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Harsh Reality - Late reggae singer Jackie Brown still not buried ... Industry insiders upset at poor state of affairs

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Jackie Brown
Copeland Forbes
Frankie Campbell, chairman of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA).

Odette Brown, daughter of the late reggae singer Jackie Brown, is disheartened at the negative comments that have been directed at her family in light of the situation surrounding funeral arrangements for her father.

Jackie Brown, who was responsible for songs such as Send Me the Pillow, One Night of Sin, Miss Hard to Get and Wiser Dread, died on November 12, 2015, and his body is still awaiting burial. Brown said since news of her late father's demise broke, people have been less than supportive and have been lashing out at the family for not doing their part, but she wants the world to know that she has been doing all that she can to ensure that her father is laid to rest.

Brown, who lives in Jamaica, revealed that funeral arrangements for her father were halted because of financial difficulties, but went on to say that she has been helping out in the best way she can.

"I am just so stressed out about the whole situation," she told The Sunday Gleaner. "I sought help from the public because I cannot do it on my own and I am not getting any help from other family members."


Hurt by social media comments


She went on to reveal that she has been particularly hurt by the harsh comments made by people via social media.

"The worst part in all this is hearing all the negative things people talk on Facebook without knowing the full story. Since my father died, only a few family members have reached out and all they have made is promises. I live in Jamaica and I came here (in New York) to do my part, because no matter what, I cannot turn my back."


Cost of funeral


The total cost of the funeral is US$4,000 (J$480,900); a figure Brown revealed is too high for her to reach on her own. Brown told The Sunday Gleaner that since she has been in New York, she has asked a lot of questions about her father's money, but still cannot figure out where all the money he acquired over the years went.

"I don't know where his money is. I've been asking questions but all I've been getting is the runaround. My father lived here (in New York) on his own and had people come and go, but since he died, everybody tek weh dem self."

Local media in New York (where Brown was living at the time of his death) have been reaching out to media personnel in Jamaica, hoping to spread the word and assist Brown in her plight. When The Sunday Gleaner spoke to one of the persons who have been helping in the efforts to garner support, she described the situation as a sad one. She did not want her name to be disclosed, but commented on the situation via email.

"I feel ashamed that one of our own has been lying on cold slab coming up two months. No matter what the circumstances of who should have or could have, the fact remains Jackie Brown's body must have a final resting place, so I'm appealing for your assistance right now."

Even reggae industry insider Copeland Forbes was upset about the situation. In an email sent to The Sunday Gleaner, Forbes expressed disappointment at the handling of the situation. He directed his comments to the local music fraternity, stating that the situation now facing Brown's family has been recurring too often in recent years.

"Can you believe this note/email I got from my media friends up north in NY," his email read. "This is a well-known reggae singer from Jamaica. He passed away from last year, almost two months now, and he still has not been buried. What a shame. We had one like this in October 2014 with a famous one, and it was the former minister of culture who came in at the last minute and helped to save the face of reggae. Why does this situation keep recurring when these entertainers make very decent and substantial remuneration, during their heyday? Why are no preparations made for situation like this? It brings tears to my eyes."


Not the first time


As pointed out by Forbes, this is not the first time family or close friends of veteran reggae singers who need help have expressed the need for the local industry to take care of their foundation members. In 2014, friends of Kingstonian frontman Jackie Bernard lashed out at the industry for neglecting their own. Bernard, who passed on later that same year, had fallen ill and needed medical assistance. At the time, Mark 'Dukey' Gorney of Tip Top Sound, and member of the San Francisco Vintage Reggae Society, expressed concern about the welfare of vintage Jamaican artistes. In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Gorney said Bernard's current situation was quite tragic, and emphasised the music industry's failure to care for veterans who have fallen on hard times.

When The Sunday Gleaner contacted members of the Jamaica Federation of Music (JFM) and the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA) at the time, they revealed that there was little they could do to help these artistes because of lack of funding for their organisations. President of the JFM, Desmond 'Desi' Young, said that it is unfortunate whenever artistes fall on hard times, but unless artistes make contributions to the societies set up to help them in these situations, there is little they can do.

"They (artistes) should make contributions to the organisations set up for them; it is good to be your brother's keeper, but you have to have the money to help them," he said.

Chairman of JAVAA Frankie Campbell agreed.

"JAVAA was set up especially for these cases, but the organisation cannot help everyone," he said. "Therefore, to get help you have to be a member of JAVAA."


Help from industry


Nevertheless, Brown is hoping that the music industry in Jamaica can reach out and give a helping hand.

"I just want people from the music industry to reach out and help me with this. He contributed a lot to reggae music and deserves at least this. I just want to put my father to rest and be done with this."

She went on to thank persons at the David Williams Funeral Home in New York, who have been handling the situation surrounding her late father with care.

"They have been housing the body free of cost and have been really patient and understanding with us," she said.

An account has been set up for persons who wish to make a donation to the family. Persons can send their contribution to Account # 432-582-4616. Brown is hoping to bury her father sometime next week, as she has to return to Jamaica.