Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Songwriting genius speaks ...

Published:Sunday | May 24, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Bob Andy in 1984
Bob Andy in 1977.

Perusing the archives of Bob Andy’s repertoire, contained in a 2005 interview I did with him, I stumbled on some very interesting quotes by the songwriting genius that are worth sharing. Andy, who passed away on March 27, is considered Jamaica’s most prolific songwriter in popular music, but he was also a genius at expressing himself on matters that were of deep concern to him, musically and otherwise.

As a young boy, he ran away from home and ended up in another home. It was at that ‘other home’ that his first inspiration for music presented itself. He blamed it on FATE:

“You never know what you are fated to become sometimes until you become it. Because when I wandered away from my mother’s home and found myself in another home and an old piano was sitting in a corner, I was totally oblivious to what kind of relationship that one could develop with that foreign-looking instrument that I only saw on stage or from a pulpit in a church. And when it started making sense to me, after playing around for a while, and my sense of sound was developing, it just opened another dimension of life to I. And that is the inspiration –to ignorantly approach something and it reveals itself to you.”


He was very analytical in his perception of Clement Coxsone Dodd, the Studio 1 boss, with whom he recorded a number of songs:

“Coxsone was a kind of a genius. He knew how to get the best out of an artiste. He had a wink that was very assuring and comforting, so when the other side of him didn’t match up to that side, it became very disappointing. But then you grow to learn that disappointment only springs out of expectations.”

In his humility, Bob usually downplayed the praises showered on him for his songwriting talent. When I pressed him in the interview to think otherwise, he relented: “I must really start accepting the credit these people are giving me because a lot of times, I am so modest I say, ‘if I was a good carpenter, I would make good tables and chairs’, but I really set out to craft these songs because they were going to represent me for life.”

He had words of inspiration for the visionless:

“Within you there are universes and multi-verses. There is so much happening. If you can take your eyes and ears out of the TV for a while and out of the bum-hum music for a while and go inside yourself and check out the capacity you have as an individual, then anything you want to get through in the world, it is within you.”

Speaking about the inspiration behind I’ve Got To Go Back Home, perhaps the first call for repatriation in Jamaican popular music, Bob said:

“I had just started to delve into Rastology, and I felt a national weight on me because we were just coming to what we thought was Independence. And from that early time, as sensitive as I was, is, and am, when that weight came down on me, it was a vision I saw of people just trodding home.”

Depression was a condition he used to great advantage:

“What people call depression, when I go down there, I come up with a song.”

Among many other sayings by the esteemed songwriter, he was very skeptical about awards from high officials:

“Nuff times when you take them things, is just to make them guys de look good. I kinda like to say I get my honour from the people. The people recognise me from me start, and them acknowledge me from then until now that me is 60 years old.”