Boris Gardiner spells it out

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 14, 2014

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Today, the Jamaica Observer begins a daily feature on Jamaican Christmas songs, 12 Days of Chrismus. The series will run for the next 12 days and concludes on Christmas Day.

THE year was 1961. A young Boris Gardiner was then a member of a vocal group known as the Rhythm Aces when his brother, Barrington, a stroke of brilliance.
That ‘brilliance’ turned out to be the lyrics to The Meaning of Christmas, which was recorded by Gardiner and remains a Jamaican Christmas favourite 53 years later.
“He came to me with the lyrics early in the year and it was about October before I took to the piano and started to fool around some chords,” Gardiner recalled while humming a few bars.
“I could sing a good falsetto in those days,” he added, then burst into singing,” C is for Christmas the season of good cheer. H is for happiness to last us through the year.
He would then team up with the Rhythm Aces to work out melody and harmonies for the track.
“We got together and worked it out, rehearsed and arranged and pitched it to Chris Blackwell of Island Records. He liked it and we were off to the studio. We recorded it at Federal Recording Studio.”
Gardiner laughs, noting that the track, although very popular, brings in no money as the Christmas season is much too short for any meaningful rotation. But he will admit that it is one of the favourites here in Jamaica during this time of year.
“Whenever I am performing at this time of year, I must do this song, if not, people ask for it specifically.”
Gardiner has re-recorded The Meaning of Christmas on three occasions. Each, he says, has made the tune that more special.
“The last version has Dwight Pinkney playing guitars and it is a longer version. But each one is quite nice and has been accepted by the public,” he noted.

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