Fathers lauded through song
One of the most commonly accepted inaccuracies in Jamaican society is the notion that Jamaican fathers 'don't mind him youth dem'. As more and more research is done and statistics become available, the revelation becomes clearer that fathers have been doing much better than the general stereotypes make it out to be. From a musical perspective, several popular foreign recordings on the topic of fathers, which appeared early on the Jamaican popular music scene, also gave fathers a good grade.
Covering the full gamut of paternal emotions, singers have showered unending accolades on fathers and father figures right down the years to the present time. Perhaps the earliest and dearest to most hearts, both here and abroad, was the December 1953 recording of Oh My Papa by the American singer Eddie Fisher, accompanied by Hugo Winterhalter's Orchestra, which hit number one on the US Billboard charts in 1954 and climbed to the top 10 on the UK charts. The song became very popular among Jamaicans, who did not hesitate to join in the chorus, as Fisher sang:
'Oh my papa, to me he was so wonderful.
Oh my papa, to me he was so good.
No one could be so gentle and so loveable
Oh my papa, he always understood.
Gone are the days, when he would take me on his knees,
and with a smile he'd change my tears to laughter.
Oh my papa, so funny, so adorable.
Always the clown, so funny in his ways.
Oh my papa, to me he was so wonderful.
Deep in my heart, I miss him so today'.
With the commemoration of Father's Day come the memories and nostalgia associated with such songs, especially to those who were around at that time. But to those who weren't, their appeal may be no less, as continual exposure to such songs was guaranteed to successive generations by virtue of their resurgence each time the season comes around.
Songs of praise may be one way of looking at the contribution that fathers have made to their families, but statistics may give a truer picture: Dr Herbert Gayle, chairman of Fathers Incorporated, while speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) forum recently, said that research has shown that since Jamaica's Independence, the number of couple families (man and woman living together in a marriage or common-law relationship with a child) has increased from 20 per cent to 42 per cent. Fathers have, therefore, become closer to their children over the last 50 years. Oftentimes, the relationship includes his unbiological children or step-children, who received equal treatment as his own. Richard Spencer, lead vocalist of the 1960s group The Winstons, shared his experience on this topic in a recording titled Colour him Father:
'Our real old man got killed in the war
and she knows with seven kids, couldn't have gotten very far.
He married my mother and he took us in
and now we belong to the man with the big wide grin.
I've got to colour this man father,
I've got to colour him love'.
Given the slavery and plantation legacy in Jamaica, it is almost a miracle that Jamaican fathers have made this level of improvement. Fathers had no real opportunity to become real fathers, as the system discouraged family union. In order to better understand the situation, one has to accept the fact that in 1838, fathers per household stood at zero. Based on information from the Colonial Office in England, Dr Gayle said, "In 1962, only one of five children had a father who was resident at home. That accounted for 18 to 20 per cent of all children in Jamaica. In 1991, the figure had risen to 37 per cent and we are now at 42 per cent of 'couple' families."
Well-off independent women in good jobs have been known to apply repelling tactics to keep willing fathers away, while at the other end of the scale, single mothers have given the highest ratings to absentee fathers who provide money. This, Dr Gayle said, is devastating to the psyche of the ever-present, weak-pocket fathers, who provide the more important roles of nurturing, protecting, and being a role model. In other areas, children sometimes become the reason that keeps couples together. Wayne Newton seemed to have captured this scenario in his 1972 recording, Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast, as he sang:
'The love between the two of us was dying
and it got so bad, I knew I had to run
but halfway down the highway
when I turned around I saw my little girl running after me, crying,
Daddy don't you walk so fast'.
Dad - Newton eventually relented:
'If only for the sake of my sweet daughter
I just had to turn back home right there and then'.
Back in Jamaica, The Fab5 Band's early reggae piece, Oh Dad, helped to dispel misconceptions about Jamaican fathers, when vocalist Peter Scarlet sang:
'Oh dad, he solved my little problems,
always lend an helping hand.
That's why to me he is still the greatest
man who walked this land'.
Luther Vandross' 2003 multiple Grammy-winner, Dance With My Father, further reinforced the close bond that should exist between father and child:
'My father would lift me high
and dance with my mother and me
and then spin me around till I fell asleep
then up the stairs he would carry me
and I knew for sure I was loved'.
Reba McEntire, in one of her recordings, states that the greatest man she ever knew was her father, while in a 1976 recording, Dorothy Moore paid tribute to her child's father in the recording, Daddy's Eyes, in which she sang:
'Your daddy paid his dues.
You got your daddy's eyes, you got your
Shep and the Limelites, some 18 years before, had a big hit with Daddy's Home. The inexhaustible Father's Day list continues with Beyonce's Daddy; The Temptations' 1972 number-one hit, Papa Was a Rolling Stone; Eric Clapton's My Father's Eyes; Madonna's Papa Don't Preach, and Don Gardner and Dee Ford's Son My Son.