Four decades of Half Pint
The sun pelts as Half Pint signals to The Sunday Gleaner from the top floor of his Oaklands Apartments residence in St Andrew. His small frame complements his thick, knee-length dreadlocks which swing as he walks to give us his ‘greetings’.
“Bwoy, this is a piece of heat wave,” he said as wejourneyed to a community park. In the two-minute drive, it was amazing how the veteran singer was able to point at the most ordinary subject and offer some insight into its history and significance.
“I read a lot, and my mother was a top student, so I guess those smart genes were passed down to me,” he said. “But you have to be careful of some books, because not all contain the truth you know.”
His Oaklands abode is not so ‘night and day’ from Chancery Lane, Central Kingston, where he spent his formative years. It is just as accessible to all the hotspots, but is, however, a far cry from the political unrest that plagued the capital’s inner cities from the ‘60s to ‘80s, inspiring a young Lindon Roberts to use his musical skills to advocate for unity.
“Music was my way to escape the political atmosphere and express how I felt about what was happening. So everything that was compiled in me from the ‘60s, from I get the chance to go in the studio, all of those views and thoughts came out,” the 57-year-old said. “I think some of us were born to be who we are. Based on the environment me grow inna, mi coulda turn out worse than other artistes, but I learn from the older folk, singers and heroes like Miss Lou, Ranny Williams and Marcus Garvey,” he said.
He recognised his talent as a child long before his music teachers at All Saints’ Primary School selected him for the choir. With musical inspirations like The Jackson 5, Sam Cooke and The Osmonds, he chose a moniker reflective of his size and started singing on the Waterhouse Mello Vibes sound system in the late ‘70s. His first single, Sally, was released in 1983, but it was Winsome that became his breakout hit later that year.
His recordings took a more socially themed turn with the release of Mr Landlord and Milky Highway over the next year, as well as Cost of Living and Political Fiction in 1985.
That year is significant for Pint as he started growing his locks after embracing the Rastafarian faith, after which he penned his most popular song, Greetings, while on tour in the United Kingdom.
“I was in London, and I saw the corruption and weirdness. There was also a mini recession on the rise and Jamaica was going through it somewhat, and that is how Greetings came about and another song called The Living is Hard,” he said.
“Some people consider Winsome to be one of my most outstanding songs ‘cause it was covered by The Rolling Stones, but Greetings has a bigger status because that year, it was one of the top three black songs in the world, along with Sweet Love by Anita Baker and My Prerogative by Bobby Brown. Greetings took off by storm without backing from a record company. It was like a natural phenomenon.”
The ‘90s yielded other classics, like Substitute Lover and One Big Family, adding to his 15-album catalogue.
Unlike some of his contemporaries who have fallen on tough times owing to poor money management, Half Pint revealed that it has become important for him to obtain copyrights for his music and secure royalty payments.
“I realised time and age weren’t on my side, so I made it my duty to get the business side in order,” he said.
“Most of us who came, like John Holt, The Paragons and Alton Ellis, were profound and had conviction, but not very business-oriented. Because of that many of the record labels made money off the music, but the artistes didn’t reap the big bucks.”
Emancipated from that position, Half Pint still records music but believes his songs won’t receive airplay because of their militant themes and denouncement of society’s ills.
Despite this, he hopes that his life and music will serve as inspiration for this generation and beyond to become acquainted with their past and, most importantly, become truth seekers.
“I think about my legacy and think of any youth, even mi grandpickney dem, and I would want them to learn about what those days were like, what Half Pint dem time was about, the energy weh mi survive through,” he said.
“Knowledge is power, and, as Marcus Garvey would say, if you don’t know your past, you won’t know your future.”