Massive support for 'Bob Andy Unplugged'
The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in thee.
EMCEE Elaine Wint fittingly captured the spirit inside the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium. Thanking the scores of artistes, singers and players of instruments who turned out for Friday night's 'Bob Andy Unplugged', she declared: "Not one of them charged a dollar to be here, from you said the name Bob Andy!"
Wint was preaching to the converted. Each of the 29 acts billed performed in reverence of the great songwriter, who sat at the front of the audience as his compositions were delivered in varying genres and styles.
From Della Manley and Myrna Hague's bluesy, jazzy vocals on You Don't Know and Honey, respectively, to Mutabaruka's dub, a medley of four songs including Feeling Soul and My Time, on which he boldly stated, "I deserve the right to live like any other man," the night was all about celebrating Bob Andy's life and musical genius.
It was his 67th birthday and the all-seats-taken auditorium at Jamaica College, Hope Road, St Andrew, teemed not only with the who's who of the local music industry on hand to celebrate with him, but Jamaicans from every walk of life, all equally touched upon learning of his recovery from "an emergency life-saving operation".
Entertained by a band which celebrated drummer Desi Jones called 'a mixture of musicians', the crowd in and outside the auditorium - a big-screen provided for those who preferred the outdoor lounge setting - appreciatively applauded the early performances before the tempo upped.
Trumpeter/vocalist Dwight Richards' powerful rendition, vocally and instrumentally, of My Time, set the stage for the man of the night who made his first appearance, dressed in full white.
Bob Andy chose the song Friends, from his 1983 album of the same name, to show his appreciation for the outpouring of love and support for the concert from which proceeds will go towards his present and future medical bills.
Against the script
Before singing Friends for a second time, Bob Andy, whose hundreds of songs have been covered by more than 60 artistes locally and internationally, departed from the tight schedule, saying he had to "talk to mi people", as he briefly addressed his bout with illness.
"I know I am going against the script but yu know I like to talk. Give mi a chance mek mi talk to mi people," he pleaded with the stage managers.
Bob Andy was admitted to hospital in April, suffering from internal bleeding. After being under observation for a week, there was no sign of recovery; he was instead getting sicker, prompting surgery.
During surgery, it was discovered that he had a torn oesophagus, the tube which carries food, liquids and saliva from the mouth to the stomach. This required a procedure known as a thoracotomy, an incision into the chest.
A major surgical manoeuvre, a thoracotomy is considered one of the hardest surgical incisions to deal with post-operation, because it is extremely painful and the pain can prevent the patient from breathing effectively.
"It's like coming back from the dead," Bob Andy said, reflecting on his illness. "I still have problems composing myself. I've been blessed. This could've been my funeral, it's a celebration."
Looking around at the audience, he made a profound statement which must have tugged at the heartstrings of the event's organisers, the Bob Andy Song Foundation and Friends of Bob Andy.
"I have a very good memory," he said, before pausing and adding, "and I can't recall a happier day in my life."
In addition to covering the prolific songwriter's medical expenses, the Bob Andy Song Foundation also has as its mission 'to progressively impact the development of Jamaica's musical heritage, and promote music and the performing arts among the youth, young adults and children in Jamaica, in particular those resident in the inner city'.