Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Story of the song | Life is just for living from Red Stripe request

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 2:00 AMMel Cooke
Ernie Smith

Last year, Red Stripe did a remake of its 'Life Is Just For Living' advertisement, originally recorded by Ernie Smith in 1972. This time around, Mystic and Wayne Marshall are featured in the song, with Smith again appearing in the visuals as he did 45 years ago.

It is customary for advertisements to be based on popular songs. In this case, the popular and award-winning song, Life Is Just For Living, came from an advertisement.

"Adrian Robinson (advertising executive) came to me and said he wanted a song for Red Stripe. He related that people were not drinking the hard liquor anymore. They were chilling out and drinking a beer," Smith said.

So Robinson wanted a song called Song of the Young Men to capture this atmosphere. It is actually the only line that Smith kept, as it leads up to the chorus as he sings, "this is the song young men sing, life is just for living".

Smith said he really got into writing the song and Ted Dawson, a music publisher at Federal Records, suggested that he enter it in the Yamaha Music Festival competition, which was in Tokyo, Japan, in November that year. They did (without the Red Stripe reference, naturally), and although it was already recorded, an intricate orchestration was written since there was a 64-piece orchestra in Tokyo.

"We won. We tied with England - so they say," Smith said.

Red Stripe waited until the competition was over and Smith had returned to release the commercial. The advertising roots of Life Is Just For Living have stayed with the song, Smith saying when he did it after, he would slip in the line, "I rather have a Red Stripe". These days, he works in the tagline "Must be 18 years and older, enjoy Red Stripe responsibly".

Although Life Is Just For Living became the title track for his double-disc album marking 30 years in music, Smith said the song was not a big seller. It helped that Red Stripe bought about 5,000 to distribute among employees. The low numbers have not diminished his love for the song.

"I really got into writing that song. It was kind of special to me," Smith said.