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The Music Diaries | The Mighty Diamonds predicted 'Right Time' in 1976

Published:Sunday | July 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
The Mighty Diamonds

With the bloodletting that has engulfed the nation, one can't help but agree that the Mighty Diamonds, a 1970s Jamaican vocal trio, were right on track when they warned about impending disaster in several of their recordings.

Their first big hit, When The Right Time Come (Right Time) in 1976, sent the message quite clearly as they warned:

"Man a go find him back against the wall

Oh yeah,

it a go bitter when the right time come

Lord, some a go charge fe treason

Some a go charge fe arson, some a go charge fe murder

When the lawman come, some a go run till him tumble down."

It would seem as if that 'Right Time' has come and gone from the 1970s leading into the 1980s, when thousands of people were murdered in an election decade that saw three general elections - two won by The People's National Party (PNP) and one by The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). And as they say, what goes around comes around, and The Mighty Diamonds' warning still holds strong, as murders for 2017 have already exceeded the 700 mark.

Not long after the release of Right Time, from an album of the same name, The Mighty Diamonds again stirred the hearts and minds of music fans with a classic called I Need A Roof. It was another prophetic message as they sang:

"Time a go dread

every gully a go run red

I need a roof over my head

and bread on my table

It is love in my heart

It is love for everyone."

And love and unity have been one of the hallmarks of the group, allowing them, unlike many other Jamaican groups, to stay together for over forty years without changing a member. Almost all their recordings were written collectively by the three members: Donald 'Tabby' Shaw, Fitzroy 'Bunny' Simpson and Lloyd 'Judge' Ferguson.

The group's penchant for group singing seemed to have evolved from their love for harmony singing. According to lead vocalist Tabby, who I spoke to recently from his McKenley Crescent residence in Waterhouse, "I like a combination of sounds. it's more pleasing than hearing one person. You get more variety in the sound. Come in like you looking at a whole lot of lights flashing in your face. that's what makes music sound so pretty."

Shaw said that the genesis of the group dates back to December 1969 when he and Bunny began rehearsing and writing songs but didn't begin to record. According to him: "Judge played the guitar, and when he joined us, its like we met upon the right person. At first, we tried to do a thing for ourselves, but Stranger Cole was the man who took us into studio to do a song titled Oh No Baby for Randy's Records." A few more undistinguished recordings were done for various producers in the early 1970s until they finally came good in 1973 with Shame And Pride for producer Pat Francis aka Jah Lloyd. Thereafter followed a dull period, leading up to their triumphant entry at Channel One.


Socio-political period


It was a period of intense socio-political musical commentaries in accordance with what was happening in Jamaica at the time, and The Mighty Diamonds were at the forefront of the movement. They added songs like Stand Up To Your Judgement, Back Wey, Africa, Have Mercy and Never Love Poor Marcus, for Channel One; Kinarky and Not To Blame for themselves; while Danger In Your Eyes, Pass The Kouchie, Wise Son, Pretty Woman, and Heads Of Government were done for producer 'Gussie' Clarke. The last piece makes the statement that heads of government are friends and asks the question, So why can't you and I be friends? The inference is obvious as the lines continued:

"Ain't no place that you can go where the badness do not flow

You haffi run like beast outta east

You haffi chuck like the best in the west

You haffi walk with your boss uppa north

Down south you haffi run up your mouth."

The group went international after executives of Virgin Records heard them and signed the group to their label. The 1976 album Right Time, spawning the hits I Need A Roof, Have Mercy, Shame and Pride, Africa, and the title track, was critically acclaimed as a reggae classic after it was released by Virgin, thereby making the group one of the most popular ones from the 1970s roots era to emerge on the international scene. The multimillion selling Pass The Dutchie by the British Jamaican group Musical Youth - a modified version of Pass The Kouchie peaked at number one on the UK singles chart in 1982.

Asked about their present activities, Tabby said: "We did cut the road for a while because Bunny was sick, but promotionally, we have restarted. We went to Europe a couple months ago and worked on a replacement, just in case, and it looks good. We have a lot of new songs, along with some older ones to come on the road soon," he concluded.