'One Cup Of Coffee' was never served
- Festival expert contradicts JCDC claims about Bob Marley song
Troy Caine, Contributor
A feature story appearing in The Gleaner (Friday, June 3) highlighting the top 10 Festival songs for this year also appeared to have erred regarding Bob Marley's involvement with the competition.
The mention of One Cup Of Coffee, Marley's second (solo) recording for Leslie Kong's Beverley's Label, a vintage ska tune which was recorded in 1962 (following Judge Not) as his Festival song entry some nine years later in 1971, is incorrect, despite the source of the article (the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission).
Further contacts made with the JCDC, former participants and other informed, relevant sources have revealed that the only Marley/Wailers entry in the history of the competition was a song titled Send Me That Love (on the Wailing Soul Label) in the 1967 contest when The Jamaicans triumphed with Ba-Ba-Boom. To those of us who have followed the competition since its inception, Cherry Oh Baby was such a massive winner in 1971 that hardly anyone can remember anything else remotely close to Donaldson's dazzling debut that year!
But even if it was possible that One Cup Of Coffee was an entry in 1971, there were other errors as well: "... it helped to catapult Marley's musical career" could not be true. By 1971, Marley's career and that of his group had already taken off and was perched on the threshold of being made even more famous by Johnny Nash and Chris Blackwell. Having traversed the '60s with Coxson and a catalogue of fabulous hits like Simmer Down, One Love, It Hurts To Be Alone and Put It On, Marley had begun the new decade under the guidance of Lee 'Scratch' Perry, a period many musicologists regard as Marley's finest, and from which emerged such classics as Small Axe, Trench Town Rock and Duppy Conqueror.
Just as wrong is the notion that "... the likes of Toots Hibbert, the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Freddie McKay and Stanley Beckford" were "aspiring" artistes who became famous as a result of their successful festival songs.
The fact is that in all cases, every one of those entertainers was an already accomplished hitmaker by the time they scored victory with Festival song entries.
By the first contest in 1966, The Maytals (not yet Toots & The Maytals back then) had virtually dominated the ska scene with a string of unforgettable hits like I'll Never Grow Old, Hallelujah, Six & Seven Books Of Moses, It's You and Never You Change.
By 1968 when Desmond Dekker & The Aces first won, they were established rocksteady stars whose 007 (Shanty Town), Mother Young Gal, Ah It Mek, among a catalogue of other memorable hits, had already swept the charts.
Indeed, Dekker himself had started earlier as a solo ska artiste, scoring big with his first hit Honour Your Mother And Father back in 1963.
Freddie McKay, too, was no stranger to the musical charts by the time his success came in 1976, for by then he had made his name with his signature tune Picture On The Wall, which he had left "hunging" some three years earlier. Similarly, Stanley Beckford, who began with his group known as Stanley & The Turbines, had a trio of heavy hits in the late '70s - namely Soldering, Brown Gal and Leave Mi Kisiloo just prior to his first Festival song winner in 1980, Come Sing With Me.
The bottom line is that we need to be very careful how we relate Festival song winners to their overall success in the music world. There is no doubt that the competition created entertainers like Eric Donaldson, Roy Rayon, Tinga Stewart and The Astronauts (comprising Sam Carty, Donald Wright and Zac Henry). But others like The Maytals, Dekker, McKay, Beckford, The Jamaicans, Hopeton Lewis and Ras Karbi were popular stars whose status clearly enhanced the image of the competition over the years.
And while it is true that it also resuscitated the careers of people like Roy Richards and Neville Martin, it is also interesting to note that throughout the competition's 45 years of existence, it has been graced with entries from other highly rated personalities in the entertainment industry such as Derrick Harriott, The Blues Busters, The Techniques, Roy Shirley, Derrick Morgan, Junior Byles, Jackie Edwards, Jacob Miller, Carlene Davis, J.C. Lodge, Lord Laro, Home T Four, Ernie Smith, The Pioneers and present contestant Bunny Brown, who, back in 1970 as a member of The Chosen Few, performed as back-up vocals for Hopeton Lewis' winning song, Boom Shacka Lacka.
Originally conceptualised through the collective creativity of cultural icons Eddie Seaga as minister of development and welfare and Hugh Nash as director of Jamaica Festival, the competition was designed to give a theme of musical upliftment to the annual Independence celebrations, with heavy emphasis on the rule that all entries must be original material.
It commenced in 1966 when ska had already transitioned into the rocksteady beat and, over time, the competition has endured with a steady reputation and keen support of entries, generally depicting whatever rhythm and genre is in vogue, while being injected by occasional doses of mento, calypso, soca and even quadrille from time to time.
So, as we await the presentations and performances of the 10 finalists for this year, it must be with the wish that 2011 will emerge as another of the competition's best competitive years such as what we experienced in years like 1967, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1994 and 2001. Hopefully, unlike Marley, we won't be waiting in vain.