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Stabroek News

Singer, minister, now Dr Carlene Davis
published: Sunday | October 8, 2006

Andre Jebbinson, Staff Reporter

Singer Carlene Davis has survived cancer and subsequently earned herself a PhD in pastoral counselling. - Contributed

Carlene Davis has been dialling in quite a few numbers in recent years. Apart from the 15 secular albums she produced between 1980 and 1994, she has been racking, up a few gospel albums, to date, six and counting.

The figures do not stop there, as Davis recently completed her doctorate in pastoral counselling from the Trinity Theological Seminary in South Florida.

It was not enough that she had a soaring career, she wanted to know the best way to bring others to the Lord.

"Initially, it was for my edification. But for me to go out there as a singing evangelist, I need to be more empowered in the word of God," Davis said. "I am thankful that he has given me the opportunity to be a vessel of honour, a vessel to bring other lives to him."

Of course, it was not an easy task for Davis. She is a mother and an artiste who was taking on another heavy responsibility. But she commends her husband and children for their support.


Davis' love for music started out in her home community of Colonels Ridge, Clarendon. Her grandfather was an avid musician and that gave her a boost. Music, provided by residents, was a community event. Social gatherings utilised the talent from the community instead of importing sound systems or other talents.

She kept her music hopes alive by going to just about any event where her voice could be heard. That meant that she had to miss out on a number of family events, but there were those times when her neighbours would get together to have a good time and, of course, little Carlene was in the midst of it all.

But at age 14, she migrated to the England with her sibling to be with her parents. Her Christianity waned as she left a Presbyterian church to attend a church that did not allow its members to straighten their hair, and lacked the flair she was used to.

"My spiritually was still developing but was waning," she said.

According Davis, her music was wholesome but then there came a song call Stealing Love on the Side. As the title implies the lyrics departed from what Davis was accustomed to, but Stealing Love on the Side brought her international recognition.

"I did it out of anxiety, trying to get that breakthrough. It opened doors, but I struggled to get back to that place where God could use me. Every choice you make affects everything about you and everyone around you," Davis said.


Davis wanted to travel to the world and music provided the opportunity.

She began getting a buzz in England, but always wanted to be in her country of birth. The trip back home took her through Canada, but she would eventually make it back to Jamaican. "The more I did music, the more I wanted to be home. While I was in England and Canada I stayed close to my roots," she said.

Davis had to make herself more versatile as life in Canada was about surviving. That meant her repertoire had to include all genres of music.

But since there is no place like home, Davis officially returned to Jamaica. Like Toots Hibbert, Davis already had international experience but decided to enter the Jamaican Cultural Development Commission festival song competition in 1981.

That year turned out to be a controversial one when the lyrics of the Astronaut's winning song, Mek Wi Jam, came under fire from the church. Davis' second placed Peace and Love ended up getting much airplay, while Mek Wi Jam was pulled from the air.

"It was something I always wanted to do. People thought I shouldn't do it but as a Jamaican returning home, I felt honoured to do it," she said.

Better things were in store for Davis as she would go on to release her first album, Paradise. The album included hits such as Going On To Paradise and It Must be Love. Her first major Jamaican show was at Sunsplash in 1980. Davis' career took off as she would go on to do other hits such as Winnie Mandela.

But Davis' life took a U-turn in 1996 after she found herself wanting more. Around the same period she was diagnosed with cancer.

"I decided not to get anxious. The Lord was teaching me something and I asked him what is was," she said. "I was always spiritual and I knew there was more to me. It's the letting go of what you're so used to. That is not easy," she said.

Then Davis decided it was time to stop running and called on the elder of her church at Family Church on the Rock to help her through her pensive state.

Now it was time to lend her talent to the Lord. "I just found myself doing. It wasn't something that I got up and say I would do. I just felt the power of the Lord upon me and I had no choice but to run and tell of his goodness" Davis said.

Her cancer progressively got better and the side effects of the treatment were minimal.

Having been restored by and owing a lot to her saviour, Davis went straight to work with her husband Tommy Cowan. She had met Cowan in 1980 and that friendship grew into a relationship. She and Cowan did not get married until 1995, but produced two children together prior to the marriage.

Things could not be better for the gospel artiste now, as along with mini tours, Davis is working continually with Fun in the Son to maintain the Christianity of those who gave their lives to the Lord during the March event. And, of course, there is that PhD.

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