'I man on yah'

'I man on yah'

Pluto Shervington marks 50 years

Observer senior writer

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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For fans wary of message-heavy, roots-reggae songs that bemoaned the turmoil in Jamaica during the 1970s, Pluto Shervington's easy-listening songs were welcome comic relief.

But in 1976 the singer released I Man Born Yah, a song many thought was a middle finger to the socialist government of Michael Manley. The following year Shervington left Jamaica for Miami, going against the song's insistent line, 'I nah leave ya fi go America'.

Shervington still lives and performs in South Florida. On February 21 he celebrates his 50th anniversary in music with a concert at Gulfstream racetrack in Hallandale.

Reflecting on his career that started in 1969 as a guitarist/singer with the Tomorrow's Children band, the 69-year-old artiste has no regrets.

“Truthfully, I cannot remember having a disappointment in my career. Surely ups and downs, but no real disappointment,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

The jocular Shervington joined Tomorrow's Children not long after leaving St George's College. In 1974 his first song, I Man Bitter, was released by Federal Records.

Along with Ernie Smith, Shervington made his name at Federal Records through genial songs like Dat, Ram Goat Liver and Your Honour. Dat was the most successful, doing well enough in the United Kingdom to earn him a slot on top-rated television show Top Of The Pops in 1976.

Willie Lindo was a session guitarist at Federal Records and played on all of Shervington's hit songs for the label. They were members of different bands on the show circuit but did not get acquainted until linking at Federal.

“It was there dat I first saw dat him have something going on as a singer,” said Lindo, who also lives in South Florida. “Him an' Ernie Smith come with something different than di normal roots-reggae, but it was still appealing.”

Not even the comical Shervington was immune to the divisiveness of Jamaican politics during the 1970s. I Man Born Ya referenced Manley's infamous “five flights to Miami” speech which opponents took as an order for his detractors to leave the country. The singer argues the song remains a rallying cry for patriotic Jamaicans.

I Man Born Ya then was like an anthem being sung by proud Jamaicans. What a lot of people don't realise is that the places I travel to all over the world have a lot of Jamaicans who like myself, have moved away but, make no mistake, are still very patriotic to the land of our birth. It's the same reaction now,” he stated.

Born Leighton Shervington in Kingston, he was strongly influenced by Byron Lee and The Dragonaires and Toots and The Maytals. Shervington also favoured the horn-driven rock of Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Like Lindo and contemporaries Inner Circle, he has settled into the role of reggae's elder statesman in South Florida, playing mainly lounges and recording intermittently.

At next week's 50th anniversary show the performers will also include Smith, Inner Circle, Third World, Carlene Davis and Boris Gardiner.

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