Fri | Jul 20, 2018

Happy memories of Jimmy Riley's full life

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Carlene Davis (left), Olivia 'Babsy' Grange (centre) and Omar Davies.
Jermaine Barnaby/Freelance Photographer Prilly Hamilton (left) and Sly Dunbar
Isaiah Laing of Supreme Promotions, which organises Sting on Boxing Day, among other enertainment events.
Congregation members sing at the service for Jimmy Riley.
Tony Rebel

There was more laughter than tears at yesterday afternoon's thanksgiving service for Martin Norman Riley, more popularly known as Jimmy Riley.

As members of his family and extended family from the music fraternity reflected on the singer's life, they couldn't help being cheerful as they remembered Riley as one who was always smiling, even in pain.

Held at the Webster Memorial United Church on Half-Way Tree Road, the service fit Riley's persona. The entertainer was given a musical send-off as several persons from the entertainment industry paid their respects in song. During the tributes section, dubbed Love and Devotion, veterans Dean Fraser, Tinga Stewart, Sly Dunbar and Lloyd Parkes performed some of Riley's most popular songs, including Love and Devotion, My Woman's Love, Give Me Your Love and Rougher Yet. His son, Tarrus Riley. was also a part of the musical happenings, offering a performance of his father's song, Black Mother Pray.


Described as a man who was obsessed with music and passionate about singing, Riley was praised for his tremendous contribution to reggae music. In her message, Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sports Olivia 'Babsy' Grange spoke highly of Jimmy Riley, whom she described as more than the ordinary musician.

"A song would drip with emotion wrapped in his soulful tenor," she said. "He knew his stage craft, and that was ably supported by a catalogue of moving and well-written songs. Jimmy is, was and will always be, one of Jamaica's greatest songwriters."

She said Riley's legacy will not only live on through his music, but also through his son, Tarrus Riley. "Nothing gave Jimmy more joy than to see his son, Omar Tarrus Riley, follow in his footsteps. It's no secret the influence Jimmy had on the career of Tarrus and Jimmy will not only live through his own creativity, but through that of his son as well," Grange said.

Tarrus Riley was not to be left out of the tributes and took to the microphone from time to time to reflect on the time spent with his father. He encouraged the congregation to celebrate his father's life, describing him as a strong individual who lived to the fullest even when he was ill.

"My father always had a smile. Even when he was sick, you couldn't tell if you didn't know. He was always cheerful and always encouraged people to look on the brighter side of things," Tarrus said.

Members of the entertainment industry turned out in droves to pay their final respects to Riley. Among those in attendance were Tinga Stewart, Stone Love's Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell, Leroy Sibbles, Lloyd Lovindeer, Chronixx, Sean Paul, Alaine, Stacious and Konshens.

Jimmy Riley died on March 23 in New York, after a long battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.