Tue | Dec 18, 2018

Fattis remembered as father and friend

Published:Monday | December 19, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Correction & Clarification

We said Phillip ‘Fattis’ Burrell migrated to the United States as a child; that should have been the United Kingdom. We regret the error.

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Leighton Levy,
Gleaner Writer

Even before the service of thanksgiving for the life of Phillip 'Fattis' Burrell began last Saturday, it was clear that many tears would flow and the emotions would run high. Carmelita Burrell, dressed in a short back dress and hat, draped herself over the tan casket that bore the remains of her husband, and cried. It took hugs and comforting words from members of her family and, later, from People's National Party president and leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson Miller, to help her regain her composure.

But as she delivered the remembrance a short while later, she again fought back tears as she remembered Fattis as her best friend.

Despite the challenges they sometimes faced during their life together, they always remained close, she said. It was to be the theme of the morning for the hundreds of mourners who turned out for the ceremony at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Burrell, who is described as the most successful producer in the digital era of reggae, died on December 3, just weeks after suffering a mild stroke. He was 57.

Born in Whitfield Town, Kingston, Burrell migrated to the United Kingdom when he was only five years old and returned years later as a teenager.

He first produced Sugar Minott's More Dogs to the Bone in 1984. He founded the Kings and Lions record label that same year. Two years later, he started the Vena label and, through it, released early works of Sanchez, Pinchers and Thriller U, as well as recordings from Charlie Chaplin, Frankie Paul and Gregory Isaacs.

Significant body of work

He would go on to starting the very successful Xterminator label which released records from Ini Kamoze, Beres Hammond and Ninja Man in the 1990s. But in the era when dancehall became dominant, he stamped his mark as the man behind the conscious works of Luciano, Sizzla and Everton Blender.

His body of work as a producer was significant but it was his life as a husband, father and friend that was the focus of the tributes that were paid at his funeral.

The late producer's daughter, Felecia Burrell, delivered an emotional remembrance during which she spoke glowingly of him on behalf of her 11 siblings.

"Before my father was famous, he was our daddy," she recalled.

She spoke of times they spent together at the beach and in many intimate moments which impacted her life as she grew up. With a hint of regret she remarked; "I never understood a lot about my father until I got older," she said. But even then, the time they had together taught her much, his passing even more.

"Tomorrow is not promised to anyone ... pull your family close to you," she urged.

As she concluded her time at the podium she reminded the gathering before her that Burrell's children are his legacy. "His sons will carry his name, his daughters his strength," she said.

Flo O'Connor remembered that Burrell helped hundreds of children across the island receive an education and broadcaster Elise Kelly described him as "My teacher, my brother, my friend ... a gentle giant" who demonstrated "unwavering commitment to his children".

She revealed how he provided her with emotional support when she first began working at Irie FM many years ago and how he provided her with the 'strategic guidance' so that she was able to play a pivotal role in Sizzla's career development.

The most complete picture of the man was painted by his sister Edris Thompson, who, in between moments when she paused to shed tears and compose herself, took the hundreds of mourners through Fattis' journey from childhood to his passing.

She revealed that the relationship between her and her brother was good and how he would take care of her, warning boys to stay away from her. She recalled how 'John John' as he was called during his early years would share his comic books with her. An avid reader, Burrell she said, would buy new comic books every week and read voraciously while enjoying a snack of hot, freshly baked hard-dough bread and sardines. "He exposed me to the world of books ... . to Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X, to superheroes," she said

Laughter in the mix

She triggered a round of laughter when she recalled how her mother Victoria in her struggles to prevent him from going out on the street corner took away his clothes and had him put on one of her dresses before she went out, only to return to find him playing football on the street, still clad in her dress.

She spoke to his unwavering kindness. She recalled how during the time when he was employed at Alpart, he used to come home with lots of cash and then divide it into three equal portions.

"One for me, one for our mother and one for himself," she said.

Crying openly she said it was her "honour and sad misfortune" to deliver his eulogy.

"Goodnight my brother," she concluded.

Burrell was interred at the Dovecot Memorial Park.

The service was attended by several members of the entertainment fraternity including Marcia Griffiths, Lady G, Sophia Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Thriller U, Sly Dunbar, DiMario Mcdowell among others. Member of Parliament for East Kingston Phillip Paulwell and Senior Superintendent of Police James Forbes of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Community Safety and Security Branch also attended.