I Can See Clearly Now, the true story

I Can See Clearly Now, the true story

Observer senior writer

Thursday, October 08, 2020

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Most music fans associate Johnny Nash's Jamaican ties to Bob Marley. After all, they were friends and Nash covered several of the reggae king's songs including Stir it Up and Guava Jelly.

However, for his 1972 album I Can See Clearly Now, the American singer — who died on Tuesday at age 80 in Houston, Texas — worked with a new band called the Fabulous Five Inc.

That set produced the hit song of the name which sailed to top of the Billboard pop chart in November 1972, three months after the album was released by Epic Records.

'Fab Five' formed in Kingston two years earlier as a six-piece unit. Keyboardist Conroy Cooper was band leader, Frankie Campbell played bass, Grub Cooper (drums), Peter Scarlett (vocals, percussion), Junior Bailey (lead guitar) and Steve Golding (rhythm guitar).

They were establishing themselves on the live show circuit and hanging out at Harry J studios in Kingston when Nash returned to Jamaica to start work on an album. Reggae was big in his plans.

Nash first came to Jamaica during the 1960s and worked with Jamaican musicians on songs like Hold me Tight and Cupid which were sizeable hits.

“He wanted to do this album, so Harry J (Harry Johnson) asked if we would be interested working with him and we said 'yes'. I mean, we were a young band and we knew about Johnny Nash. So, after that we went to Steve Golding's house where we used to rehearse and discussed the songs and other things,” Campbell recalled.

Campbell said the recording sessions at the Harry J studio ran over three weeks and heard Nash doing several Marley songs including Stir it Up, Guava Jelly and Comma Comma. The band also backed him on More Questions Than Answers.

“He (Nash) made a concerted effort to cover Bob Marley songs which I thought was interesting. Not a lot of foreigners were doing reggae and here's this American doing Jamaican's songs,” Campbell stated.

Things between Fab Five, Nash and his manager Danny Sims soured during the sessions. Campbell said they were not being paid and I Can See Clearly Now was actually completed in the United States with American session musicians. Those musicians played on the title song.

When the album was released, the Fabulous Five Inc were not given credit, something Campbell said angered them for years.

“I guess it was just a matter of us paying our dues,” he said.

Johnny Nash is synonymous with I Can See Clearly Now which was successfully covered by Jimmy Cliff in 1993. In the late 1970s, he was popular on Jamaican radio with the songs, Mr Sea and Rock me Baby.

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