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Story of the Song | Should I take a draw or not?

Published:Thursday | November 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
What the song was really about.
Dennis Brown
Frankie Paul
Lloyd Parks

Dennis Brown's Should I is on the Words of Wisdom album, which was released in 1979 two decades before his death. It remains one of several standout cuts from reggae's Crown Prince.

Brown asks the age-old lover's question of trust and commitment, singing;

"Should I have faith in you?

Should I put my trust in you?

And should you let me down

Should I flirt around?"

However, for bass guitarist Lloyd Parks, who played on the session at Joe Gibbs Studio on Retirement Crescent, the question was whether Parks should take a draw of marijuana. He did, and the bassline that anchors the song is the result from someone who is not a smoker.

"Everybody come to the studio and smoke a spliff. A lot of musicians smoke," Parks said. He was not one of them, so when he requested a draw that day, there were concerns to put it mildly. Parks said guitarist Willie Lindo exclaimed, "don't give him! the session a go mash up!"

Parks, guitarists Lindo and Winston 'Bo Pee' Bowen; keyboard players Franklyn 'Bubbler' Waul and Harold Butler; drummer Sly Dunbar; saxophonist Dean Fraser; Nambo Robinson and David Madden, played on the session that resulted in Should I. Engineer Errol Thompson was at the boards.

It was Parks' first time smoking marijuana, although he had previously used it to make tea, and it was a very rare occasion of his taking a 'draw'. "Sometimes a spliff work," Parks said as "the session was bubbling".

It literally had a visual effect on his playing as Parks said, "I start to see the music. This time, is like you see in colours. I never continue that trend, but it was colourful. Normally, you feel it, and you hear it. Maybe some musicians will understand what I am saying."

After the musicians had worked out Should I, it took about 15 minutes to record it. It did not hurt that Brown came to the studio with not only the lyrics and melody, but also played on his acoustic guitar as he presented the basics of the song. Parks said it was standard for Brown to play the guitar when he was singing a song for the musicians at a recording session, and it was always easy to structure a song for Brown because of how melodious his voice was.

The predictions of a hit by persons at the studio ("Them say it gone!" Parks recalled) were accurate, and he has strong memories of playing it on the Inseparable series, centred around Brown and the Reggae Sunsplash festival, both in Jamaica.

It was also at Sunsplash that Brown expressed his confidence in the face of what some perceived as a threat to the Crown Prince's dominance by singer Frankie Paul (who died in 2017). There had been a show previously on which they both performed, and some persons felt that Frankie Paul had upstaged Brown. At Sunsplash, Frankie Paul not only sang, but played the keyboard and Parks recalled, "I say to Dennis, 'the people say you dead tonight'. Him take off him shirt and beat him chest and say 'no threat! An mi big bredda (Parks) deh ya?'. When him come up and him sing 'stop your fighting so early in the morning', the place erupt!" Parks recalled.