Jacob Miller

ON March 23, 1980, Jacob Miller drove to the Zinc Fence venue at Dumfries Road in Kingston, where Third World were scheduled to hold an anniversary party. Standing at the gate was Stephen “Cat” Coore, that band's guitarist.

“The whole session was to start three or four in the afternoon; it was the celebration of our 10th anniversary and I was at the gate when Jacob drove up, he and the kids,” Coore recalled in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer. “It was a yellow Datsun, left-hand drive. Him sey, 'Cat, mi soon come, mi a go do chune an' buy some cane'. He never came back.”

Miller died in a auto accident that afternoon, 40 years ago today. The flamboyant lead singer of the Inner Circle band, a rising star, was only 27 years old.

The jocular Miller was the face of Rockers, a funky reggae sound that emerged during the mid-1970s. With Inner Circle, he had hit songs aplenty — Tenement Yard, Tired fe Lick Weed in A Bush, Standing Firm, Forward Ever, Backward Never and Everything is Great.

He also starred in the 1978 movie, Rockers, and led Inner Circle on the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, that year.

Two weeks before his death, Miller and Bob Marley went to Brazil with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell for an opening of the company's office there. One week later, he was at Compass Point studio in The Bahamas working on New Age Music, Inner Circle's second album for Island.

Inner Circle keyboardist, Bernard “Touter” Harvey, was also part of those sessions. He first met Miller five years earlier when the Manchester-born vocalist joined the band, after a fairly successful solo career at Studio One and with musician/producer Augustus Pablo.

Harvey remembers being in Miami when he got news that Miller died. Forty years later, he recalls a unique artiste.

“Jakes was a man who love fun, love life. A pleasure to be around. Jakes was a spirit dat only pass through occasionally,” he said.

Last October, the Jamaican Government recognised Miller's contribution to the development of the country's music by awarding him the Order of Distinction (OD), Jamaica's sixth highest honour. Accepting was his son Taki, who was in the car, along with his brother and their playmate, when his father died.

Brothers Roger and Ian Lewis, founders of Inner Circle and Miller's close friends, also received the OD during the National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House, a mere three-minute drive from the spot where he lost his life.

Coore, who knew Miller for eight years, is still the driving force behind Third World. Being around him, he remembers, was magical.

“It was his persona, his personality, just his approach to what he was doing. He was something special.”

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

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