Cynthia Schloss surrounded listeners with love
On this final Friday in Reggae Month 2018, The Gleaner ends its series on outstanding contributors to Jamaican music who died in February. We started with William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke (who died on February 2, 2014). Next was Wayne 'Sleng Teng' Smith (who died on February 17, 2014), and last week, we reflected on the life of Winston 'Merritone' Blake (who died on February 27, 2016). This week, we look back at singer Cynthia Schloss - Winston Blake's wife - who died on February 25, 1999.
The National Library of Jamaica's entry on Cynthia Schloss says, "She is generally referred to as Jamaica's songbird... Schloss got her big break at the Merritone Amateur Talent Exposure in 1971, where she won the final singing TheFirst Time Ever I Saw Your Face." She continued in the love song tradition of that Roberta Flack song with her own songs, among them, Surround Me With Love, Love Forever and You Look Like Love. Her albums include Country Reggae, Love Songs Are Forever and the 1976 breakthrough collection, Ready and Waiting on the Merritone Music imprint.
Monte Blake of Merritone was not in Jamaica when she won the talent contest final at the VIP Club, "because I was in New York. I just got updates from Winston and (engineer) Dennis Thompson." However, his connection to Schloss came not only through music and being her brother-in-law, but also in a work environment outside of music.
"I met Cynthia when she was very young and working at the telephone company. She was very special to me. She ended up quitting her job at the telephone company and joining me at United Bedding." Blake ran the Old Harbour, St Catherine, company.
He spoke to Schloss the night before she died. She was in a buoyant mood, returning from
St Thomas after having secured a major contract for United Bedding. But, Monte told The Gleaner, "the next morning, Winston called me and said, 'come, Cynthia not doing well'." She was pronounced dead at the University Hospital of the West Indies that day. The National Library of Jamaica's website says "Schloss died in the arms of her husband and veteran musician, Winston 'Merritone' Blake, on February 25, 1999."
The last time Blake saw Schloss perform was at United Bedding in Christmas 1998, when there was an appreciation function for clients. After that, she would have performed at hotels and private functions, which he did not attend.
"She did a lot of banquets and weddings. She was a powerful performer," Blake said. He places her in an era of great voices coming to the fore in the 1970s.
In 2009, Schloss' songs were done live again at 'Remembering Cynthia', held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, marking the 10th anniversary of her death. Ahead of that concert - at which singers Ken Boothe, Boris Gardiner, Prilly Hamilton, Nadine Sutherland, Charmaine Limonius, and Ken Bob, saxophonist Dean Fraser, and guitarist Dwight Pinkney were slated to perform - her husband, Winston Blake, told The Gleaner, "It's important for persons connected with artistes to make a special effort to keep their music alive. If they don't, the music will die."