Tenor Saw lives onFriday, August 09, 2013
BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment
WHEN dancehall's roll is called up yonder, singer Tenor Saw's name will definitely be there.
His spiritually-laced songs, catchy lyrics and unique voice, defined 1980s dancehall music and influenced a generation of singers.
At the height of his four-year reign, the 21-year-old (whose given name was Clive Bright) was found dead with broken limbs near a Texas roadway in August 1988.
Though the circumstances of his death remain shrouded in mystery, 25 years after, there is no denying Tenor Saw's legacy lives on.
Producer George Phang, who first recorded him for his Powerhouse label, remembers their first meeting at Dynamic Sounds in St Andrew which led to the gospel-inspired song Roll Call, released in 1984.
"At the time, I was recording Half Pint's Greetings and Michael Palmer's Lick Shot," Phang told Splash.
He said he was approached by the diminutive teenager, who wanted to record a song.
"Him was next to tears. Him say no one wanted to record him," Phang recalled.
According to Phang, he took a chance and gave the budding vocalist a microphone.
"When the little youth start sing, his voice was bigger than him... it hold mi. The whole studio start cheer," he said.
After the release of Roll Call, Tenor Saw became an in-demand artiste.
"He was a brilliant youth. He is sadly missed," Phang added.
Delores 'Cherry' Prince is Tenor Saw's mother. She said it was difficult coping with her son's death.
"When I used to hear his music, I used to feel sad. But now, I feel happy when I hear them," she said.
The fourth of six children, Clive Bright was born December 2, 1966 at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston. He spent his formative years in Payne Land, Maverley and Olympic Gardens, a cradle for dancehall artistes in the 1980s.
His family later settled in nearby Duhaney Park. Tenor Saw's older sister, Janet Maragh, remembers him as a little boy with big dreams.
"He always loved singing. He loved hats, never loved jewellery," recalled the 57-year-old mother of three children.
"He had lots of friends. He would take them home, and even share his dinner with them. I clearly remember (singer) Yami Bolo," she continued.
Tenor Saw had a religious background and was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church of God choir in Olympic Gardens.
"I took all of them to church," says Prince, who is still a committed Christian.
She remembers the first time hearing her son's music on the radio.
"I was in my kitchen when Roll Call was playing on the radio. Someone told me it was Clive; he sounded good. He later came home and told me himself," she said.
Tenor Saw recorded a string of hits during dancehall's digital dawn, cementing himself as one of its brightest stars.
Those hits include Pumpkin Belly, Lots of Sign, Fever and Run Come Call Me. His enduring Ring the Alarm, done on the Stalag rhythm for producer Winston Riley's Techniques label, is his most successful song.
Prince says she does not get a penny from covers or sampling of Tenor Saw recordings.
She, however, recounts that a producer living in the United States called her and said he managed Tenor Saw. He paid off the balance on a house she once lived in in Seaview Gardens.
He called again and advised the family he had funds for them.
"That was the last I heard of him," Prince said.
The family's wish, however, is that the late singer be "recognised" by the Jamaican music industry and his country.
"It's not about money. It's about him being recognised for his contribution to Jamaica's popular culture. His music should be played more on the radio. It's clean," Prince said.
His family is also mulling a memorial event on his birthday, December 6.
Prince has heard several accounts of Tenor Saw's death. However, his autopsy reports the cause of death as pneumonia. He was cremated and his ashes brought home.
"They killed my son, but they can't kill his voice," she added.
Clive 'Tenor Saw' Bright is survived by his 26-year-old son, Justin, who lives in New York.