Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Barrington Levy's Here I Come, subtitled Broader than Broadway after part of the refrain, is one of his biggest hits. A sure party energiser, the official video has over three million YouTube views.
Written in the first person, Here I Come, which appears on the mid-1980s album of the same name, puts Levy in the persona of a man who is being chastised by the mother of his baby. The setting - Levy sings about the intercom and a lift - invokes the image of an American or, more likely, British home:
On the intercom Rosie tell me to come
Say she didn't have a daughter she did have a son
She say the lift doesn't work run up the stairs and come
And if you don't come quick you're not gonna know that son
So I grab a bunch of roses and I started to run
Here I come
However, the (presumably) young mother's enthusiasm does not last for long, as:
Two months later she say come and get your son
Cause I don't want your baby to come tie me down
Cause you are old and I am young
Yes while I'm young yes I want to have some fun
Then, somewhat incongruously but very effectively and certainly memorably, Levy declares:
I'm broader than Broadway.
Levy told The Sunday Gleaner he took a real-life situation - not his, but one that he witnessed - and transported it to another country to write the lyrics of Here I Come.
"I made that in England, 1983. That was written in England and recorded in England. Under Mi Sensie as well, Living Dangerously, Too Experienced (a Bob Andy-penned song), My Time. There are a lot of songs I made while I was in England, when people would say anybody who leave Jamaica and go to foreign, that's it. They can't make no hit record," Levy said.
"I prove them wrong."
He drew on his Jamaican experiences to write Here I Come.
"It is a real situation, only that the real situation happen from here. Where I come from, I don't have any intercom. One day, I hear this girl cursing out her babyfather and telling him that him come breed har and now she stuck. Him mus' come take him pickney and she don't want no pickney come tie her down cause she young and she want to have fun," Levy said.
"This is exactly what she said - 'Mi young, so mi no want no pickney come tie mi dung. Come tek yu pickney'."
At that time, Levy said he had not yet fathered any children. He thought to himself "when him (the father) take the baby, what him going to do with the baby?"
As striking as the incident was, Levy did not immediately think of creating a song from what he had heard. He only thought of how he would have reacted in the situation as "she was not saying it in no pleasant way. And she was very loud".
Levy said that in writing Here I Come, he referenced a previously released song of his, On the Telephone. That song also speaks to an incident between a man and a woman, Levy running through a number of motor vehicle transportation options, which are all inappropriate, concluding that the lady should put herself on "the damn minibus".
Working with the rhythm, Barrington Levy said, "I end up with that, and perfect timing as well. Because that song becomes an anthem for Barrington Levy worldwide, everywhere you go".
In recording the song, Levy was insistent on doing it in dancehall style.
"I say dancehall because remember when the man them have the key and a go so," Levy said, pushing his hand up and down and vocally imitating the regular, intermittent music beats that the manipulation of the sound system's controls resulted in.
"So I say instead of use a key to do that, just make the musician them jam just like that," Levy said.
His wishes did not go down well. "It cause argument in the studio," Levy said. As they were unwilling to do it, Levy went back home.
Fortunately, Levy said he lived close by, so when Jah Screw, who was in on the session, visited and said they would play as Levy required, he was able to return and finish up.
Levy claims that it was the first record played live by musicians, which had that pattern.
And he remembers performing Here I Come at a concert Frankie Paul did in England, after getting popular in Jamaica, held by Capitol Radio at Brixton Academy. The organisers asked Levy to dress up as Santa Claus and the people would guess who it was.
"They were there guessing, guessing and nobody could get it. I just start the song and the place mash up. Mash up," Levy said.