Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Story of the Song | 'Surround me with love' a top Valentine's Day choice

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Cynthia Schloss, performing, 'The First Time E ver I Saw Your Face' at the VIP CLUB. (1972)
Monty Blake

Monte Blake of Merritone, the oldest continuously operational sound system in the world, was pleasantly surprised when a radio DJ called him to say that Cynthia Schloss's song Surround Me With Love was among listeners' top 10 songs for Valentine's Day. On a personal note, he especially enjoys another Schloss love song, Love Forever, which appears on the 1976 album Ready and Waiting.

Both are part of a thread of ballads, originals, and covers that run through Jamaican popular music production. Among the others are Jah Cure's Unconditional Love, Freddie McGregor's And So I Will Wait For You, and Gregory Isaacs' Too Good To Be True. Blake is especially well connected to Surround Me With Love and Love Forever as he is Winston Blake's brother and Cynthia Schloss's brother-in-law. Schloss died on February 25, 1999, and Winston Blake died on February 27, 2016.




Monte chuckles as he tells The Sunday Gleaner, "not all slow songs are love songs. Not at all". But the Schloss pair definitely are. Love Forever is a pledge to an eternal connection, Schloss opening with the commitment, "love me forever and we may never part". In the song Surround Me With Love, she finds a safe haven from hurt, Schloss singing:

"Sometimes when life's poison arrows shoot me to

the ground

Dreams come falling down, Friends just can't be found

I don't worry, I don't wonder, I know what to do

I don't go crazy, I just go for you

Surround me with love, I need you beside me

I want you to hold and hide me ..."

Love Forever was written by pianist Harold Butler, Blake pointing out that there are two versions as a version was done by a US, producer. It is the Jamaican version, which has a shorter lead-in, that remains "very special to me", Blake said. "It could have gone further. Having been in New York when Schloss won the Merritone Amateur Talent Exposure in 1971 with Roberta Flack's The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, he said, "when I came home I saw her performing at a dinner. She did a lot of banquets, weddings."

Blake reads the credits for Ready and Waiting, a roll call of Jamaican popular music standouts with Winston Blake credited as the producer. The musicians include Mikey Chung, Harold Butler, Michael Richards, Robbie Lyn, Tyrone Downie, and Earl Lindo. The studios included Federal, Joe Gibbs, and Harry J's, Errol T among the engineers, and Marcia Griffiths and Pam Hall included in the harmony singers. The horns were arranged by Cedric Brooks.

The last time Blake saw his sister-in-law perform was at a December 1998 function at United Bedding, which he ran and where she worked, in Old Harbour, St Catherine.Within two months, the singer of Love Forever and Surround Me With Love was gone.