Ska great Derrick Morgan shares the secret to his ‘livity’
Celebrates 82nd birthday today
Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac with the word ‘Legend’ and the letters’ DM’ boldly inscribed on the gate is the house where pioneering ska and rocksteady star, Derrick Morgan, resides in Clarendon. By design, the road is named Derrick Morgan Close.
Morgan thinks it’s cool that the developers decided to name the road in the community his honour. “You know why they did that? When I built this place, there were about two other houses in this entire scheme, and she [the developer] said that from people hear that Derrick Morgan live in here, dem sell off the whole of the land. Everybody buy the land, so she decided to name the road after me,” Morgan told The Sunday Gleaner .
Born on March 27, 1940, in Mocho in the parish, Derrick Morgan was the guest of honour at an event earlier this month that saw Mayor of May Pen Winston Maragh paying tribute to him for his sterling contribution to Jamaican music and Brand Jamaica. Maragh announced plans to further honour Morgan during the Jamaica 60 celebrations later this year.
“Yes, man, it was a nice little ceremony they had for me. I enjoyed it. They give me a proclamation two weeks ago, are also going to name the square in Stratton the Derrick Morgan Square, and they are going to name the road that lead past where I used to live Derrick Morgan Drive. So I have a Close and a Drive; all I need now is the Street in Kingston,” Morgan said with a robust laugh.
With today being his 82nd birthday, Morgan said the plan was simply to give thanks for life, his mental and physical health, his voice which is still strong and the ability to do what he does best, music.
“I don’t have any plans for this year, but last year, I had a good plan. All the artiste who love me give me a tribute. It was a live streaming. Jimmy Cliff, Max Romeo, Beenie Man and a whole heap of them. It made me feel good. I was 81, and everybody talk nice ‘bout me, nobody had anything bad to seh, all the American artiste name Snow was there,” Morgan said.
SECRET TO LONGEVITY
The Forward March singer, who is a treasure trove of Jamaican music history and recalls places, dates, names and events with astounding accuracy, shared the secret to his longevity and asserted that the reason he has outlived so many other artistes is his decision to stay away from drugs. He also paid tribute to his wife of more than 50 years, Nellie, who has been his best friend and his eyes – having always had vision problems and then losing his sight completely.
“The secret to my livity? Yuh hear dem talk bout a singer name Eric Monty Morris? Well, him was the first man to roll a spliff and give me. I was about 14. As mi put it to mi mouth to go light it, mi see Monty run off. Is a policeman him see and the policeman him rush mi and hold mi with it. I neva get to light it. See my secret, yah. Him carry me to mi madda, and she give me a good lashing and she seh this is nutten for children or anybody to be smoking. After my mother beat me, she put on her frock pon mi and seh if mi want to leave the house, mi haffi wear the frock. And every evening when I go home from school, I have to go inna di frock. And from then, I never smoke weed,” Morgan shared.
He admitted that he used to smoke cigarettes but quit 40 years ago, and he subsequently stopped “the hard drinking” on his own rather than waiting on doctor’s orders.
“This is my secret why dem dead lef me. Dem want white gal inna dem nose; dem want ganja inna dem nose and everything. That is the downfall fi dem – the majority of the young artiste who dead die through drugs. The only drugs whe me tek is what the doctor give me,” Morgan, who is the father of Queen Ifrica, shared.
Counted among that elite group of founding fathers of ska, Derrick Morgan’s popularity transcends the ‘50s to the present. According to his bio, “He is immortalised in the annals of Jamaican popular music for, among other things, having the most hits all at once in the Jamaican top-10 charts and jump-starting the careers of some of the biggest names in the Jamaican entertainment business.” His most recent performance in Jamaica was at the Reggae Month concert, Reggae on the Pier.
“Reggae on the Pier was nice; I only sorry that me can’t walk again to fling me foot while on stage. But me just lean back, and gwaan do my lickle thing,” he said with a smile.
In 2019, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association honoured Derrick Morgan with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001, he was awarded the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to the distinct culture of the island.