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Carlene, ABBA make friends


Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues its month-long feature titled 'Cover Me Good'. It will look at songs covered by Jamaican artistes which became hits.

CARLENE Davis says lots of successful cover songs are due to the vision of artistes, managers and producers. Her 1982 cover of Like Old Friends Do, originally done by ABBA, is one such example.

“The Jamaican landscape wasn't playing music like that. When they played my version, they were hearing it for the first time. What encouraged me was that Babsy heard the original song that ABBA performed, and she could hear me singing it. For me, that was very important. Babsy being my manager and producing me was a huge part of my career, and I respect her for it. It seems like we were together [as a team] forever. She was developing my career, in Jamaica and Canada,” Davis told the Jamaica Observer.

Babsy refers to Jamaica's current Entertainment and Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, who produced the song which was released on her Orange Label and distributed by Sonic Sounds.

ABBA, a Swedish super group, became internationally renowned during the 1970s for tracks like Dancing Queen and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Their version of Like Old Friends Do was released in 1980 but not as a single.

Davis said she met Grange while living in Canada in the 1970s. At the time, Grange was also working with Leroy Sibbles, Ken Boothe and Ernie Smith.

She said Grange helped her tap into the Jamaican market once she returned to Jamaica in 1980.

“She was very involved in music prior to being in politics. Her time in Canada was when she started her booking and management and I became part of that because I was part of CBC Records, and I met her through affiliates. When I came back [to Jamaica], it was easier to make that transition —thanks to her,” Davis explained.

She never heard the ABBA single prior. However, once she heard it, she understood why Grange thought it was the song for her.

“Once I heard the song, I was moved. It brought tears to my eyes. When a song impacts me that way, I don't hesitate to do a version of my own. It is a song about coming together. It uplifts you, and to add to that, it was ABBA's last track together before they separated…,” the singer said.

Last month, ABBA reunited after 40 years.

Davis said she personalised her version.

“They played it on the accordion as a simple, slow ballad. I made it more like R&B with an electric piano. The modulation wasn't there with the original, but I added that. Even the ending of mine, there were some additions,” she said.

Davis's version of Like Old Friends Do was recorded between Tuff Gong, Channel One and Joe Gibbs studios. It's still one of her most notable singles.

“It's definitely my most memorable. There've been other songs that went way beyond the Jamaican market, but this one is special. It's something that's requested, even in church. When I was completing my master's in pastoral counseling, my professor would pick that song when we were going into prayer…Even in Atlanta two weeks ago, it was requested when I performed at the Legends in Concert [show],” she told the Observer.