Tough times for a Kingstonian
Diabetic Jackie Bernard destitute despite hits
Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer
Jackie Bernard, lead singer of vocal group The Kingstonians, has been diagnosed with diabetes and is desperately in need of assistance.
The Kingstonians, a rocksteady trio, was founded by Bernard and his brother Lloyd 'Footy' Bernard along with Lloyd Kerr in the 1960s. The group recorded a number of songs and gained popularity between 1968 and 1970, when they signed with producer Derrick Harriott.
Under Bernard's leadership, the trio released singles such Whiney Whiney, Singer Man, Sufferer and Hold Down, among others. Singer Man was covered by multi-platinum selling British reggae group UB40 on their Labour Of Love 2 album in 1989.
The Kingstonians' success was short-lived and by the late 1970s were off the local music scene.
While the exact date of Bernard's diagnosis was not confirmed, in April 2011 when he performed in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, it was evident he wasn't entirely healthy. Fast-forward to 2014 and his situation has worsened.
Having had several hit records it might be presumed that Bernard should now be able to live comfortably; however, that is not the case.
According to the Rafael Ruiz, founder of the Jackie Bernard Foundation and the man responsible for setting up the foundation's Facebook page, Bernard's health is worsening daily. "It is difficult for him to move around and look after himself and he is unable to afford medication," Ruiz said.
Bernard is currently living in an unfinished one-room house in Maxfield, Kingston. The money raised by the foundation, Ruiz says, will go towards medication, food and personal hygiene products for Bernard. Ruiz says since he found out about Bernard's situation, he has been spending his own money to care for him.
In a recent video upload to YouTube, a tearful Bernard asks for assistance, stating the situation he's in is "not so easy but trying to keep things growing".
Mark 'Dukey' Gorney of Tip Top Sound and member of the San Francisco Vintage Reggae Society expressed concern about the welfare of vintage Jamaican artistes. In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Gorney said Bernard's current situation is quite tragic and emphasised the music industry's failure to care for veterans who have fallen on hard times.
"As with everywhere I suppose, Jamaica has a short memory span when it comes to its musical heritage," Gorney said, lamenting the lack of a plan to care for Jamaican artistes or anyone who have fallen on hard times. "One could argue for the existence of a home for musicians where they are cared for, but why should that extend to musicians and not ordinary people?" he questioned.
President of the Jamaica Federation of Music (JFM), Desmond 'Desi' Young, agrees with Gorney, stating that it is always unfortunate whenever anyone falls on hard times. "Jackie's situation is just unfortunate. That's all I can say and I hope people will just come forward so he can get the help he needs," Young said.
Young also cautioned artistes as well as the wider local community to make preparations for any eventuality, imploring artistes to support the various organisations set up to help them in the event they can't help themselves. "They (artistes) should make contributions to the organisations set up for them; it is good to be your brothers' keeper, but you have to have the money to help them," he said.
Young reiterated that the JFM would love to do more than they are currently doing, but has limited funding.
The Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA) was established in 2003, among their primary aims bringing recognition to and financial support of vintage artistes and musicians who have fallen on hard times. However, how much JAVAA can do is dependent on the support they get from the music fraternity, says Chairman Frankie Campbell.
"JAVAA was set up especially for cases like Bernard's, but the organisation cannot help everyone and, therefore, to get help you have to be a member of JAVAA." He echoes Young's point and encourages artistes to become members of societies such as JAVAA, so that they can be taken care of if something should happen to them.
"The music business is fickle, so you have to be sensible. When you're collecting the big cheques make some investments and set up yourselves for the future," he cautioned.
Campbell says JAVAA used to help Bernard but that was only short-term, as he is not a member of the organisation. Despite this, Campbell is willing to again offer assistance in any way possible. "We don't have a lot to give, but with the little we have we'll help," he said.
He took the opportunity to let current artistes know that organisations such as JAVAA not only offer monetary assistance in terms of insurance and help with funeral costs in the event of death, but will assist artistes with copyright issues and educate them about the intricacies of the music industry.
Ruiz encourages persons who wish to help Jackie Bernard to visit gofundme.com/JACKIE-BERNARD-FUND.