Time heals all (Paragons) wounds

Monday, November 10, 2014

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In tribute to singer John Holt who died on October 20 in London, England, the Jamaica Observer presents 'Holt a Day', a daily feature leading up to his funeral, which is slated for November 15.




WHILE he mourns the passing of John Holt, his friend and colleague in the Paragons, Howard Barrett is grateful he patched things up with the singer before his death.


In an interview Saturday with the Jamaica Observer from his Florida home, Barrett blamed "discrepancies" for a rift between him and Holt. They had not spoken for 17 years until a special occasion this year.


"On Mother's Day, John did a show in South Florida and a friend of mine was going to the concert. She asked me if she could give him my number and I told her yes," Barrett recalled.


According to Barrett, Holt contacted him by phone two days later.


"We chatted for over an hour, about any and everything. At the end, John gave me his number and told me to keep in touch," he said.


Barrett had no idea Holt was ill until he collapsed on stage during a show in England last summer. They had been friends since the 1950s when they attended the same Sunday school.


"I was living in Trench Town and he was from Whitfield Town so we never did speak. I never knew he could sing 'cause while I was a part of the choir John didn't take part in anything," he said.


Barrett soon realised how talented his church 'brother' was when Holt entered the Vere Johns talent contest and won several times.


Later, in the mid-1960s when he was asked to join the Paragons, Barrett did not hesitate as by then he was a big fan of Holt's.


The Paragons (which classic line-up also included Tyrone Evans, who died in 2000) are giants of the rocksteady era. They had numerous hit songs for producer Duke Reid including Wear You to The Ball, The Tide is High and On The Beach.


Holt went solo in the early 1970s after Evans and Barrett migrated to the United States.


Barrett remembers Holt as a "softie" at heart. He related an incident which still stands out in his memory.


"Many years ago we were on a bus going from Waltham to Cross Roads to perform at a hotel in New Kingston. The four of us (including Evans and original member Bob Andy) started singing and the passengers were enjoying it. A policeman came and said, 'stop the noise', and wi started laughing. Two of us stopped, but John and Bob continued singing."


Barrett told the Observer that the officer charged them for disorderly conduct at a nearby station.


"At that point we realised we were going to miss the show, and John said to the police, 'I don't like to beg, but could you please let us go'."




— Cecelia Campbell-Livingston


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