Saluting Randy Chin

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer

Sunday, July 20, 2014

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The 17th staging of Tribute To The Greats takes place July 26 at the Chinese Benevolent Association in St Andrew. Dubbed The Chinese Connection, it salutes the contribution of the Chinese to Jamaica's popular music. Today, the Sunday Observer continues a six-part series on some of the recipients.

VINCENT 'Randy' Chin was trying to establish himself as a music producer in January 1962 when he first met a Trinidadian singer named Lord Creator at the Havana nightclub in Kingston. Accompanying him that evening was journalist Raymond Sharpe.

After the show, Lord Creator recalls Chin and Sharpe coming backstage with a business proposition that would benefit both of them.

"He asked if I could compose a song for him about Jamaica's Independence. I didn't know the details (of Independence), but I said yes," Lord Creator recalled in a 2003 interview with the Jamaica Observer.

His nationalistic ode, Independent Jamaica, was written one week later on the porch of Chin's east Kingston home. With Jamaica attaining independence from Britain in August, the song was a big seller and helped put Chin's fledgling Randy's label on the map.

Chin continued his partnership with Lord Creator on songs like Don't stay out Late and the folksy Ma and Pa. Those are just some of the songs that make the Randy's catalogue one of the most formidable in Jamaican popular music.

Operating out of Parade in downtown Kingston, Chin, his son Clive, and wife Pat also operated a studio where some of reggae's classic moments were captured.

The snapshots include a teenaged Augustus Pablo recording the exotic instrumental Java; and Burning Spear cutting his seminal Marcus Garvey album with the all-star Black Disciples band.

The Chin family moved to New York in the late 1970s, where Vincent and Pat established VP Records, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Based in Queens, VP is the largest distributor of reggae in the United States and is run by the Chin's sons Chris and Randy.

Vincent Chin died in February 2003, but the music he recorded in the early 1960s has assured him a place among reggae's pioneers. The Randy's catalogue is the subject of VP's popular 17 North Parade reissue series.

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