and producer. With 415 awards, Whitney has been recognized more times than any other female artist. Her awards include two Emmys, six Grammys, 30 Billboard Music, and 22 American Music Awards. She has sold more than 200 million albums and singles.

Whitney holds an honorary doctorate from Grambling State University in Louisiana. She has seven albums and four movies to her credit including the hugely successful, The Bodyguard, that was the second highest-grossing film worldwide in 1992, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. Her fourth and final film, Sparkle, now in post production, is scheduled to be released in August. Whitney has also appeared in television shows and in several commercials.

Singers like Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson and many others acknowledge Whitney as an influence.

Here’s Whitney singing Saving All My Love For You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Rest in Peace, Whitney!