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Bernard 'Touter' Harvey — Man with the keys to Inner Circle

Observer senior writer

Sunday, May 27, 2018

IT has been nearly 40 years since Bernard “Touter” Harvey went on his first tour of Europewith Inner Circle. The jocular keyboardist is preparing for another run on the continent, a 30-date trek celebrating the band's 50th anniversary.

Harvey, who is in his mid-60s, has been Inner Circle's resident keyboardist for 43 years. He has played on their biggest hit songs, including Peace Treaty, Standing Firm, Forward Ever, Backward Never and T enement Yard, all of which featured singer Jacob Miller who died in 1980.

His sound can be heard on Bad Boys and Sweat, songs which announced their astounding comeback in the early 1990s. Looking dapper in denim, sneakers and fedora, Harvey said he never tires of touring.

“Everytime you play live, you are starting over. Wha' yuh do last night, yuh can't count 'pon dat di next night, 'cause is a brand new thing. Different audience, everything,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Though he is synonymous with Inner Circle, Harvey established himself as a session musician before he was recruited to join in 1975 by brothers and co-founders, Roger and Ian Lewis. From Whitfield Town in Kingston, he became a member of the Young Professionals Band while still attending Excelsior High School.

That unit also included Aston and Carlton Barrett, the rising drum-and-bass team that helped fashion The Wailers' distinct sound, trombonist Vin Gordon and singer Carl Dawkins. The Barrett brothers helped chart Harvey's career as a studio musician. He played on John Holt's massive hit single Stick By Me, and The Wailers' groundbreaking Catch A Fire album.

In 1978, The Rolling Stones took him on their North American tour which had Peter Tosh as opening act. The following year, Harvey toured Europe with Miller and Inner Circle.

“We were promoting the album Everything Is Great and as the title says all was great. Of course, we were young and enjoying the times without a care. We did the usual venues every new group does in our building process… small clubs, medium halls and most polytechnics and colleges,” he recalled. “Radio and the press were kind to us, so the process was relatively short throughout most of Europe.”

Inner Circle's potential to become an international force took a body blow when the charismatic Miller was killed in an auto accident in Kingston. It would be 13 years before they hit it big, thanks to Bad Boys and Sweat which became global anthems and earned them a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1994.

Based in North Miami, Inner Circle are part of South Florida's vibrant music scene, largely because of Bad Boys and Sweat. They also invested in a studio where some of the biggest names in music (Julio Iglesias, Yanni, Diddy, Janet Jackson, Pitbull, Shakira and Pharrell) have recorded.

Harvey, whose credits also include Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley's Rastaman Vibration albums, describes his tour of duty with the band as “very rewarding”. Moving with the times, he stressed, is largely responsible for their success.

“We're not afraid to embrace the technological changes and innovate when and where we can. Social media has changed most of that (music industry), but the gratification of performing to a live audience is still the same and has a bigger impact as it can be streamed live from any place on the planet to an even bigger audience,” he said.

Inner Circle's European tour is scheduled to start on June 13 in Amberg, Germany.