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