Entertainment

Can you continue the fight?

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 08, 2013    

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IT was a documentary on South Africa's Apartheid system that led to the creation of the heart-rending song Can You.

Nelson Mandela, the struggle's most iconic figure, died on Thursday. He was 95.

Charged with treason and imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela was released in 1990 and went on to become the country's first black president. He served from 1994 to 1999.

Two days after his death, Mikey Bennett — who co-wrote and produced Can You — recalled the inspiration for the 1992 hit by Brian and Tony Gold.

"It was during the height of the Apartheid struggle. I was watching TV and saw a feature on South Africa. Part of the documentary had a scene with a beach and sign reading: No Blacks Allowed. This image stayed with me," Bennett told the Sunday Observer.

Horrified by the situation, Bennett — a member of the group Home T — said he was compelled to put pen to paper.

"Before I went to bed, I had written most of the song. The song really wrote itself," he said.

The track takes the form of a letter to a friend in Africa.

"The song has Brian and Tony Gold singing in a pseudo African accent. This was different from anything that they had ever done before," said Bennett.

Bennett said the song was originally intended for former I-Three member Judy Mowatt. He credits Rory Gilligan from Stone Love for getting it played in the dancehalls.

"I'm still getting kudos for that song," he said.

According to Bennett, Can You was intended to highlight the dreadful situation which South Africans were facing daily. Change came when Mandela was released from prison and negotiated an end to white minority rule.

A follow-up track, Free At Last, with Brian and Tony Gold, was done in 1993.

"A delegation was going to South Africa after Mandela was freed. We wanted him to get a copy of the record and sent it with the delegation," Bennett said.

While both tracks were not as commercially successful as two of his other songs, House Call and Mr Lover Man, Bennett said Can You and Free At Last were part of a collective effort for change.

"If I never thought so, I wouldn't have done it. I delivered the message in the best possible way I could."

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