Tunes for the head, bell
It is a given that each general election campaign in Jamaica will be accompanied by the use of a number of already popular songs, even if they are not given over to one of the two major political parties by the performer or producer. Once the song is appropriated by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or People's National Party (PNP), the persons who made it have little or no say in the campaign use of their material.
Singer Nadine Sutherland had that experience in the early 1990s when her duet with Terror Fabulous, Action, was taken over by the JLP. It came as an uncomfortable surprise for Sutherland, who got the shock of her life driving into the city from Norman Manley Airport. Sutherland told The Gleaner in a previous interview, "I remember going to the Tamika Awards and coming back, and a man greeting me and saying, 'Congratulations! I hear your song on a political campaign'. By the time I left the airport, I was in shock when I saw the graffiti, 'action, not a bag a mout'. Then I heard the version on the radio," she said.
"That time was one of the hardest in my life. I was nervous. I was afraid. I was like, 'I am not living this'. It was a different time. It was not 1980, but there were still people who believed that they should harm you if you were different," Sutherland said.
Being different was not a problem for Clancy Eccles. The singer/songwriter/show promoter had his music talent utilised by both the JLP and PNP. His song Freedom was part of the successful anti-West Indies Federation thrust by the JLP, but he later hailed the PNP Michael Manley's Rod of Correction and insisted on Power for the People.
Pluto Shervington's ultra-patriotic I Man Born Ya was literally taken over live on stage by Michael Manley, at a time when many were leaving the country in droves. In a previous interview, Shervington told The Gleaner that the then ruling PNP used the song in the run-up to the 1976 general election without his permission, although he was not unhappy about it even though it was not his preference to seem to be affiliated with one side of a fractious campaign.
However, when he was asked to perform on a concert at Jamaica House, and the line-up manipulated to have him perform close to the end so that Manley could walk on stage and endorse the song in front of 70,000 persons, I Man Born Ya was out of Shervington's hands for the moment.
Neville 'Struggle' Martin's My Leader Born Ya played specifically to Manley's Jamaican heritage, as opposed to speculation about JLP leader Edward Seaga's origins.
And there was a time, though not in a general election, when the JLP went below the waist in its campaign efforts. In an early 2000s by-election in St Ann, T. O. K's Chi-Chi Man got loud, repeated play from the PA systems.
- Mel Cooke