Wed | Jan 16, 2019

The magic of 16

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Johnny P
Sam Cooke

Sixteen years old is a landmark age in a young lady's development, very often marked by a special party. It is not surprising then that the age makes its way into popular songs, or that these tracks centre around a budding love life.

Primary among them is Sam Cooke's Only Sixteen, a tale of young love that is misunderstood even by those involved. Cooke sings:

"She was only sixteen, only sixteen

But I loved her so

She was too young to fall in love

And I was too young to know."

He acknowledges that his age is a factor in the relationship, but the song is written from a more mature perspective - just another year, but seemingly much more emotionally developed:

"Why did I give my heart so fast?

It never will happen again

But I was a mere lad of six teen

I've aged a year since then."

Jamaican cover treatment

Getting the Jamaican cover treatment, Only Sixteen, was done over in dancehall style by Thriller U and Johnny P. While the singer (Thriller U) kept the lyrics as done originally, Johnny P had to find something to add to the song. He came up with an age range leading to the decisive stage. First, he deejays about her immaturity, that "she young and she green she a me sweet 16."

Then comes the lead-up to that age: 

"Ketch a drama when me was 13

Me met up this girl at the age of 16 

Tell har me want to be har king

And she to be me queen."

He is refused because of his age, as "if me did older dan dat she would a make me rope een."

General Echo has an age range at the start of his song Arlene, a very narrow time span which makes a lady desirable under the particular circumstance. He deejays:

"Under 17 but yu over 16

Ah beg yu rock an come een."

However, Cocoa Tea and Buju Banton are not taking any chances, dismissing the young girls firmly. Cocoa Tea sings:

"Now this one is designed for 18 and over...

Girl, won't you go home to your mama

Go home to your papa

You too young to be my lover."

And Buju deejays:

"Woman you pretty but de dread no response

What him looking at is a life sentance."