Devoted to Jimmy

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

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FOR decades, singer Jimmy Riley warmed the hearts of music fans with soothing lovers’ rock songs.

Yesterday, many of them, as well as colleagues, gave him a rich musical send-off in a celebration for his life dubbed ‘Love & Devotion’.

Riley died on March 23 from cancer. He was 68.

The ceremony was held at Webster Memorial United Church in St Andrew.

His son, Tarrus Riley, along with drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, had the congregation singing along to Riley’s 1979 hit song Love And Devotion.

"My father told me that the music business was rough and that today they may like you and tomorrow they don’t. But he always had an alternative, if one was needed," said Tarrus.

Continuing his tribute with Sly and Robbie, he performed another of his father’s hits, My Woman’s Love.

Backed by Dean Fraser and the Blak Soil Band, Riley did a soulful rendition of Black Mother Pray, a hit for Riley senior in 1984.

Sherita Lewis performed Conversation, a song Riley did with the Uniques in the early 1970s. Chevaughn Clayton followed with I Wish it Would Rain, while Tinga Stewart had the congregation singing in unison to Rougher Yet. Among those who turned out to pay their respects was Member of Parliament Omar Davies.

"Jimmy must be listed among the greatest set of musicians who contributed towards the development of the country’s music," he said.

Similar sentiments came from Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs and Entertainment, Olivia Grange, who recalled Riley’s commanding stage presence.

"He is, was and will be one of Jamaica’s most talented songwriters. Jimmy was obsessed with singing and he would just walk on stage and start performing.

He wasn’t the type to dance or so, but he had a strong and commanding stage presence. He knew how to captivate any audience," she said.

The entertainment fraternity was well-represented. Sean Paul, Chronixx, Gem Myers, Lloyd Parks, Nadine Sutherland, promoter Isaiah Laing and Stacious attended the service.

Born in Jones Town, Kingston, Riley (given name Martin James Ziggy Norman Riley) grew up in the Waterhouse community.

After recording with harmony groups the Sensations and Uniques, he went solo in the early 1970s.

— Simone Morgan

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