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.
During the late 1980s, Home T (formerly Home T-4) churned out several hit songs, including the Mikie Bennett-penned Mek the Christmas Catch You in a Good Mood . But, there was something still missing.
“One of the problems we had as a group is trying to connect with the streets, while being ourselves; while sticking to the melodies and harmonies we loved. We were the product of that R&B era,” Bennett told the Jamaica Observer. “We wanted our songs to be played in the dancehalls, radios, and played in the streets.”
The songwriter said on a visit to the popular Rae Town 'oldies' session in Kingston one night, something “different” caught his ear.
“When you go to Rae Town, you would hear all these different kind of music... I heard Chuck Turner's cover of Maurice White's I Need You on this computerised dancehall rhythm. When I heard what was done with this song on this particular dancehall rhythm, I asked (saxophonist) Dean Fraser: 'Where did that music come from?' He said: 'A Jammy's thing dat'. I said: 'We have to link Jammy's because that was the thing we wanted to do',” said Bennett.
Jammy's refers to Waterhouse-based producer Lloyd “King Jammy” James, principal of King Jammy's Record Studio. Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon was the studio's chief engineer.
Bennett's 'light-bulb moment' germinated into a cover of English singer Andy Gibbs's ballad (Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away. Released in 1978, the single reached nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and two on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Home T's dancehall-flavoured version of Don't Throw It All Away came out in 1988 on the Jammy's Record label to rave reviews.
“We were at Jammy's and he was playing a rhythm and (group member) Diego (Winston Tucker) start singing and Bobby Digital said, 'Yes'. It ( Don't Throw It All Away) was the song that introduced Home T to the dancehall. It was a popular rhythm and we got a nice buzz from it,” said Bennett.
“When the sound system men start asking for your dub plates and specials, you realise people start noticing you. I remember Rorie from Stone Love came and got the dub plate... So we understood there was something in the making,” he continued.
Bennett, who is credited as co-writer/producer of House Call (Shabba Ranks and Maxi Priest) and Mr Lover Man (Shabba), said there were several takeaways from that cover song for him.
“As a songwriter, doing cover songs was something I used to not want to do. But when I got involved in that creative process, I realised how difficult it was and how the end product would turn out with some skills... It was part of my whole re-education and reimmersion into the whole popular music scene. The trick is trying to navigate the melody and the chords. So songs that were made originally with a lot of chords were modified to fit it on a two-chord or one-chord song, which is in itself a creative process,” he said.
“It has served me well over the years trying to find that balance between those nice R&B melodies and vocals... My career as a writer took off based on that kind of situation. So, it was a win-win situation for all of us,” he added.
Formed in the late 1970s, Home T has remained relatively inactive during the 2000s. The group, however, recorded an album two years ago.
The group's other hit songs include Irons In The Fire, Sound System Man and Single Life.