Remembering Trevor Roper

Howard Campbell

Friday, January 11, 2013

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WHEN Gary Peart and his older brother Robi assembled a band to back the latter for his debut album in 1979, Trevor Roper was least known of the group that would become known as Chalice.


"To tell you the truth, I can't remember how Trevor came in; I don't remember if (guitarist) Wayne (Armond) or Alla (keyboardist Winston Lloyd) brought him in. I know he had been a member of the Jamaica Folk Singers," Gary Peart told the Jamaica Observer.


Roper — who died at age 59 from cancer on January 2 in Chicago — may have been a mystery to many on the local music scene. But he quickly established himself as Chalice's charismatic lead singer.


Armond sang on I Still Love You, the band's first hit in 1980. But it was Roper who led on the bulk of Chalice's hits such as Marie, Stew Peas, Good To Be There, Dancehall Philharmonic, Pocomania Day and Revival Time.


Peart remembers Roper as a "generous person, full of love and compassion". He said they developed a close bond that continued when Roper moved permanently to the United States in the early 1990s.


The last time Peart saw Roper was 2011 when he (Roper) came to Jamaica for his mother's funeral.


"He wasn't looking so good, he wasn't his usual self," Peart recalled.


They last spoke to each other just before Christmas when the lanky singer's condition had deteriorated considerably.


Roper, says Peart, had stopped recording professionally but maintained a home studio and wrote songs. He was a long-serving assistant aquatics instructor at the YWCA in Chicago.


After Roper left for the US, Chalice continued to record and perform at major events such as Reggae Sumfest. The band remains active and has taped a tribute to be shown at his thanksgiving service Sunday at the YWCA in Chicago.


Peart says Trevor Roper will be cremated. His wish for his ashes to be buried under an ackee tree will be granted.


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