Marcia Barrett continues the legacy of Boney M

BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer writer

Sunday, December 27, 2009

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IN the mid-1970s, the pop and disco group Boney M was created by German record producer Frank Farian. Originally based in West Germany, the four initial members of the group's official line-up were Jamaicans Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett, Montserratian Maizie Williams, and Aruban Bobby Farrell.

Prior to the official line-up, a studio line-up featured Williams, Sheyla Bonnick, a dancer known as Mike, and singer Nathalie. Nathalie was replaced by Claudja Barry. After Bonnick and Mike departed the outfit, Williams, Farrell and Barrett were drafted. Barry demitted the ensemble and Liz Mitchell stepped in.

Between 1976 and 1984, Boney M released six studio albums and a handful of compilations. The group charted a multitude of hits across several European charts, but only four managed to chart in North America.

Among the group's hits, which to this day are still heard on radio, are Do You Wanna Bump, Daddy Cool, Sunny, Ma Baker, Belfast (originally a solo hit for Marcia Barrett), Brown Girl in the Ring, By the Rivers of Babylon, Rasputin, Mary's Boy Child, Hooray! Hooray! It's a Holiday, Elute, and I'm Born Again.

After the group broke up in the late 1980s the members went their separate ways and today they each have their own versions of Boney M, touring the world. This writer caught up with former Boney M member Marcia Barrett via telephone at her home in Germany on Christmas Eve.

Kevin Jackson: Mary's Boy Child is still a popular staple at Christmas time. What was the band going through at the time when the song was recorded in the late 1970s?

Marcia Barrett: Hectic, hectic, hectic, but nice hectic. We were travelling the world at the time and it was a fabulous feeling. The song spent four weeks at number one in Britain and ended up in the Guinness Book of Records.

KJ: Why was the song recorded and where did the actual recording take place?

MB: It's a cover version, and at the time our producer Frank Farian had persons advising him on songs that the group should cover and Mary's Boy Child was one of them. It was recorded in Germany, like all of our other songs. That's Boonoonoonoos was recorded in France and Silly Confusion was recorded at Tuff Gong in Jamaica.

KJ: Talk to us about Boney M's time in Jamaica while recording the song Silly Confusion.

MB: We were in Jamaica for three weeks in 1981 and we also performed at the Intercontinental Hotel, while we also did footage for music videos while we were in Montego Bay and at Dunn's River Falls. The performance was well-received, and it was a fantastic feeling being back home. Liz and I are from Jamaica.

KJ: What caused the group to break up?

MB: Our producer Frank Farian decided, after 10 years, not to produce anymore. He wanted to do rock music. We were very unaware of it and were left in the cold by the producer who had his egos to produce other stuff. The group still carried on after a couple of years. Liz left in 1988, then Bobby left, and Madeline Davis later joined the group. The group officially disbanded in 1990.

KJ: After the group broke up, what was your next move, professionally?

MB: Well, I relocated with my husband Marcus James to Florida. He was the bassist with Eddy Grant for a number of years. Later on I got ill, but now we are back in Germany.

KJ: Why was Boney M so big around the world, yet success evaded the group in America?

MB: I know the reason why. Boney M wasn't promoted in the US because Frank Farian is German and couldn't speak English. So, I don't know what deals he had turned down for America. That was the only country around the globe that we didn't have success.

KJ: I know you have released some solo albums, but what have you been up to these days?

MB: I am touring as Marcia Barrett of Boney M with my team since 2005. I intend to go into the studio, early in the new year, to do some beautiful tracks and collaborate with some well-known artistes.

KJ: Are you still in contact with the former members of Boney M?

MB: I saw Liz two years ago in London at the Daddy Cool musical, and I haven't seen Bobby since 1995. I am in touch with Maizie, and I saw her just last year.

KJ: Talk to us about your battle with cancer.

MB: I had ovarian cancer in 1994, and in 1998 I had breast cancer. In July of this year I had a 10-hour operation to remove a tumour from my oesophagus and by October I was back on the road again. I am a fighter and I love life too much to give up.

KJ: Have you thought about getting back together with the other original members of Boney M?

MB: Well, I would love it, and people have been asking us year in, year out. It looks so steep to organise. I want it; I don't think Maizie or Bobby would mind. Everybody would need to have some energy to do it.

KJ: Where in Jamaica are you originally from, and how often do you visit?

MB: I'm from Old Harbour; I grew up in Church Pen. I also lived in Kingston with my godmother Sylvia Sinclair. I am a very proud Jamaican. My husband Marcus and I got married at the Half Moon Hotel. The last time I was in Jamaica was four years ago.

KJ: Recently, pop star Lady GaGa sampled the Boney M song Ma Baker in her number one hit Poker Face. How do you feel about that?

MB: I felt proud because the name Boney M continues to live on.

KJ: If you were to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?

MB: Nothing. I am counting my blessings. I started out at the age of 19 in Germany, and I have a soft spot for the Germans. They gave me the break that I needed at the time.

KJ: If you were to depart this earth tomorrow, what would Marcia Barrett want to be best remembered for?

MB: For the work I have done and for the person that I am. I am a true person; I never lie, and I don't backbite.

KJ: What are your thoughts on the current state of popular music globally?

MB: It's somewhat disappointing. You can't sell records like you used to, and then there is the issue of piracy. There are also quite a few false Boney M's out there, and that's really not nice.

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