Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Bob Andy wanted big celebration of his musical journey

Published:Sunday | May 24, 2020 | 12:00 AMRoy Black - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths
Bob Andy
Marcia Griffiths and Bob Andy, assisted by Boris Gardiner (right), in performance.

Jessica Jones, mother of Bob Andy’s only daughter, Bianca Anderson, and long-standing friend for more than 40-odd years, has emphatically stated that Bob’s written and stated wish for after he passed was to have a celebration of his continuing journey beyond his transition to a higher realm.

Although it was never stated by him, the inference was drawn that Bob wanted something that depicted his musical journey, a jovial affair that bore very little resemblance to a regular funeral. According to Jessica, “He saw his life as a journey, and he was just carrying on. So that is what we plan to do.”

The prolific songwriter, who was born Keith Anderson on October 28, 1944, passed away on March 27 at age 75. His body has already been cremated in accordance with his wish, and the celebration awaits the eradication or easing of the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate a mass gathering because that was also one of Bob’s wishes. Jessica made it clear that a low-key small-gathering celebration was off the cards, and the family was willing to wait as long as ever to fulfil Bob’s dream.

“The virus may still be around, but when large gatherings are allowed, and, of course, when we can do that, it will really be in keeping with his wish because that’s what he wanted,” she said. Bob is reported to have family members in Jamaica, the United Kingdom, and the United States, many of whom, including his music collaborator, good friend,and past romantic partner Marcia Griffiths, are locked out of Jamaica, where the celebration would most likely take place.

For a man to have elevated himself to the pinnacle of songwriting proficiency as Bob did, on the basis of merely a primary school education (Rousseau Primary), a children’s-home training at Maxfield Park, and a short stint at Jamaica College, remains a mystery to most people. They put it down to an inborn gift for writing songs. When asked by me in a 2005 interview to state what gave him the inspiration to write songs, he was most dramatic in his reply, “You know what! Is because I never go school, and I said I had to do better than the guys who go to school. My songs must not sound like I didn’t go to school.”

Although Bob’s earliest recordings were done for Studio 1, his first release was The Games People Play for Ken Khouri’s Federal Records. Dodd, the Studio 1 boss, then began releasing Bob’s self-penned gems – Too Experienced, Unchained, Let Them Say, I’ve Got To Go Back Home, and others. He wrote Ken Boothe’s I Don’t Want To See You Cry and Delroy Wilson’s I t’s Impossible, while getting Marcia Griffiths’ career off the ground with Feel Like Jumping, Melody Life, Mark My Word, Truly, and Tell Me Now.

The songwriting genius wrote for himself love songs like Desperate Lover, revolutionary songs like Fire Burning, and songs that lobbied for the improvement in the plight of the poor – all done in glowing, flowing poetry. He didn’t mince words as he sang the lyrics of Check it Out:

“Multinationals are really criminals, all forms of gambling

There’s no way you can win

Open your eyes

It’s time you realise

That the rise in the price is to make more money for who’s got plenty

And the trick of the trade is to keep all the hungry bellies empty.”

According to Andy’s daughter, Bianca, her father died peacefully after a brief battle with cancer, with her, other family members, and friends at his bedside, contrasting sharply with what was published elsewhere.