Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Bob Andy Sings Of Freedom From Economic, Social Woes

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Bob Andy
Bob Andy performing back in the day.

The results of the February 2016 general elections, perhaps tells us that most people are not so much concerned about the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and who passes tests.
They seem to be more interested in having some money in their pockets to spend on the necessities of life, and the IMF, as far as they are concerned, doesn't offer them that privilege.
To them, the IMF is more geared towards attracting investments for the 'big man' or what the great Jamaican songwriter, Bob Andy calls, multinationals. In all fairness though, investments can eventually lead to job creation for the poor. But how long will that take? The poor, downtrodden, underpaid Jamaican worker, needs money in his pocket now in order to survive, and was not willing to wait.
Keith Anderson, better know as Bob Andy, and rated by many as Jamaica's best songwriter in popular music, has always been a staunch critic of these multinational corporations. He views them as a stumbling block in the way of the poor, rather than a way of creating jobs.
In a scathing lyrical attack on them, contained in his mid-1970s reggae recording, Check It Out, Andy uncompromisingly denounced them, as he invites his listeners to:
"Come listen to me
I made a discovery
I want to share it with you
I'll have you know that its true.
Multinationals are really criminals
All forms of gamblings
There's no way you can win
Open your eyes
It's time you realize
that the rise in the price is to make more money for who's got plenty
and the trick of the trade is to keep all the hungry bellies empty.
Check it out, check it out".
Andy steps up the verbal attack a notch further, as he addresses the poor in the second stanza:
"It's the break of day
It's time now you have a say
You've been sleeping all night
and now it's time for the light
Come see these legal crooks
who learn their tricks by the books
So-called disciples of God
who rule with an iron rod.
Open your eyes
It's time you realise".
Released on a 'Total Sounds' record label, the recording was a big hit in Jamaica during the mid-1970s.

Fire Burning

The 1974 Richard Khouri-produced recording, Fire Burning, written and sung by Andy, was another of his scathing attacks that was particularly severe on the establishment. In a tense political climate, the recording created a bombshell as Andy, exhibiting his poetic skills, sung:
"I was drawn into myself, observing all this time
From every angle I could see, my people you're meeting hell
Brothers have turned to crime
So they die from time to time
We'd like to ask you leaders, what have you got in mind.
I see the fire spreading
It's getting hotter and hot
The haves will want to be in the shoes of the have nots
If the sign is on your door
Then you will be safe for sure
But if you are in pretence
You are on the wrong side of the fence".
A big No.1 hit on the Jamaican charts, the biting lyrics must have had a stunning effect on then Prime Minister Michael Manley, as Andy was summoned to Jamaica House to offer an explanation. Andy, however, stood his ground, maintaining that he envisioned an eternal fire burning among the people, because of the conditions they were under.
Bob Andy's appreciation of the conditions of the underprivileged, must have been triggered by his own experiences. He was a runaway child, who learnt many of his crafts in the streets, which he claimed was his University. Let Them Say, done for producer Clement 'Coxson' Dodd, was an introspective look at himself, and an answer to his critics. He sings:
"People see me acting strange
they might think it's a burning shame.
But the people don't realise
the pangs of hell that I feel.
So let them say I'm mad,
They don't know how it feels to be sad.
I don't know who could be glad
in a situation like this.
My last shirt's torn off my back.
But that's not quite the fact.
My shoes is down to my socks.
No place to lay my head
I don't even own a bed,
I can't remember when I've eaten bread.
They don't seem to realise
what really keeps me alive.
It's the power that is so great that no man can destroy.
They'd like to understand just where I get a helping hand,
so they criticize, while I look and live"
During an interview I did with Andy in 2005 on Klas Sports Radio, he spoke about the driving-force behind the creation of his songs.

Crafting Great Songs

"If I was a carpenter, I would want to make good tables and chairs, so I really set out to craft these songs properly, because they were going to represent me for life. What people call depression, when I go down there, I come up with a song. You have to go into another cosmic and out of that comes tears and sorrow. That's why some of my songs sound like that", Andy revealed.
The songwriting genius who placed Marcia Griffiths on the road to success, and who declares that he would prefer to get his honour from the people rather than from governments, began his solo career at Studio 1 with the recording, Crime Don't Pay, around 1966. He followed up with 11 other cuts. One in the batch, titled Unchained, sums up Andy's earliest call for freedom from economic and social woes:
"Just take these chains away and set me free.
Remove me out of bondage and we'll agree.
Too long I've been a slave, I wanna be no more.
I'd rather dig my grave than be locked behind the door.
I wanna help myself be an independent man.
I don't want no one to give me a helping hand.
Whether you're black, whether you're white
I don't give a damn, I just wanna be alright".
These are just a few of the many self-penned recordings in which Andy expresses his innermost feelings on matters of injustice.