REGGAE GOT SOUL | THE ORIGINALS PART SEVEN
Through the 1960s, as US soul began increasingly to reflect the social concerns and political aspirations of the black working class, the same phenomenon began to register in Jamaican music. By the end of the 1960s, Jamaica could boast the presence of several singers who equalled in emotional intensity their US contemporaries, among them singers like Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, John Holt, Slim Smith, Pat Kelly, and Delroy Wilson as well as vocal groups such as The Sensations, The Uniques and The Techniques.
Jamaican artists have continued to cover or transform American r&b and soul tunes up to the present day. In a series of articles, of which this is the seventh one, we focus on noteworthy cover versions, mostly being the initial ones, recorded by well known and lesser known Jamaican singers and vocal groups.
KEITH HUDSON – IN THE RAIN
Jamaican reggae artist and record producer Keith Hudson aka the “Dark Prince of Reggae” covered the The Dramatics soul classic “In The Rain”. The single came out in Jamaica on the Mafia label in 1972 and was included on the ‘Extended Version’ of 17 North Parade/VP Records’ 2016 reissued album “Pick A Dub”. The original version of “In the Rain” is a 1972 soul single, written by Tony Hester. The tune is notable for its use of sounds of rain and thunder, first heard before the song’s introduction, then throughout the instrumental and chorus sections. It sold over one million copies, and is The Dramatics’ biggest hit. Another worthy version was done by talented singer and keyboard player Webster Johnson aka Webby Jay, a member of the Matumbi band, who had his biggest hit as a solo singer with the Lovers Rock cover of “In The Rain”, which was released on the Arawak label in 1979.
JUNE LODGE – SOMEONE LOVES YOU HONEY
British-Jamaican Reggae songstress June Lodge aka J.C. Lodge first hit the scene in 1979 with the Joe Gibbs produced “Someone Loves You Honey”. Back then, this cover song became a standard lovers rock tune, as this sub-genre of reggae is known. June Lodge was embraced by a wide spectrum of fans, including many in pedigreed Jamaican society. “Someone Loves You Honey” was written by Don Devaney, originally released by Johnny Rodriguez in 1974 on his album “Songs About Ladies and Love”. Four years later the song was recorded by American country music artist Charley Pride and released as the second single and title track from his album “Someone Loves You Honey”. The song was the singer’s 20th number 1 on the country chart. The huge success of June Lodge’s version had also a negative side as Jamaican producer Joe Gibbs had to stall his producing activities in the early 1980s due to being sued for nonpayment of royalties related to “Someone Loves You Honey”.
BARRY LLEWELYN – SAD SONG
Kingston-born Barry Llewelyn, a founding member of The Heptones, recorded a cover version of Oscar Toney Jr’s “No Sad Songs” at Studio One, which then was released on Coxsone Records in 1969. Sometimes soul singers with an impressive voice simply fail to get some real good exposure. Oscar Toney Jr is such a singer. “No Sad Song” was featured on Oscar Toney Jr’s 1967 LP “For Your Precious Love”, and was one of two originals on the 11-track album. In 1968, “No Sad Song” was released on single in the UK by Bell Records. The song was written by Darryl Carter, who had came to Memphis from his native Chicago in 1965. And although the label states that the song is a Barry Llewelyn self composition, it certainly isn’t.
THE FABULOUS FLAMES – LOVE-ITIS
The song “Love-Itis” was written by Harvey Scales and Albert Vance and was first released by Harvey Scales & The 7 Sounds in 1967. Milwaukee’s Harvey Scales was a master stylist and natural performer. Road tested in every aspect of R&B, Harvey earned the title of the Midwest’s Godfather of Soul. It’s inexplicable that he did not attain the same level of fame as Wilson Pickett or Otis Redding. The Fabulous Flames, then consisting of Lovindeer, Kirk Salmon, Glen Ricks and Oswald ‘Dougie’ Douglas, did an early reggae version of the song for producer Clancy Eccles, who put it out on single in 1970. By the early ’70s the members went their own separate ways. Lovindeer and Glen Ricks joined the Fabulous Five Inc. before pursuing solo careers, while Kirk Salmon and Oswald ‘Dougie’ Douglas relocated to Canada.
BUSTY BROWN – CONSIDER ME
Busty Brown’s 1970 cover of Eddie Floyd’s R&B original, was recorded and produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. The single shows how expertly Perry could blend styles into his own unique reggae sound. As a solo artist Jamaican singer Busty Brown recorded for the usual roll call of Jamaican producers such as Lee Perry, Derrick Harriott and Clancy Eccles. He was the former singer for The Messengers, also sang in the Crepe Souls for producer Herman Chin Loy, and did his first recordings at Studio One. In the early 1970s he joined The Chosen Few, who recorded for producer Derrick Harriott. “Consider Me” was written by Eddie Floyd and Booker T. Jones and was first released by Eddie Floyd in 1969. The tune that launched his solo career in 1966 was the number 1 R&B hit song “Knock On Wood”, which he co-wrote with Steve Cropper. The American soul-R&B singer and songwriter was one of Stax’s most consistent and versatile artists.
ERNEST WILSON – STORYBOOK CHILDREN
Backed by the Soul Vendors at Studio One, Ernest ‘Soul’ Wilson, who embarked on a solo career in 1967 after being a member of the successful duo The Clarendonians, cut his version of “Storybook Children”, originally done by Billy Vera & Judy Clay and released on Atlantic Records in 1967. Afterwards cover versions of the soulful song were done by a number of other reggae artists including Gregory Isaacs, Errol Dunkley, The Pioneers, Winston Francis, Hopeton Lewis, Eric Donaldson, Stevie Face, Pete Campbell, Bunny Brown & Pam Hall, Glen Ricks, and Tony Mack, while Tommy McCook and Ernest Ranglin put out instrumental versions of the song.
LITTLE FREDDIE – AFTER LAUGHTER
A very, very young Freddie McGregor was featured on the flip of Ernest Wilson’s 1967 released Studio One single “Storybook Children” with a cover of “After Laughter (Comes Tears)”. The next year Little Freddie’s tune reappeared on the B-side of Ken Boothe’s “When I Fall in Love”. That same year it was released in the UK on the Coxsone label, but now credited to Freddie & Ernest. The original version of “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” on Stax Records was done by underrated soul singer and songwriter Wendy Rene, who was born Mary Frierson in Memphis, Tennessee. “After Laughter (Comes Tears)”, co-written with her brother, was her first solo single. Released in August 1964, the single became a local hit but failed to make the national R&B chart. The record featured Booker T. Jones on organ.
PETER TOSH – DON’T LOOK BACK
Wailers member Peter Tosh recorded “Don’t Look Back” for the first time in 1966 for producer Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. Originally it was a song recorded by The Temptations in 1965 for the Motown label. It actually was the flip side to their Top 20 hit single “My Baby”. “Don’t Look Back” broke out and became a hit among the R&B audience on its own, reaching number 14 on the R&B charts. Written by Miracles members Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who also wrote the soul group’s huge number 1 hit “My Girl”, the song is a reassurance to the tentative that finding true love is worth the heartbreak and failed relationships it takes to reach it. In 1978 Peter Tosh recorded the song again, now in collaboration with Rolling Stones’ lead vocalist Mick Jagger. Although the single became a number 1 hit in the pop charts, it actually was an embarrassing effort that essentially was an insult to The Temptations, but also to the Jamaican musicians who cut “Don’t Look Back” with Peter Tosh at Studio One.
PRINCE BUSTER – SHARING YOU
Singer, songwriter and producer Prince Buster, who shaped the course of Jamaican music, cut a wonderful rocksteady version of Mitty Collier’s “Sharing You” in 1967. Backed with the first version of “Rough Rider”, the song was pre-released on Olive Blossom Records in Jamaica and issued in the UK on the Blue Beat label. While still in college, Mitty Collier from Birmingham, Alabama, started singing r&b in local clubs. After winning Al Benson’s Talent Contest at Chicago’s legendary Regal Theater for six weeks straight, she was offered a record contract by Ralph Bass of Chess Records in 1960. She then became best known for her sensual orchestrated ballad “I Had A Talk With My Man,” a 1964 Chess single, which ironically wasn’t her highest-charting single. It was with her 1966 released single, “Sharing You,” that she scored a Top 10 R&B hit.
DERRICK HARRIOTT – MAMA DIDN’T LIE
Jan Bradley’s soul song “Mama Didn’t Lie” was given a doowop-styled interpretation by Jamaican singer/producer Derrick Harriott, who was backed by the Audley Williams Combo. In Jamaica it came out on his own label Crystal Records in 1965, while Island Records released the single in the UK. Paulette Walker cut a nice version in UK lovers rock style for producer Clem “Bushranger” Bushay that appeared on a 12″ single in 1978. American soul singer Jan Bradley auditioned for Curtis Mayfield, and soon recorded the Mayfield-penned “We Girls”, which became a hit regionally in the Midwest (on Talty’s Formal Records label). Several singles followed, and another Mayfield song originally issued on Formal Records, “Mama Didn’t Lie”, was released nationally in the US by Chess Records in 1963 and hit number 8 in the R&B chart and number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following the single’s success, Curtis Mayfield and Chess got into a legal battle over the publishing rights to Mayfield’s songs, and as a result Jan Bradley was no longer able to work with him.