Karen Smith ‘a candle that will never go out’
Courtni Jackson says her light will shine brighter because of her late mom, Karen Smith.
Jackson, the only child for the woman who became a musical legend locally and internationally, described her mother as an eternal light that will never fade, hours after the death of the maestro at the Baywest Wellness Hospital, in Montego Bay, Saturday morning.
Smith had been battling colon cancer for the last 12 months. And although she may have ascended to another realm, her daughter says she is a candle that will never go out.
The award-winning singer, who literally controlled the cabaret scene on the north coast, doubling and tripling up at galas, black-tie dinners and luncheons, has left the country in mourning. Her vibrancy, humility and immense talent were among the attributes that Jamaicans declared warmed their hearts.
One of Smith’s closest confidantes, hotelier Carol Bourke who was with her on Thursday, just over 24 hours before she transitioned, said it was a smooth process. “She wasn’t in any pain. She was a warrior, and up to the very very end, she was just so positive, and she was covered. And she knows she was blessed, and she was in a good place, and she was prepared.”
Bourke said she played Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable for her friend, and could tell she was responding through slow and slight movements. It was a song they have both sung together during special moments. “She knew how much it meant to me.”
Saddened by the passing, Bourke said in the end she knew Smith was not suffering anymore, and had gone on to a better place.
Smith’s impact was evident in diverse areas, and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who refers to her as his niece, was on point when he spoke of a woman at the pinnacle of the fight to enable quality entertainers to obtain the respect and protection to which they were entitled in the tourism industry and celebratory occasions.
Hit hard by her death, in a tribute to Smith, Patterson said he can hear her melodic voice singing with pleasure as she enters the New Jerusalem.
“Karen Smith was a star. Given her ancestral heritage and her splendid academic heritage at St Hughs, she was expected to pursue her tertiary education that would have steered her into any of the traditional professional careers.”
But Smith, he said, was insistent that singing was what she was going to do because of her natural talents and her desire to make people feel happy. She did try banking, but not for long, giving Patterson fodder to pronounce that no one can dispute that she revealed the dedication and unique style which fuelled a meteoric rise to the zenith of her chosen field.
Lauding the game-changer for her leadership of the music fraternity, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett spoke of a fearless advocate of the rights of musicians, and more importantly, her insistence on them not only producing high-quality products, but to be able to present them in the best tradition that is the epitome of good musical offerings.
“I’m proud to have been a friend of Karen Smith. She certainly had the epitome of grace, charm, and creativity. Her songs have not only charmed so many of us, but have created a sense of confidence, solace to so many in so varied a circumstance. From depressed persons to people who just wanted to be happy.”
Revealing sense of loss, which he said was great, Bartlett said that a large number of visitors have made Jamaica their place of choice for repeat visits because Smith had been there charming them, but more importantly, becoming their friends also.
Smith’s long-standing friend, Gem Myers, who has known her since 1984, and who started performing with her as part of the group PaKaGe, said she had been hoping and praying for the best for Smith.
“She was deserving of the best, as she always gave her best…on and off the stage. I will miss her immensely. Smile on sis,” she said.
Smith died leaving husband Jackie Jackson, her manager of 36 years, her mother Barbara Smith and several family members.