No Hard Feelings, says Niney... After years of ups and downs in music
He has been in the industry for several decades, and, though he is credited with establishing the careers of several iconic reggae performers, including Dennis Brown, Winston 'Niney' Holness believes that he still has not got the recognition he deserves.
Now based in Kingston 5, Niney told The Sunday Gleaner how his studio became known as the 'Observer'.
"I was working with Bunny Lee and selling records as a salesman and then we split up. At that time, Lee 'Scratch' Perry was 'The Upsetter', Bunny Lee was 'The Aggravator' and I decided to call myself 'The Destroyer'. But then, after a while, I realised that really didn't fit me, so I started calling myself 'The Observer', he said.
It was also Lee who motivated him to become a producer, which ultimately led to him working with Dennis Brown.
"Dennis Brown was a humble yute, who you could talk to. You could tell him what he needed improvement on and he would listen. I really enjoyed working with him. But after a while, things started going bad. After people saw the success wid me and him, dem start influence him. Dennis and I lived in a house for 12 years and behind my back, people started introducing him to drugs," Niney recalled.
Niney left flabbergasted
As if that wasn't enough, Niney said he was left flabbergasted after it was revealed that Brown had gone ahead and copyrighted songs written by Niney as his own.
"There was a special song that I wrote called Love and Hate. I was the one who sang it before. One night, we were playing dominoes and I said to Dennis, 'which song you have as an opening song?' and he said he had none. So I told him I had a song he could sing. I taught him how to sing it. Wolf and Leopard was written by me and Lee Perry, and we don't get a dollar from those songs. He registered the songs under his own name," sad Niney.
He also worked with artiste Mykal Rose in the early stages of his career.
"I am the one who bring him (Rose) out there. He was a tailor when I met him, but he liked music. Then he started to emulate Dennis. He walked like him, talked like him, etc. So we had to develop his own style. I told him about the movie with Sidney Poitier called Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, and we make the song and never miss. But then him go 'gainst me. Is like me have bad luck when it come on to music, 'cause a nuff a dem fight 'gainst me. But then, he came back around and we good," Niney said.
no hard feelings
But he harbours no hard feelings. Instead, he looks at it as lessons learnt and experience gained.
He is now focusing his attention on working with other artistes, informing The Sunday Gleaner that he has a variety of songs that he has written.
"Right now, I'm doing some work with Jimmy Cliff. I have thousands and thousands of songs, an' is only one person I take out and give so far, and is Jimmy. We are working on songs such as Animal Kingdom, Child Abuse, and The Best I Can. Jimmy is a fair guy," he says.
In addition, he is also working with younger artistes whom he expects great things from. He also held an audition for artistes recently, where more than 250 applicants turned out. From that lot, he selected only 10 to work with.
Niney also noted that there were many new changes in the production of music, and not all were for the best.
"The guys are more 'crabbit' out there for money. Some of these artistes and producers are great, but because of the money, they don't care what thy put out. You have producers and reducers. The reducers don't know the proper notes, dem nuh know key. All they do is collect a bag of money," Niney told The Sunday Gleaner.
Though his work sometimes goes unnoticed, he is undeterred.
"I don't get the recognition I deserve. I don't hype and it takes hype to get recognised. I have worked with countless artistes and other producers, but it goes unnoticed. I'm just focusing right now on the work that I am doing. I would love to start a foundation for autistic children. I have an autistic son. All the money from the song Child Abuse will be donated to children. No child needs to be hungry in Jamaica. I told Jimmy that we are gonna do one of the biggest concerts in the world with international artistes and give the money to children who are in need."