Sat | Feb 27, 2021

Andy shed tears for 'I've Got to Go Back Home'

Published:Sunday | June 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Bob Andy

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Bob Andy cried on the morning he was alone at Studio One and the melody of I've Got to Go Back Home came to him while he played the piano. "I used to be a record carrier - I don't say salesman - for Studio One," Andy explained.

"Having realised that by the time you write a song, record it and the producer decides whether to release it or not you could starve, I wanted a regular thing while I learnt the business of what writing and production was all about," he said.

"On a particular morning I went early, went into the studio and was just playing around the piano, smoke some herb early in the morning," Andy told The Sunday Gleaner. "The melody hit me and I just tear up. I started crying."

That was in 1966 or 1967. I've Got to Go Back Home was released in 1970 on the fifth track of the classic Studio One set Bob Andy's Songbook. He sings:

I've got to go back home

This couldn't be my home

It must be somewhere else

Or I would kill myself cause ...

I can't get no clothes to wear

Can't get no food to eat

I can't get a job to get bread

That's why I've got to ...

I've got to go back home

If I've got to walk

I've got to go back home

If I've got to swim

I've got to go back home

There is no gladness

Nothing but sadness

Nothing like a future here

I've got to - I've got to leave this land

I've got to find myself on some other sand

I just can't stand this life I'm living ..."

"The only reason it was not finished that day was because [Bob] Ellis [trumpeter and Studio One arranger at the time] had to write the score," explained Andy.

Relating the song to his life, Andy said as a teenager he realised he had no education, no inheritance, and did not know many people.

"I was nowhere," he said. "So home was wherever I could find food, get a job, look after myself, have a good support group and so on."

The Sunday Gleaner asked if Andy had a specific physical location in mind when he sang of home.

"Africa, I am sure," he said.

The song was produced at a time when there was much fascination with Marcus Garvey's efforts and early Rastafari thought of repatriation.

However, "though Rastafari spoke of repatriation, I did not see the physical reality. This did not negate the fascination. The dream was wrapped up in the process", Andy explained.

Andy did go to Africa in 2005, where he performed on the Africa Unite concert with the Marley family.

"It was my pilgrimage. I would have gone anyway, but the event made it more tantalising."

Among the persons who played on I've Got to Go Back Home were drummer Joe Isaacs, Ronald Alphonso on saxophone, Eric Frater on guitar and Jackie Mittoo on keyboards, also handling the rhythm arrangement. The rhythm was recorded and he laid the vocals on a Sunday night. Bunny Wailer and Vizion did harmony on what Andy said was about his fifth studio recording in his post-Paragons dispensation.

Writing about I've Got to Go Back Home in Reggae Routes, Wayne Chen and Kevin O'Brien Chang said "later on the song became a panacea to homesick Jamaicans abroad, especially in the cold winter months when the warm sunshine of the native land beckoned". The song has been taken on by immigrants and prisoners, anyone or group of persons who feel displaced.

Andy is not surprised, saying "that's how Jamaicans are, look to the physical and practical, which does not negate our spirituality. It just goes to show how Jamaican people revere Jamaican art, especially the performing arts, and are willing to stake a lifestyle on it, or a belief".

Bunny Wailer and Vizion's participation was not exceptional. "The Wailers were there and they just contributed their time. The Heptones were there when I was recording Let Them Say. The Gaylads were there when I did I Would Be a Fool. Most of us came out of a group, so it was a kinship," he said.

When he was laying the vocals, Bob Andy said it was an emotionally charged event involving "all who were in the studio. It was a moment in time".