Eric still blooms with Cherry Oh BabyThursday, July 22, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
IT was while on a painting job that the melody of Cherry Oh Baby popped into Eric Donaldson's consciousness. One of reggae's most enduring songs, the seven-time winner of the Jamaica Festival Song Competition names it as his all-time favourite.
“This song is in a class by itself. The first thing it have rhythm like no other song... it was a new song. It was catchy and the lyrics was just right. It [the song] jus' fall in love with the people and the people dem fall in love wid the song,” Donaldson, 74, told the Jamaica Observer.
Cherry Oh Baby was named winner of the Jamaica Festival Song Competition in 1971. This year marks its 50th anniversary, a milestone not lost on the singer.
“The idea for the song jus' hit mi in a couple of minutes. I was doing some painting, 'cause I used to do some painting and interior decoration. I jus' a paint, paint, and all type ah thing ah go through you mind because mi still have di music thing inna mi head. All of a sudden, jus' like a likkle melody jus' hit mi and mi jus' try fi remember what mi hear. The melody come first to me, then I write the words,” he said.
“ Cherry Oh Baby is an international song. It never had anything to do with festival, but it's a happy song and a loving song and a beat that couldn't be denied. It's my favourite in many ways – 'monetary-wise' it gave me di most money. I have other songs that people rate as anthem but ah Cherry Oh Baby mi a go wid,” he continued.
The song has indeed found favour internationally. It has been covered by The Rolling Stones (on their 1976 album, Black and Blue) and UB40 (on their 1983 album, Labour of Love). Cherry Oh Baby's rhythm remains extremely popular as more than 30 cover versions have been recorded, including an update by Donaldson.
He said it was initially penned as Oh My Loving Baby before reworked to Cherry Oh Baby.
“So me guh back go rearrange it and call a name... The name was intrinsic; it came from inside. I wasn't really thinking about 'cherry' that bear on tree or anybody in particular,” he said.
Born in Kent Village near Bog Walk, St Catherine, Donaldson's other winners in the Jamaica Festival Song Competition are: Sweet Jamaica (1977); Land of My Birth (1978); Proud To Be Jamaican (1984); Big It Up (1993); Join de Line (1995); and; Peace and Love (1997).
Land of My Birth is often touted as Jamaica's unofficial anthem, but for Donaldson, “ Cherry Oh Baby can't dead. Every generation come get a piece of it.”
Last year, Donaldson was bestowed an Order of Distinction (OD) in the rank of officer for his outstanding service to the Jamaican music industry.
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