Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
SOUL BLAST OFF: Roy Shirley goes down on his knees as he wowed the audience at the Palace Theatre in 1969.
There was a consistent theme throughout the celebration for the life of Ainsworth Roy Rushton, more popularly known as singer Roy Shirley, on Sunday morning.
Throughout the service, held at Oakton Park, Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, Shirley was acknowledged as that rarest of rare breeds, a true original.
Colin Leslie, representing Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, said that Shirley was "clearly original. No one who heard a Roy Shirley song had to ask who it was. It was obvious that this was an artiste who wanted to be distinctly different".
Impresario Keith Brown, who gave the eulogy, said that Shirley was described as having "the quirkiest, most unique voice in Jamaica. He was indeed unique."
That uniqueness in the man whose hit songs included Feel Good and Hold Them and who made his mark on the Festival Song Competition with Golden Golden Festival came not only in voice, but also appearance. Shirley was known for his high collars and distinctive dancing, and Derrick Harriott said "I remember Roy Shirley's style ... collar, well starched, well up in the air".
Ossie D noted Shirley's appearance of another kind. "He would come from the roof, round the stairs," Ossie D said, before giving a spot-on imitation Shirley in Get on Down and Feel Good.
'Don't believe shirley died'
It was so good that Ken Boothe, who also sang for his former partner in The Leaders, said "I don't believe Roy Shirley died, when I heard that brother a while ago. And Keith Brown smiled as he said that the part of the eulogy he was going to read had been written before he saw Ossie D perform, but he would read it anyway.
"Roy Shirley could never be successfully imitated or duplicated," he read and those gathered for the celebration laughed.
Roy Shirley's thanksgiving service, at which Reverend Dr Lloyd Maxwell, Minister Heather-Dawn Brown and Minister Alroy Love officiated, was naturally filled with music. During the service, in addition to Ossie D and Ken Boothe, Bunny Brown delivered an excellent rendition of Amazing Grace and Elaine Peart did Don't Forget to Remember Me. And with Unique Vision Band playing there was even more music before the service, as members of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), which hosted the celebration for which Taylor's Funeral Supplies made arrangements, gave of their talent for Shirley.
Junior Sinclair hosted as Macko, Charmaine Limonious, Dwight Pinkney, Deon Andrea, Class Act, Bagga Case, Ras Mandito and Clancy Eccles Jr, who closed off with Gone Too Soon, honoured a unique voice with their voices.
Roy Shirley died in England on July 17, 2008. His body was brought home with the Government's assistance.