Dancehall DJ Tiger and son Jermaine. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
André Jebbinson, Staff Reporter
Gone are his days of top billing. Gone also are his days as an eccentric, nimble yet creative stage performer. What remains are but memories for Norman Washington Jackson, known to many as deejay Tiger.
In 1994 when Tiger was in a near-fatal accident that changed his life forever, he was on top of the dancehall world, and many other cats dreamed to be where he was.
Today, many would pass by and perhaps not recognise him.
His slurred speech and seemingly frail body would give the impression he is heavily sedated, but his voice and seemingly frail frame are only a glimpse of how his life has changed.
As Tiger recalled, his career began 21 years ago at the University of the West Indies Students' Union. There he performed his first hit song, Puppy Love. His entertaining antics ignited the crowd and a star was born.
"God answered my prayer and let me be accepted by my audience," Tiger told The Sunday Gleaner. Three years later, he was the crowned 'Prince of the Dancehall'.
He later worked with Lloyd Campbell of Aquarius Records to produce another hit, Love Line. That was followed by his three number ones, Wanga Gut, Come Back To Me and When.
While his phenomenal rise to fame and his equally fast decline would seem a cruel joke, Tiger is upbeat.
Only on pause
"The accident never really stop me, it only pause mi. It was for a worthy cause so I could learn who my true friends are," he said.
It was a tough lesson to learn. It turned out many of his followers were only around him for what they could get. In the aftermath of the accident, those who had benefited from Tiger were nowhere to be found. In retrospect, that was quite a price to pay to know who friends are.
But though he has been off the scene for a while, Tiger is far from being forgotten. There is no doubt in Tiger's mind that had it not been for the accident he would still be right up there with any other artiste.
"I would be at the level, not on top. But mi want dem stop di war lyrics. It nah help dem; it nah help nobody," Tiger said.
Recently, Kiprich and Left Side did an impersonation of Tiger and Zebra on a single. Tiger said he owns a copy of the single. He actually does not mind them doing it, once it is for the right reason. "I kinda feel like dem a live offa mi, but it's good to know dem have me on a pedestal. Just don't do it because you a wanga gut," he said.
As for his own comeback, he has no intention of reclaiming his glory days. That, however, has not prevented him from making minor appearances. Tiger is also set to appear on Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest this summer with Kiprich.
Tiger said he was wise by putting away some of his money for a rainy day. He now relies on that and whatever he earns from gigs for survival. Tiger has four children, two boys and two girls, aged 23, 20, 18 and 15. He also said he has a girlfriend who works in England.
Looking back, he said he regrets nothing about his past, except the tragic accident. He said his cocaine addiction helped him to get to a point where he felt he could do just about anything. Unlike other lives that addiction to the drug has disrupted severely, he said he was able to stop whenever he wanted. Tiger said he has been clean since 1989.
One thing Tiger wanted to make clear is there will only be one Tiger. And while many might come close, Tiger is not convinced they can compare to him at his peak.
"I am Tiger and the rest of dem is just a copycat," Tiger said.