Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Story of the song | No personal threat over 'power and the glory' - Gilbert reaction brings Ernie Smith back home

Published:Sunday | February 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Ernie Smith

When The Sunday Gleaner, asked singer/songwriter Ernie Smith on a recent visit to his St Ann stomping grounds if he had any regrets in nearly half century in Jamaican popular music, he paused before replying.

"I wasted a lot of time," he said eventually. "I should never have left Jamaica. I should have stayed in the studio in Jamaica. I was away for 13 years."

Smith left in 1976 and it was a song that led to his extended stay in the USA. The name of that song is, As We Fight One Another For The Power and the Glory the Kingdom Goes to Waste and, at a time of intense rivalry between the JLP and PNP in Jamaica, it did not go down well with the political loyalists. It was a year of a general election, and when Bob Marley was among those shot at 56 Hope Road, St Andrew.

 

LEAVE THE COUNTRY

 

However, Smith said he was never personally threatened because of the song, although someone advised him to leave the country. Smith said it was in Miami, "I read in the paper, I was threatened and had to leave. It never actually happened."

There is no mistaking his questioning of Jamaica's political process in the song, often referred to as Power and the Glory or We The People. Smith does a spoken introduction which is the song's proper title (later it becomes the chorus) and then sings:

"We the people want fi know

Just where we're going

Right now we hands are tied

Tied behind we back

While certain people if and buttin'

Where do we stand?

We have too far to go

Not to really know

Just how we're getting there

And if we getting anywhere

We have too much to change

Not to know the range

Of possibility and changeability

Violence and crime is commonplace

Within these said times

No man walk free

Prophecy come closer to fulfilment

In these dread times, why should this be?

A fi we own disgrace, yeah

A fi we own disgrace

Can't build no foundation 'pon a if and a but

Are we building a nation

Or are we building a hut?

And every time you ask

Fi some old friend

You hear say just las' night

Him meet a sad, sad end

And if you talk too loud

And if you walk too proud

Watch where you lay your head

For round deh dread, well dread

Can't build no dreams 'pon a fus and fight

Me no care who a do it

Jah say that no right..."

He returned to Jamaica in 1989 and ironically, when he was doing concerts where Edward Seaga or PJ Patterson were in the audience, he said they would request the song.

It was a storm which brought him home to live. In 1988, Smith was booked for a show at the Little Pub in Ocho Rios and turned up for it, but Hurricane Gilbert had other plans.

As a visitor of sorts, he had a "great time" relaxing through the storm and, back in Fort Lauderdale, saw a television interview with a Jamaican who had what should have been a rough time, but was taking it in stride. He said, "I really lose everything you know, but what a breeze eh sah?".

With the never say die spirit that embodied, Smith said, "I never need anything else to come home." And he did.