Fri | Feb 21, 2020

Story of the Song | Startime song moments from past performers

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
John Holt
Gregory Isaacs
Sugar Minott
Frankie Paul
Alton Ellis

With Startime being a vintage music concert, inevitably as time has passed, so have a number of performers who have made an impression at various stagings.

Startime organiser Michael Barnett remembers moments when songs by some of the performers who have since died hit home.

1. Frankie Paul (Mas

Camp, National Stadium, January 9, 2016)

Frankie loved doing Startime, because it exposed him to a special audience that he did not perform to regularly. He had a leg amputation a few months before, and this particular performance, he started on stage in a wheelchair. At the time, Frankie was having heath challenges, but he still wanted to perform - and that he did. His voice was crystal clear and as strong as ever. One particular segment, close to the end of his performance, he got up out of the chair and, holding on to MC Tommy Cowan, they held an impromptu church at Startime, and I believe everyone in the audience was singing their medley of gospel songs. When Frankie and Tommy got to This Little Light Of Mine and closed with Amen, Mas Camp was one massive chorus - and shortly after, Frankie was gone.

2. Alton Ellis (Mas Camp, Oxford Road, May 2004)

There is an Alton Ellis medley that I used to ensure that he performed whenever he appeared at Startime. It is I'm Still In Love With You/Breaking Up/I'm Just A Guy. There was something magical about it, and Alton would sing those three songs with so much passion. You could literally hear the audience gasp, and the whole venue would be swaying when Lloyd Parkes broke from I'm Still In Love. Then when they heard the horns intro to Breaking Up massive cheers would ring the venue.

3. John Holt (Fayor's Entertainment Centre, Mandeville, January 30, 1999)

There are so many magnificent Startime performances by this great artiste. One that sticks out in my mind was the final concert Dennis Brown performed on. There must have been a quiet rivalry between John and Dennis that night because John gave a blistering performance, closing his set with Wear You To The Ball, his original song with the Paragons. When he was almost done, he pulled an ace from his sleeve by deejaying a section of the song as if he were U-Roy, and the crowd was in total chaos. Then he left the stage for Dennis Brown. If it was a lesser artiste than Dennis Brown, Startime would have been over after John's performance, but being the consummate performer, Dennis opened his set in an unaccustomed way with Death Before Dishonour, and in the twinkling of an eyelash, he had equalled John's tremendous impact on the audience.

4. Gregory Isaacs (Peppers)

Gregory Isaacs was away from Jamaica for about five years, and I was fortunate to be the first to book him for his return show at Startime. Peppers was full to the brim, and Gregory's performance was phenomenal, but there were two songs that had the place in a state of calamity. When he closed his first set with Night Nurse, it was the first time the audience was hearing Gregory sing this song live in a long time, and Lloyd Parkes and We The People had to wheel and come again at least four times because of the noise inside Peppers. Gregory had three genuine encores that night, and Peppers was in a frenzy. After he left the stage, the audience wouldn't allow the show to continue or the next artiste to take the stage as they kept chanting "Gregory! Gregory!! More Gregory!!!" I had to chase Gregory (in his red BMW) up Waterloo Road and beg him to return. When he returned to the stage, he did a couple more songs, and then it was time for Hard Drugs, with the opening lines, "You still want more/De more dem get it, ah de more dem want it." The band had to wheel another four times.

5. Sugar Minott (Mas Camp, Oxford Road)

Lincoln 'Sweet Singing, Granulated Sugar' Minott was always a favourite singer of mine from his humble beginnings at Studio One. One of my all-time favourite songs is Give Me Jah Jah, using the Alton Ellis Breaking Up rhythm and the melody of Jerry Butler's Never Gonna Give You Up. I was privileged to see Sugar Minott perform it at Startime.

The words of the song are very powerful and state a conviction that I believe will be tested at some point(s) in our lifetime. The question is, can we honour that conviction, or will we abandon it when push comes to shove?