Strong voice from a wheelchair - Low turnout for first of three Frankie Paul benefit concerts
Before singing at the House of Dancehall on Saturday night Frankie Paul told The Gleaner that he is "always looking forward to a performance." - even if it was his first time singing from a wheelchair, as the 'Alive and Well' concert was a fund-raiser for a prosthetic, after his right foot was amputated in January.
In approaching performing from a wheelchair a smiling Frankie Paul said it was "just the same, with a little twist."
Then, long before Frankie Paul was wheeled on stage at 6 Cargill Avenue, St Andrew, singer Clancy Eccles Jr said "Frankie Paul voice a no normal voice." And in greeting Frankie Paul as he sat in his wheelchair on the stage, waiting for the microphone, singer Little John told Frankie Paul "it is a pleasure to see you. You have life and you is here. Nothing no change..."
When he sang there was immediate confirmation that Frankie Paul's voice has maintained its renowned quality and his anticipation , as he sang Worries in the Dance and the minuscule audience cheered. Most of the fewer than 50 persons comprising the audience had stayed back from the stage as Eccles Jr, Spring Water, Phillip Fraser, Triston Palma, George Nooks (who told Frankie Paul in song "God is always here for you") and Everton Pessoa, among others, sang to the music of Lloyd Parkes and We The People Band. However, the sight and sound of the singer caused a surge of people to stand just before the stage within cell phone camera range of Frankie Paul.
Whether passing the microphone back and forth with fellow singers or on his own when the others left the stage after a group photograph, Frankie Paul's voice was strong and clear as he did his originals Alicia, Tidal Wave and Kushumpeng, among others. Interspersed with them were snippets of covers such as I Can See Clearly Now and Old Friends, done in medley fashion preceding songs that Frankie Paul has recorded.
At times his wheelchair inched back and forth as Frankie Paul poured energy into his vocals, Empress Makeda, who also did harmony vocals, stood behind it. Especially in the later part of his stage time Frankie Paul clutched her fingers as they sang together, the sinews of his left arm defined, showing the strength of his grip.
One cover, One in a Million You, was done in its entirety, Frankie Paul giving the Larry Graham R&B song excellent treatment.It was on this song that Empress Makeda handed Frankie Paul a piece of white napkin, which he used to brush what appeared to a tear from the eye under the left lens of his eyeglasses.
Just before, Frankie Paul spoke about his experiences briefly, resonance in his memorable voice. "Back in time, not long ago, when I had complications of my own, I just took it like a man and went through it, prayed to the Most High every day that I would overcome the tribulations, trials, pain agony," he said, then starting to sing again, his voice wavering slightly.
His last song for the night was Cassanova, before the wheelchair was reversed and the concert was effectively over, one persistent vocalist doing wrap-up duties.
Before performing Frankie Paul, who was born in 1965, told The Gleaner that the procedure to fit the prosthetic is scheduled for December in the UK. He could not say how much the prosthetic and procedure will cost, but "some people say it is very expensive."
Saying briefly why his foot had to be amputated, Frankie Paul said "I got gangrene and it wanted to take me away, so I took it away." The surgery was done in January at the May Pen Hospital [ in Clarendon. The singer, who is diabetic, got a cut on the sole of his right foot which would not heal. "It caused a lot of pain," he said.
After going to a private hospital in Kingston he was given a "ridiculous price. I said no." Leaving to go to Mont ego Bay the condition worsened and he ended up in May Pen where the surgery was done.
Although he lives in The Gambia (where he plans to return to in January), Frankie Paul maintains a studio in Montego Bay, St James, and said "I plan to do more recording." Fund-raisers are planned for Canada and the UK in December.