'Bob Marley took the deal'

BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter

Friday, February 17, 2012

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VETERAN singer/songwriter Bob Andy, revealed he was offered a recording deal by music mogul Chris Blackwell, which he did not take up. A similar deal was instead taken by Bob Marley, who later became the king of reggae.

Widely regarded as one of reggae's most influential songwriters, Andy's formal acknowledgment of his failure to seize what can now be deemed a golden opportunity, came at last Sunday's Reggae Month Grounation 2012 symposium at the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston.

"Bob Marley took the deal that I could not have taken because Chris Blackwell made me an offer I didn't know how to go about it. I wasn't in that realms at that time. I just never felt it. I never saw long term. I was not ready. Just like I was not ready within myself as a man to have a wife at an ealy age. At that stage of my development, I never even comprehened the immensity of what Blackwell had offered," said Bob Andy told the audience.

Under the theme, Bob Andy: The Man, The Artiste, Discusses Life and Music with Kay Osborne, it was a presentation like none of his musical appearances in his almost 50 years as a performing artiste. It was forthright, informative, enlightening, engaging, provocative and at the same time amusing.

Without realising it, the prolific hitmaker was in a way putting to rest an unsubstantiated notion Bob Marley success was due largely to his pegmentation and ethnic lineage.

But according to Andy who sometime after fora elaborated in an exclusive interview with the Observer, his refusal to take up Blackwell's offer was due his lack of knowledge of the business of music at the time and with no one with whom to consult.

"I never had anybody, Wailers had Wailers them could bounce it off on (one another), I think fear and ignorance and being a loner kind of thing," Andy confessed.

Born Keith Anderson 1946, he served his singing and songwriting apprenticeship with the legendary vocal group The Paragons, which he founded with Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett, later joined by John Holt. The Paragons had several hits for producer Coxsone Dodd including Love At Last, which he penned. Andy emerged as a solo act in 1966 with the smash hit I've Got to Go Back Home, a song which has become a much-loved anthem for Jamaicans.

Speaking openly and frankly on Sunday in his discussion with the former TV general manager, Andy gave the well attended event of a peek into his thought process that goes into writing songs in which his sense of agitation comes out. Song such a Fire Burning and Check It Out.

"People in so called governance have to be playing catch-up over and over again.....how you going get rid of crime when you have so many crime related industries. Politics is theatrics. After 50 years of Independence we don't have a dependable water supply," he declared to rousing applause.

"I know this thing not going like the way it was planned", suggesting that such utterances were not expected in a setting like that. "But I never grew up in any planned way. More criminal gone inna the one per cent that run Jamaica. What I would love to live to see is how dem going to create the new economy on this planet. Dem a come tell me sey mi a dis great songwriter and me can't live inna di house dem weh dem live inna," Bob Andy said before adding "My favourite song of mine is To Be True To One Another. The Games People Play is my first successful record. It's from that I took money and buy a car. The song Let Them Say was recorded one Sunday afternoon like this in 1966."

His albums included Bob Andy's Song Book (1970), Sweet Memories (Bob and Marcia) (1976), The Music Inside Me (1976), Kemar (Bob and Marcia) (1977), Lots of Love and I (1978), Friends (1983), Really Together (Bob and Marcia) (1987) (Kemar reissue plus extra tracks), Freely (1988), Hanging Tough (1997), Reggae Land (2006).

Part three of the four part February lecture series by The Jamaica Music Museum: Reggae Month Grounation 2012. On Sunday, February 19, Mr. David Brown, Senior Research Fellow, ACIJ/JMB will present "The Songs of Federation and Jamaica Independence."

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