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The lyrics of a genius, the story of a man

Published:Sunday | June 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM

'The lyrics of a genius' best described the songwriting skills of Bob Andy in the last Music Diaries article. Following on this aspect of his career and on the previous article, it is worthy of note that Andy's 1969 recording of Games People Play for Ken Khouri's Federal Records, now Tuff Gong Limited, was crucial to his emergence as a major recording artiste.

Not only was it his first major hit, but it was the recording that literally opened the Studio One floodgates where 12 of the gems previously recorded there poured on to the airwaves.

In expanding on this, Andy explained in a 2005 radio interview with me that Clement 'Coxson' Dodd, Studio One boss, didn't originally release his recordings, reserving them for exclusive play on his Sound System - Coxson's Down Beat.

In Andy's own words, "This guy realised he had a number of songs sitting on for me after Games People Play made me popular."

All written by Andy with the exception of Stay In My Lonely Arms, the songs ranged from the solid to the sublime, and were unequivocally embraced by music lovers at home and abroad after they were released through Bamboo records in the early 1970s.

I've Got To Go Back Home remains his signature recording. "Home was very relevant to me, being a runaway child," Andy explained.

"It was the first as an aspiring artiste that I had this experience:

"I smoke some herb, got a vibe and went around the piano. All I had was the brass section in my head, the horn arrangements used to come to me, not just the lyrics and melody, and I just go to Bobby Ellis and hum my thing to him, and he, with his orthodox musical knowledge, would just get it in the right mould for I. I had just started to delve into Rastology and felt a national weight on me because we had just attained what we thought was Independence. And from that early time, as sensitive as I was, when that came down on me, it was a vision I saw of people trodding home," said Andy.

Andy was accompanied on the recording by the Wailers - Bunny, Peter Tosh, and Constantine Walker, and the very popular horn section included Trumpeter Bobby Ellis and Saxophonist Headley Bennett.

Unchained, another from the Songbook album, expostulated his innermost thoughts about freedom and again demonstrated his unrivalled dexterity as a songwriter.

Just take these chains away and set me free

Remove me out of bondage and we'll agree

Too long I've been a slave, I wanna be no more

I'd rather dig my grave than be locked behind the door

I wanna help myself be an independent man

I don't want no one to give me an helping hand.

His other big number-one hit from Songbook was Too Experienced, which express the confidence of a man who had been through it all.

I'm too experienced to be taken for a stroll

Too experienced for someone to rock and roll

Too experienced to be taken for a ride

I know it's not my foolish pride.

But perhaps Andy's most uncompromising song was his self-penned, self-produced Check It Out, in which he was most severe on the establishment.

Multinationals are really criminals, all forms of gambling.

There's no way you can win

Open your eyes, it time you realise,

That the rise in the price is to make more money for who's got plenty

And the trick of the trade is to keep all the hungry bellies empty

Come see these legal crooks

Who learn their tricks by the books

So called disciples of God

Who rule with an iron rod.

The Lloyd Charmers-produced Fire Burning from 1974 was no less severe.

I was drawn into myself

observing all this time

From every angle I could see my

people you're meeting hell

Brothers have turned to crime

So they die from time to time

We'd like to ask you leaders

what have you got in mind

I see the fire spreading, it's

getting hotter and hot

The haves will want to be in the

shoes of the have nots

If the sign is on you door

then you'll be saved for sure

But if you're in pretence

You're on the wrong side of the


That recording drew the wrath of then Prime Minister Michael Manley, who summoned Andy to Jamaica House in 1974 to answer questions concerning the lyrics. But Andy stood his ground, declaring that he envisioned an eternal fire burning among the people because of what was happening.

In addition to writing his own songs, Andy wrote several for other artistes, including Ken Boothe's massive hit I Don't Want To See You Cry, and Delroy Wilson's Impossible in 1966.

But, most important, he wrote Marcia Griffiths' earliest hits that incontrovertibly sent her on the road to success.

Andy taught them to her line by line, turning them into hits like Feel Like Jumping, Mark My Word, Melody Life, Tell Me Now, and Truly. In duet with her, he also had his biggest international hit, selling gold with The Harry J-produced Young Gifted And Black in 1971.

Andy's musical exploits and songwriting skills didn't end with Studio One or Young Gifted And Black.

It continued into the 1980s when he had a number of collaborations with overseas producers like London's Derrick Taylor. The Miami years produced the Hanging Tough album and the incomparable Willie Lindo-produced recording Give Thanks. His recording of Mama Africa received rave reviews, while he recorded a couple of albums in duet with Griffiths for Trojan Records.

Andy's inspiration will forever live within his songs.

Peace In Your Mind from the 1970s was a classic inspirational piece, while I Love This Life exhorts us to:

'Live every moment as if it were your last

Times they're changing, they're flying fast

Do you some good, the very best that you can

To every child woman and man

Because the next breath is not guaranteed to anyone

Can't you see the people who are passing on.

We could use this life to end some of the madness, sadness and strife'.