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Story of the Song | Cynthia Schloss' 'Words' live on - Brother-in-law saw her last perform December 1998

Published:Friday | December 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMMelville Cooke
Singer Cynthia Schloss perfroming at Turntable Club in Kingston in 1977.

Monte Blake chuckles as he recalls American singer Margie Joseph coming to Jamaica and not remembering much of her song Words (Are Impossible). Joseph originally did the track as an R&B song in 1975. It was remade in reggae by Cynthia Schloss and released on the Merritone label that year. Both the original and the reggae version were very popular in Jamaica - not that Joseph had realised before she visited.

"Many times, they release the song as a B side (of a vinyl record) and the radio people don't play it in the US," Blake, brother-in-law of the late Schloss, said. He noted that by neglecting to simply turn over a record to hear what was on the other side, there were times when persons would go out and buy songs that they already had.

He noted that Schloss was known primarily as a balladeer (the slow songs Love Forever and Surround Me With Love, are two of her major hits). But there were times when she would inject some uptempo rhythm, often produced by her husband, the late Winston Blake. In this case the song, released on the Merritone label in Jamaica and Trojan in England, was produced by Blake, and multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Chung. Still, she retained the emotional impact of the lyrics, the chorus outlining the inability of oral or written expression to capture the depth of feeling being expressed about a relationship which is not what it used to be.

It begins, "Words without love are just words with no meaning," and the chorus explains, "Words are impossible, when something's died/It's not the same anymore."

Ironically, the B side of the record had an instrumental, Bad Word, a play on the Jamaican use of 'bad' to mean 'excellent', retaining the play on 'word' in the song's title.

Monte Blake last saw Schloss perform 20 years ago at a function for the United Bedding Company in 1998. As she is known for love songs, there is a particular time of year when her material resonates with the public more than it usually does, with the ballads Surround Me With Love and Love Forever among the highly requested songs.

He was pleasantly surprised when a radio DJ once called him to say that Surround Me With Love was among listeners' top 10 songs for Valentine's Day. On a personal note, he especially enjoys Love Forever, which appears on the 1976 album Ready and Waiting.

Love Forever was written by pianist Harold Butler, Blake pointing out that there are two versions as one was done by an American producer. It is the Jamaican version, which has a shorter lead-in, that remains "very special to me", Blake said. "It could have gone further," he said of the recording's popularity.