Entertainment

Bob Andy, songwriter extraordinaire

Sunday, October 09, 2011    

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I happen to believe that Bob Andy is the greatest songwriter Jamaica has produced to date. Most of our so-called songwriters are in fact, excellent poets, but if you examine the structure and flow of Bob Andy's lyrics, you will realise the marked difference between them and those of the average Jamaican song.

Born Keith Anderson, Bob co-founded The Paragons and penned their number one hit Love At Last for producer Coxsone Dodd, before launching his solo career in 1966 with his blockbuster hit I've Got to Go Back Home. This song, while revered for its spiritual overtones of repatriation and reconciliation, has become a perennial party, dance-floor stomping anthem, all over the world. Over the years this song has been covered by Chalice, Freddie McGregor, and namesake Horace Andy.

During this prolific era of his career Bob bombarded the local airwaves with other timeless reggae standards such as Feeling Soul, My Time, Going Home, and Too Experienced — still one of my all-time favourites. The latter later became a massive hit for Barrington Levy. Other versions were recorded by The Body Snatchers, Eddie Lovette, and Los Pericos — a popular Argentinean band.

During this early period of his career, Bob Andy penned many songs for other stable mates, including the following songs made popular by singer Delroy Wilson — I Don't Want to See You Cry, I Want to Let You Know, It's Impossible, Open Up the Door, Touch Me Again, We Belong, What Else Can You Show Me, and You Won't See Me (Honey Child).


Some of the most potent, socially conscious lyrics of Bob Andy's long, successful career came during the 70s, in sync with the major local and international issues of the time. In fact, Bob has never shied away from controversy, either in his lyrics or personally, identifying with progressive movements for liberation and self-rule. Check it Out succinctly expressed the growing disillusionment, at the time, with trickle-down economics, and our national policy of Industrialisation by invitation. The lyrics of the first verse went:

Come listen to me

I've made a discovery

I want to share it with you

I'll have you know that it's true

Multinationals are really criminals

All forms of gambling

There's no way to win

How prophetic those words have become as over the last 40 years the world has witnessed the greatest concentration of wealth in the control of a few. Another great song of that era, Fire Burning, was not only an instant, massive hit, but, at the time, generated significant heat among the chattering classes. Its international truism, however, has weathered the test of time, making its message as wise and relevant today, as it was back when it was first released. The lyrics are worth reprinting here in full:

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 your door

Then you will be saved for sure

But if you are in pretence

You're on the wrong side of the fence

Oh yeah - you better believe me

People - Believe, believe, believe me when I tell you

Another thing I saw in visions

Right in front my eyes

Sisters prostituting, selling away their lives

They get but very little pay

The ones who clean the mess

Minority who sits on top

Just rate themselves the best

But 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 your door

Then you will be saved for sure

But if you are in pretence

You're on the wrong side of the fence

Oh yeah - you better believe me

People - Believe, believe, believe me when I tell you

It is therefore appropriate and very timely for the Friends of Bob Andy, some of the best of Jamaica's current and legendary musical talent — artistes, musicians and arrangers — to unite and collaborate to present an extraordinary concert and celebration of the legendary Bob Andy and his internationally acclaimed songwriting skills — Bob Andy Unplugged — Tribute to the Songwriter on Friday, October 28 at the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium, Jamaica College.

Email: che.campbell@gmail.com

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