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Story of the Song | Bushman takes Tosh approach to 'Lighthouse'

Published:Thursday | June 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Bushman at the Morant Bay Lighthouse.

Lighthouse, which appears on Bushman's 2004 album Signs, is a departure from his usual approach of recording lyrics that he has written. Still, he says, "I an I open to a song as long as me feel it lyrically and it have substantial value." He adds, "the song wasn't penned by me, but is like Bushman the writer a think bout." On the vinyl single, L. Dyer is credited. Lighthouse is a staple of his performance sets, and beyond being a guaranteed crowd pleaser, Bushman has also developed an appreciation for the physical lighthouse and recently accompanied The Sunday Gleaner to the one at Morant Point in St Thomas.

"As simple as you take it, economically, if the lighthouse is not there, it would be a whole heap of shipwreck and the goods would get lost," he said. As it is used in the song, Bushman said: "it is a metaphor. The captain of the ship must watch that signal. Jah is like that lighthouse."

In Lighthouse, Bushman sings:

"Jah shines his light out for me,

She takes the lighthouse for me.

When the storms of life surround me,

And strong waves threaten to drown me.

Jah shine his light out for me,

I know not what lies ahead.

So each night I go to my bed,

I kneel beside it and pray.

And these are the words that I say:

"Father guide me though the night.

Help me to see tomorrow's light,

Keep me on the path of life.

Guide me with your light'."

Produced on the Heart to Art imprint, Lighthouse was recorded in Ocho Rios, St Ann. Barry O'Hare was the engineer, and among the musicians, Ian Coleman was on guitar. The vocals were recorded at about 3:30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon at the Grove Studio, on the same premises as radio station IRIE FM. The music had been recorded previously, and in delivering Lighthouse, Bushman injected someone who had died in 1987.

"When me hear the musical interlude, it remind me of Peter Tosh, so me say me a go project it like Peter," he said. His capacity to do that went back to his childhood. "At Lyssons All-Age School, Ms Marshall - she used to teach us all Miss Lou and how to read - do a top-level performance according to the content and what it dealing with. You put yourself in their shoes, so when you do it, is like it real," Bushman said.

It worked, as he said that during the recording session "everybody say it sound like Peter". So when the song was played on Link Up Radio, for two weeks, listeners were asked to guess who the performer was, Bushman recalled. Doing Lighthouse as Tosh would lead Bushman to the 2011 album Bushman sings the Bush Doctor: A Tribute to Peter Tosh, his homage to the late original Wailer. Among the songs he covered were Creation, Legalise It, Stepping Razor, Mystic Man, and, of course, Bush Doctor.

The video for Lighthouse was done at the Morant Point lighthouse, the oldest in Jamaica, and was directed by Ras Kassa. In it, Bushman emerges from the water like someone who has been shipwrecked and runs towards the lighthouse, which has guided him to shore and safety.