CLARENDON, Jamaica – There was a huge turnout of family members, friends, and members of the entertainment fraternity at the thanksgiving service for the life of dancehall deejay Merciless on Saturday at the St Gabriel's Anglican Church Hall in May Pen, Clarendon.
In a colourful eulogy, Merciless' niece, Kiara Mitchell, said the entertainer was “high-spirited and full of life” as a child.
He was born Leonard St Ledger Bartley in Chapelton, Clarendon on July 1, 1971 and was brought up in the Suttons Church of Prophecy where he attended Sunday school for many years. He attended Pond Top Basic School, known then as Brother Claudie’s school, matriculated to the Beulah All Age School and completed his educational journey at May Pen Secondary.
Young Leonard was drawn to music from an early age despite his father St Ledger Bartley, a highly skilled plumber, attempting to mould him into a plumber.
“As early 10 years old, he and Jackie (his sister) used to sneak out of the house to go to Baptist Corner, Ms Monica Bar, Mr Buku Dance hall, Black Tempo Lawn and just about anywhere it sounded like there was music playing. Despite the spankings that would be meted out upon their return, this continued right throughout their teenage years," she said.
And so, by the age of 20, he decided that plumbing was his father’s dream and not his, she told the audience before recounting aspects of Merciless' successful music career with his manager, Gadaffi.
Despite the success of Merciless, which saw him travel all over the world to perform, he never separated himself from his family, Mitchell said.
“For him, it was family first! As soon as he found the ‘buss’ he sought, he made sure to fulfill his mother’s unforgotten travel dreams as well as that of his other family members. His nephew Orville, my dad, said ‘The way how that man good to me, there is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for him’,” she said.
“The children were fond of Uncle Lenny,” she continued. “Whenever he visited, which most times was unannounced, he would bring a treat for every single child in the house… His generosity was extended to just about anybody who happened to cross his path. He gave without remembering yet received without forgetting.”
However, as his star power began to fade, Leonard also faced a number of personal tragedies.
“He was determined and his spirit of resilience would see Lenny through more pain and tragedy than most of us will never know. He lost three siblings, his wife and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible,” Mitchell said.
“It’s a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. It would have been easy for him to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet,” she added.
After years out of the spotlight, Merciless was found unresponsive inside a guest house on Walker's Avenue off Beechwood Avenue in St Andrew on July 19. A post mortem was inconclusive.
He is survived by his mother Etle Bartley, brothers Leroy and Larry; sisters Jacqueline and Claire; his four sons Isiah, Leonard, Judah and Jacob; three grandchildren and other relatives.
"His special friend Marsha, an immeasurable extended family, friends and associates from the music industry, an army of fans from all over the world, and a host of well-wishers," she continued.
Dancehall veteran Spragga Benz performed 'Sleep with Angels', a moving tribute to Merciless that went over well with the audience, who he told that his late friend and colleague had reached out to him during a difficult emotionally turbulent time during his life.
"He was a real yute," Spragga Benz later told OBSERVER ONLINE.
Sound system icon Ricky Trooper was also in attendance at the event.
"It was great, the people dem turnout, Spragga was there, Mr Lexx also performed. I was looking for Bounty Killer and Beenie Man but they were absent. A lot of artistes came though, Alozade, Twins of Twins, Don Mafia, Egg Nog, Little Hero, Don Mafia, Predator, Carl Dawkins, Bunny General, Ninja Ford and Wasp. I was disappointed with the turnout from the sound system fraternity, only Kush International, Natural Vibes from St Bess, Barry from Black Scorpio and me, but otherwise it was a great turnout," Trooper said.