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Wild Gilbert

Lovindeer remembers stormy song 30 years later

By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Monday, September 12, 1988 will be forever etched in Jamaica's history.

On this day 30 years ago, Hurricane Gilbert, the most intense on record at the time, slammed into Jamaica at Category Five causing death and destruction. Power lines were downed, water supply disrupted, roads blocked, and widespread damage to buildings and other physical infrastructure. It is also reported that 49 persons died as a result of the storm.

In the aftermath, a number of Jamaican artistes and musicians released songs recalling the onslaught, but none had the resonance and staying power as Wild Gilbert, penned and recorded by singer Lloyd Lovindeer.

According to Lovindeer, the idea of a song recalling the impact of the hurricane came in the early hours of September 12 as he watched zinc sheets and satellite dishes being tossed about by its mighty gales.

“”When the first satellite dish fly past my window I said to myself, look at that. In the days that followed, as I walked through affected communities, saw the destruction and heard stories, I made a mental note as the seed had been planted to put these experiences to music,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

In the ensuing weeks a number of other artistes beat Lovindeer to the punch and released similar tracks, but he was not daunted.

“A lot of people are of the opinion that Wild Gilbert was released days following the hurricane. In fact, it was a few weeks. At that time I did most of my recordings in the studio at Dynamic Sounds. The roof of the Dynamic Sounds building was damaged by Gilbert and the studios flooded, so I had to wait until the repairs were done. That took about three to four weeks. Other artistes had gone ahead and released songs that mentioned the hurricane. This delay in getting to studio was actually good for me as it gave me the opportunity to not only listen to what others had done, but also take the time to craft my own song.

“I figured the song would do well from the moment I recorded it. It was a topic that most Jamaicans could relate to. Everybody had some Gilbert experience or another. I chose a dancehall rhythm that was popular at the time and injected a level of humour in the lyrics that put some laughter into what was a really devastating situation.”

Lovindeer's lyrics touched on the looting which took place during and after the hurricane; the lack of electricity which left many resorting to eating corned beef on a regular basis; as well as the flying satellite dishes and zinc roofing sheets. The music video which was released later also added to the popularity of the song as it featured actors Volier Johnson, Oliver Samuels and Leonie Forbes.

Not everyone was pleased with Lovindeer's account of the passage of the hurricane however his rib-tickling storyline involved a Rastaman and that did not sit well with some in that community.

“I remember one incident quite well. I was hanging out with some musicians at Aquarius Studio and a Ras' came up to me and said, 'Fire fi you, Lovindeer. you a make fun of rasta and a big disrespect dat'. He was getting quite boisterous and it was Gregory Isaacs who had to say to him 'Yuh a gwaan like Rasta roof nuh blow off to'. Only then did he quiet down,” Lovindeer recalled.

Should Jamaica be hit by a hurricane this season Lovindeer doubts strongly that he would pen another such song.

“No sah. Other artiste can do that. I will leave them to come up with their own thing. Furthermore, because we learned so much from Gilbert, the experience will be very different, so I would leave that to someone else,” he said.