Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Three cuts from Percy

Published:Sunday | April 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Tinga Stewart
Ninja Man
Percy Sledge
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Percy Sledge, who died at 73 years old on April 14, was a perennial favourite in Jamaica, doing concerts here over several years. The true testament to his appeal, as is the same for all enduring artistes, is that he could come and do the same material time and again to the adulation of his fame.

In fact, it would have been unwise for him to present material from eras of his extensive career, long after his golden period, centred around his 1966 hit, When a Man Loves a Woman. Audiences came out to hear Warm and Tender Love, Cover Me, Take Time to Know Her and Dark End of the Street, among other R&B hits and what he served up at his final show in Jamaica last year.

Truth be told, Sledge was very far from even an average presentation of his much-beloved self when he performed at the Jamaica College grounds last March. Not only was his voice in terrible nick, but he also delivered most of his short set sitting in a chair. His wife gave him some help on Warm and Tender Love, which the audience appreciated tremendously, but it was far from top-drawer singing.

 

Unconditional love

 

Still, the audience showed its appreciation for Sledge, who left the stage with a smile and a wave - the last that he would give to Jamaica.

Sledge's influence on Jamaica is emphasised in at least two time periods - the rocksteady era with John Holt's version of Sledge's Thief in The Night and the dancehall's late 1980s period with Tinga Stewart and Ninja Man's take on Take Time To Know Her and Cover Me.

In his introduction to the latter, Ninja Man reinforces the connection as he says, "Now hear this, all nice and decent celebrity crew, heng on because this is Ninja and Tinga passing through once again. Come in Tinga, Jamaica Percy Sledge!"

In this take on the popular R&B song, after Tinga sings the refrain and up to the end of the refrain, Ninja Man reworks another popular R&B song. He deejays:

"I try to spend my life trying to tell everyone

I have myself I don't need anyone

In a world of lonely people that is looking for love...

Everybody needs someone to love

Everybody wants to love someone."

The lyrics are actually a take on Crystal Gayle's Nobody Wants To Be Alone, although the Don Gorgon skips a lot of the lyrics in the first verse. Gayle sings:

"I spent my life trying to tell everyone

I've got myself, I don't need anyone

You heard the words but you looked in my eyes

And saw the wall of tears I was hiding behind

You reached for me, I felt your touch

I wanted you, we both needed so much

In a world of lonely people looking for love

Why was I surprised to see it happen to us?

Everybody needs someone to love

Everybody wants to love someone

When the nights are long and cold

Everybody needs someone to love

Nobody wants to be alone."

In the cover of Take Time To Know Her, Ninja Man warns young lovers to "look before you leap, because the road of love is very steep". And after Tinga sings the song's fist verse, Ninja Man interjects, "gal gi mi piece a yu loving this week" before the song's chorus.

Holt's take on Thief in the Night, renamed Stealing, is not well known to be a cover - which is not an unusual situation for the earlier years of Jamaican popular music production, when many of the popular songs were remakes of American originals.

Holt also remade a song associated with Sledge, Bring It On Home To Me, which was originally recorded by Sam Cooke. Among the many persons who did over the song was another Jamaican favourite Otis Redding.