In love with Carolina againWednesday, October 20, 2021
BY KEVIN JACKSON
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.
Eight years before Shaggy was born, The Folkes Brothers scored a ska hit in Jamaica with Oh Carolina, in 1960. In 1993, a cover of the groundbreaking song by Shaggy catapulted the New York-based deejay to international success.
“The idea to cover Oh Carolina really came from me hearing that old song from The Folkes Brothers and Prince Buster back in the day,” Shaggy told the Jamaica Observer.
“In Jamaica, as kids, we used to do Jamaican curses to it. It was really just a way to curse at the party during the song! So, when [American producer] Sting International played me the beat, the first thing in my mind was, 'how can I make this really rebellious song ,where I could get everybody to curse in Jamaican patois',” he explained.
Shaggy's version is produced by Sting International and was recorded at HCNF Studios in Long Island, New York.
Produced by Prince Buster, the original was recorded at Radio Jamaica Rediffusion (RJR) in 1958 with traditional drumming from members of Count Ossie and The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.
It was released in 1960 on his Buster Wild Bells label. The following year it came out in the United Kingdom via Blue Beat Records.
Said Shaggy: “I knew that the song was a hit locally [in New York], but I didn't know it was going to be a massive international hit. Robert Livingston was the one that said he was going to chart this record, yet I didn't know what 'charting it' meant then! So, he licensed it to Greensleeves Records, who had major distribution through BMG, and they started to market and promote the record. They thought it was a dope and super catchy track.”
He continued, “I didn't realise that the pop world would receive it as this massive pop anthem. It was just a classic old tune that the DJs used to play and kids cursed at. When it took off internationally, I was on tour backing Maxi Priest, and I really didn't want to leave because I was having so much fun. But I had to go to England to promote it.
“I didn't know what to expect, because I had never been there before and everything was new to me. It was very exciting, but didn't really sink in until after that trip,” he recalled.
Oh Carolina sailed to number one in the United Kingdom. It also hit number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and number 43 on Billboard's Rap Songs Chart. The song entered the top five of charts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Eventually, Oh Carolina was certified gold in the United Kingdom with sales of 400,000, Australia (35,000) and Germany (250,000).
“ Oh Carolina opened a lot of doors for me, because it was my first international number one, and it really introduced the world to Shaggy,” said the chart-topping artiste.
The Folkes Brothers (John, Mico and Junior) became household names in Jamaica following the success of Oh Carolina. It finished 1961 at number two on the RJR Top 100 Chart.
Yellowman (featured on his 1994 album Prayer) and South Korean pop group Roo'ra (1995) also recorded covers of Oh Carolina.