Gwen Guthrie: Reggae soul sister
In commemoration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer's Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country's culture. Today we feature Gwen Guthrie.
IN the summer of 1986, singer Gwen Guthrie hit pay dirt with Ain't Nothin' Goin' on but the Rent, a song that became the working woman's anthem and a jab to the face of every deadbeat man.
Ain't Nothing Goin' on but the Rent was also a smash in Jamaica where Guthrie's songs were popular for years, though many did not know it. Jamaicans danced in the 1970s to the ballads This Time It'll be Sweeter (Linda Lewis) and God Don't Like Ugly by Roberta Flack, which were written by the New Jersey-reared Guthrie.
She also wrote Tyrone Davis' funky Supernatural Thing.
In the liner notes for the compilation album, Ultimate Collection: Gwen Guthrie, she recalls coming to Jamaica in 1978 and working with hot rhythm team Sly and Robbie. They produced her self-titled album for Island Records as well as Nothing but Love, her rocking, horn-hooked duet with Peter Tosh.
Gwen Guthrie emerged during the 1970s when being a singer/songwriter was in vogue. She was also an in-demand backup singer, working on songs by Flack, Ray Charles, Carly Simon, Stephanie Mills and Billy Joel.
Her collaboration with Sly and Robbie produced two solid albums, including a 1982 self-titled set that yielded the hit dance song, It Should Have Been You.
Gwen Guthrie always acknowledged her reggae ties, saying working with Jamaican musicians added a different dimension to her music. She died from cancer at age 48 in 1999.