Jackie Opel: Barbados soul brother

Observer senior writer

Monday, February 19, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!

With February acknowledged as Reggae Month, the Jamaica Observer salutes some of the music's unsung heroes in this daily column.

WITH Independence from Great Britain beckoning in 1962, Jamaica attracted a number of artistes from the Eastern Caribbean. They included guitarist Lynn Taitt and singer Lord Creator of Trinidad and Tobago, and singer Jackie Opel from Barbados.

Opel, who died in March 1970 at age 32, was a true Caribbean man. He made his mark as a recording artiste and performer in his homeland, T&T and Jamaica.

His soul-drenched vocals, comparable to American singers like Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett, won him fans throughout the region.

It was in Jamaica that he made his biggest impact, working with The Skatalites and producers Clement Dodd and Byron Lee.

Lee produced a version of Opel's version of Cry Me A River, a passionate ballad that remains the singer's signature. At Studio One he cut a number of ska sides, including Welcome You Back Home (with Doreen Shaffer), the risqu Push Wood, and Mill Man.

On the last, he was backed by none other than Peter Tosh and Bob Marley of The Wailers. Another Wailer, Bunny, is on record as saying Opel is one of the best singers he has heard.

Jackie Opel, whose real name was Dalton Sinclair Bishop, was not only a vocal innovator. He created spouge, a blend of Caribbean sounds he hoped to make an international brand.

That never materialised. Opel died in an auto accident 48 years ago in Barbados.

His legacy has gained gradual recognition from his countrymen in recent years. The Barbados government commissioned the Jackie Opel Auditorium in 1998, and his music has been introduced to a new generation through numerous acknowledgements by artistes like soca singer Edward Yearwood, who saluted Opel at the Sir Arthur Lewis Distinguished Lecture by performing Cry Me A River and You're No Good.




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon