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Ernie Smith says next month's show will be special

Published:Thursday | August 24, 2017 | 9:54 PMRoy Black
Ernie Smith is celebrating 50 years in music. Here, the giant of Jamaican music performs at Grand Gala 2017, staged at the National Arena last weekend.
Ernie Smith (left) and wife Janet at the Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Bamboo, St Ann, recently.
Ken Boothe
Carlene Davis added a gospel touch to Groovin’.
Saxophonist Dean Frazer

An incorrect and misleading headline in a newspaper led to a Mass of Praise and Thanksgiving Service for popular vintage recording artiste Ernie Smith at The Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Bamboo, St Ann, on Sunday, April 30, 2017.

According to Janet Smith, manager and wife of the artiste, "I was surprised when I saw the headline, 'Ernie Smith to celebrate 50 years of music in Bamboo', because we weren't even thinking of doing anything at that time. We were only planning to do a concert in September, celebrating Ernie's 50 years in the recording business. So we just had to do something, because people kept calling for more information. Residents of Bamboo were offended, claiming they were not advised. We thought about a Thanksgiving Mass, catering for about 50 persons, just to show respect. We ended up with over 200."

As it turned out, the entire episode seemed like a blessing in disguise. According to Ernie, who I spoke with recently, "It turned into a big thing, with tributes from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Olivia Grange, Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, and other dignitaries." Ernie humorously added, "It was an opportunity for me to walk into church, instead of being taken in."

Following a media launch at The Gardens at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on August 10, 2017, the real celebration, dubbed 50 Years Musical Journey Celebrating I Can't Take It, takes place at The Pegasus hotel in Kingston on September 29. I Can't Take It, recorded in 1967 - 50 years ago - happens to be an Ernie Smith composition, his first recording, first hit and a maiden voyage on an illustrious entertainment career.

There are some interesting stories surrounding this song: Ernie wrote the song for somebody else to sing it, but ended up singing it himself when no one could be found. It was a slow tempo cut, contrary to the musical trend at the time, but still managed to become a hit. Johnny Nash's cover version under the title Tears On My Pillow became a massive hit, promising enormous royalties for the writer. Unfortunately, Nash's sly tactics of using a different title, which was also the title of another song, created a stumbling block for Ernie, in terms of collecting royalties.

Recently, a young group was told by a not-too-knowledgeable auditioning body for one of the festival competitions that they could not enter the song, because they had to do one that was written by a Jamaican - perhaps a testimony to Ernie's lyrical ability.

The September 29 show, which will celebrate Smith's 50 years in the recording business and the 50-year-old song, I Can't Take It, promises to be an unforgettable experience. It boasts some of the best performers in the entertainment business, including Ken Boothe, Wayne Armond, Jimmy Tucker, Carlene Davis, Naomi Cowan, Ras I, Pluto Shervington, Dean Frazer, Dizzy Minott, Winston Benjamin, Charmaine Lemonious, O.J. Smith (Ernie's son), and others.

Ernie, who has written over 200 songs, including several for other artistes, will play his guitar and do several collaborations, including one with Capleton, while the very celebrated music maestro, Desi Jones, will be the musical director. A very interesting segment of the show will see each invited artiste (some 20-odd in all) performing one of Ernie's compositions.

Just to whet our appetites on what else is in store on that highly anticipated evening, Ernie said, "I'll be doing three songs with Peter Ashbourne; three Nat Cole songs with just voice and piano; performing Great Is Thy Faithfulness - our testimony and thanks to God for taking us (Janet and myself) through some tough times; and performing with the entire cast Heal Jamaica, asking Jamaica to join us in healing itself."