Tue | Sep 26, 2023

70-odd-year-old musicians still going strong

Published:Monday | September 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMRoy Black/Gleaner Writer
Derrick Morgan performing at last year's Rebel Salute.
Stranger Cole performing at this year's Grand Gala.

After over 60 years in the music business, ska legends Stranger Cole and Derrick Morgan have remained very active and are enjoying the most successful period of their entire career.

This is mind-boggling when one recalls the astronomical levels to which their popularity soared in their heyday of the early 1960s and the conclusion then, that such levels could never be surpassed - more so in the twilight of their career. Now, when others in their age group have retired, both (Cole now in his early 70s and Morgan in his late 70s), seem as if they are ready to begin a second phase of their career.

Over the past 15 years, both entertainers - working separately - have been on no less than 300 shows each, which have taken them to over 20 countries, including England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Holland, France, Canada, the United States, Japan, Brazil, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Columbia, Switzerland, and Australia.

According to Cole, "Jamaican vintage music, especially ska, has taken over the world. In all of Europe, it's the biggest thing. I hardly have time for myself. I just keep travelling and sometimes have to be turning down shows. I just came back from Germany like a month before the Grand Gala at the National Stadium, and they were calling me back, but I had to turn it down in order to attend the Jamaican show for an award."


Derrick Morgan


For his part, the visually impaired Morgan states that he has done around 15 shows so far in 2018, which have taken him out of the island seven times. "I just returned from Slovenia three weeks ago on a tour that also took me to London, Spain, and Germany from August 1-27," Morgan revealed. He notes that there has never been a year since 2003 when he has been without a show. Like Stranger Cole, Morgan has had to turn down invitations owing to his busy schedule.

Morgan was on tour in England, the United States, Germany, and Rome in 2017, while Cole worked on the annual Gladstone Anderson Anniversary show in Japan; and The London International Ska and Rocksteady show in London that year.

This year saw him stepping up the pace at the Skamouth Music Festival in England; The Garance Festival in France; This is Ska Festival in Germany, and most recently, Rototom Sunsplash in Spain last month - Morgan was also on the card.

Cole has engagements coming up between now and March 2019: The Capleton-promoted A St Mary Mi Come From in November; The Gladstone Anderson Anniversary Celebrations in Japan in December, and a German tour starting in March 2019 with the Steady Tones band from Germany. Meanwhile, Morgan's next overseas engagement won't be until April 2019, when he'll be performing at The Skamouth Weekender shows in Great Yarmouth England.

Both ska kings have found time to continue writing and recording new songs amid their busy schedules. Among Morgan's work the single Sad To Be Lonely and the album Tribute To The Past Greats. Cole has Step Up, Wha The Yard Man Say and What Size Is Your Love, along with the albums Morning Train, out of England and More Life, out of Germany.