Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson: “[Without the Fans,] There Wouldn’t Be Any Diamonds” (The Interview)
When: July 24, 2022
Where: Los Angeles CA / Kingston JA (via Zoom)
Reporter: Stephen Cooper
Footage: Stephen Cooper – Edited by Teacher@ReggaeVibes
Photos: Courtesy of Stephen Cooper unless otherwise stated
Copyright: 2022 – Stephen Cooper
For about an hour on July 24 — via Zoom — I interviewed the last living, legendary Mighty Diamond, Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson; Judge was in Jamaica, and I was in Los Angeles.
We spoke, of course, about fellow Diamonds Bunny and Tabby’s tragic passing, and the future of the Mighty Diamonds — now “two brothers short” so to speak (and allude to the Diamonds’s unforgettable, almost-too-poignant-to-listen-to-now classic: “One Brother Short.”). We also talked about the piracy of Mighty Diamonds music Judge is constantly having to wage war against, the real story behind “Pass the Kouchie,” as well as Judge’s thoughts and recollections about Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie”; and, for the benefit of the entire reggae family worldwide, we touched on several other subjects of interest, too.
Hey Judge! Hey man! It’s so good to see you, Judge!
(Smiling and laughing) Right.
Hey man, hold on one second, let me get my wife out of here. Thank you so much[, Tanya, for helping me with these technical difficulties]. [Door to room closes….]
Yeah, so of course I [had] some technical difficulties with [“Zoom”] right at the last minute—
—you know how that goes. How you been doing, Judge?
Well, so far so good, you know?
Yeah. Well, Judge, I want to say first, just to start, if you don’t mind, just to say officially, on behalf of Reggae-Vibes, I just want to say how thankful and honored I am just to be able to talk to you, the last, living—
—legendary Mighty Diamond.
And Judge, you know, I hate to start on such a somber note, but I feel like I have to—there’s no other way I could begin, but just to tell you from the bottom of my heart, you know, how sorry I am—
—about what happened with Tabby—
—and what happened with Bunny.
You know I was just so heartbroken when Tabby was killed. And then when Bunny passed just a few days later. And the first person that I thought about was you.
How have you been doing, Judge? How have you, you know, how have you been holding up since you lost your two brothers?
Like I say, I’m just here trying to cope with it, you know? Just trying to cope with it one day at a time. It’s rough, you know?
Yeah. Definitely, it’s rough. When I—like I told you when I interviewed you back a few years ago when you and Tabby came to the Dub Club [in] Los Angeles—
And I told you then, and I’ll tell you now, the Mighty Diamonds is one of the best bands ever! In any genre. In reggae, [and] in any kind of music. Everybody knows that the Mighty Diamonds is one of the best bands ever. And so when Tabby passed, and then when Bunny passed [so soon] after that, I know the masses of people, Judge, around the world, were really heartbroken. And like me, I know that they were thinking about you when they got this double-whammy of bad news. Bunny, of course, had been—you know, when we talked when you came through the Dub Club a few years ago, you told me even then that Bunny was in terrible health.
Pass The Kouchie (12″ Version)
I Need A Roof
You said then—even then—you were hoping, you told me you hoped that maybe he could rejoin the group—Bunny. [Even] [t]hough he was in such bad health. You know I wanted to ask you, Judge, because a lot of people speculated that it could be that when Bunny got that news that Tabby had been killed, that that was the thing that finally killed him. Do you think that that’s what it was?
Well that’s what I think, too, because it was just like two or three days afterwards, you know? When he heard—remember now he had gotten about two strokes already, and then he got this shock now, so the third one took him out, you know?
Yeah. And Judge, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you first hear that Tabby was killed? And who told you?
It was my daughter. My biggest daughter called me and told me. She had a sister living near to Tabby.
And where were you when you found out?
I was at my home.
Wow. Well I’m so sorry about it. I don’t know if you’ll remember, but I want to remind you, Judge, that one of the questions—when I talked to you and Tabby in 2019. You know, it was late at night. You guys had just performed—
But, one of the things that I asked you and Tabby about was all of the violence and the threat of violence that you guys faced when you were much younger—in your younger days. And you went to Channel One. And you were on Maxfield Avenue. And you had warring political parties on both sides of the street. And I remember very clearly, very vividly, I went back and I read the interview last night just to make sure, but, I asked Tabby, “Were you ever scared of the violence back in those days?” And [Tabby] said to me, “No, I was never scared,” and I was never scared because “we never crossed the gunmen back in those days.” Even though there were some shootings.
It just made it so—when I thought about what happened, you know what I mean—there was some video. I don’t know if you saw it, Judge, but there was some video that was released in the press that showed Tabby just moments before he was shot. And he was close to his home on McKinley Crescent—in the Western part of Kingston. Near Waterhouse. And I don’t know if you—did you see the video? He was just out on the street, and he was dancing and having a good time.
Well that dancing that you saw him doing, he was dancing there with another DJ. But it was not that day, it was the day before.
Oh, it was? [That video footage] wasn’t [shot] the same day?
Oh wow, I’m so glad that you told me that. Because I thought it was moments before the shooting when I saw that video.
No. That was [from] the day before.
Well I thank you for telling me that, and because especially on social media, things travel fast and you get a lot of misinformation.
Yeah, I’m glad I’m talking to you about it. And you know, I saw—I want to ask you about this—I saw some people said, well, if Tabby had lived in a—if he—if he had the means, that he maybe should have moved [to] a different neighborhood. Do you think that if Tabby lived uptown, or if he lived in a different part of town, that this would have maybe not happened to him?
Well even if it didn’t happen then, it would happen later because according to what the government says, you know, or, the police say—the police say [Tabby] got killed because of his son.
And so even if it didn’t happen that day, it would soon happen somewhere else, you know?
Do you think, Judge, do you think that Tabby had any idea that he was in any kind of danger before he was killed?
No, Tabby didn’t think he was in any danger, because all Tabby [was] about is music. And Tabby [was] not a violent person—Tabby wasn’t mixed up in anything.
Tabby was the most peaceful singer I can think of.
When I think of all the lyrics—all the songs—that you guys sang together, it’s so sad to think about how much of a peaceful, peaceful, and such a conscious-hearted guy, to pass the way that he did, has got to be one of the biggest tragedies in Jamaican history.
But you’re saying though that you [don’t] think that Tabby felt that he was in any danger. Did he say anything to you at all in the months leading up to what happened, that, you know, he was worried about anything?
No. He never spoke about worrying about anything. It happened—I spoke to him the day of his death, you know?
The day of his death he called me and he was preparing—or the group was preparing to do an African tour. So he called me and talked about passport issues. That was in the day, about 1 o’clock in the day, and then I got the news now in the night, about 9:30—that he was dead.
Like you said—you mentioned how the police said Judge, how Tabby was killed—and I saw the news reports in the Gleaner about this—and in the [Jamaica] Observer about this. But I wanted to ask you about it because they say that [Tabby] was killed as payback for a murder that was committed by Tabby’s son, “Jah Marley Shaw.” And they reported in the press, that Tabby’s son is the leader of the McKinley Crescent Gang. And they speculated that Tabby became a target because the gang that was after Tabby’s son couldn’t get to him because Tabby’s son was locked up. And so instead of killing Tabby’s son in retribution, they killed Tabby. Do you know if there is any truth to [these] reports?
Well I don’t know. The police stated that it was a reprisal [killing], you know?
Yeah. Well I also saw though—the press reported that Tabby’s common-law wife, I think her name is Evanie Henry, [she] said that she was surprised that the police made that definite connection between there being a killing—between Tabby’s killing and Tabby’s son’s situation. And I guess I just wondered overall—I don’t want to ask you much more about this [very sad] situation, but are you satisfied, Judge, you know, given everything that you know that’s happening—and I know—I know from interviewing you—I know because of your history that you yourself were not only in the military, but you worked in the police, too. So I want to ask you because I’m sure that you’re in touch with the police, [about] their investigation. Do you feel satisfied—are you satisfied with the way the police are handling it?
Well I am not really in touch with the police down here now. Because my time on the force was not really—most of my people, they are not on the force now. There are different people [on the force now]. But what really happened is that—I don’t understand. Because we have not heard anything about anybody being arrested. Or anything. So I don’t think the investigation has been going on [effectively].
Do you think they should be working harder to solve this?
Well, when you say “working harder,” the police can’t really work without information.
Do you think then that other people in the community who maybe know things—[that] they need to come forward, and help the police?
Maybe yes, Maybe no. But the police—they are not—they can’t work [without] information. So maybe that’s a point—the investigation—you know, people are not so willing to speak about things?
They get themselves in trouble, you know?
100 percent people can get in trouble when they start speaking about things. That’s true. And Judge, to move on from that terrible, violent situation, it was reported that you and Tabby were working on a new album together when Tabby was killed. And, that you had at least five tracks, I think, that you had hinted you were planning on completing—this album that you were working on with Tabby. Can you speak a little bit about that? Did you have an album in the works with Tabby when he was killed?
Yes, we were working on a new album, [and] we had completed about five tracks; the album was supposed to be about twelve tracks. We had completed about five when the incident took place.
Did you have a name for the album already? Do you have a name?
No, we didn’t arrive at a name—as yet. Not so early.
And so, are you gonna then complete that album, Judge?
Well we are deciding now how we’re going to go about completing it. Because, well, Tabby’s not really there anymore, so there’s gonna be a difference in sound. Where the lead is concerned. So, we are planning how we’re gonna go about completing the album. Or, if we don’t complete the album, then we might just use those five tracks and [release it] as some “extended play.” And name it “The Last Recordings from Tabby Diamond.”
Wow. Let me just tell you, when you release that, Judge, that’s gonna sell like a hot cake.
People will buy that like there’s no tomorrow. But, you know, this actually leads into a bigger question though, Judge. Everyone wants to know the answer to this. And when I read the news reports, it was kinda hard to know, but I’m talking to the boss now. I’m talking to the man who will be able to answer this question: Will the Mighty Diamonds continue to tour and record as the Mighty Diamonds with new singers? Or will this be it for the Mighty Diamonds, and you might continue to do music, but not as the Mighty Diamonds?
Well everybody asks this question, but the Mighty Diamonds has a legacy that has been done—already. So we have no intention to put it down. Our intention is to continue, or, my intention is to continue, you know, so…. What I am in the process [of doing] now is getting the thing together by getting those singers that I need for me and dem to work together. It’s not really a problem, you know, because—what really happened—everybody is saying this and saying that like—they’re thinking about a replacement for Tabby. But there cannot be a replacement for Tabby.
But what you really need is some good singers. And what people really need to know, or to hear, is to hear the songs like they know it.
Like how it was recorded.
When a man is gone, he’s missing. He’s not there anymore, and you can’t replace him—
Yeah. “One Brother Short.” You’re “One Brother Short.”
Right. Even though a man is gone [someone might say], “Oh, that man sound like Tabby. It might sound a bit like Tabby—in some places—but it’s not Tabby.
No one [else] can be Tabby.
No. He cannot be replaced. So what you need is good singers to sing the songs like how the people know it.
And can I ask, Judge, in a way, in a way, I think what you’re saying is that the Mighty Diamonds will continue to tour. And will continue, I think, to maybe even make new music. But that while you won’t replace—you’ll never be able to replace Bunny or Tabby—
—that you will have some different singers and continue. Is that what you’re saying?
Right. I have done a couple of tours without Tabby. I don’t know whosoever witness have seen it in the past. So it’s not really a problem for me. Really.
It’s only that, what we need is good singers, because we cannot go less than what we was.
True, and when—
We need to come with that—that goodness that people are looking for, you know?
When you came to the Dub Club in 2019, as I mentioned [earlier], you had Joseph Beniah who was singing in place—[well] not in place—[but he] was singing with you and Tabby.
Will he continue to sing with the [Mighty] Diamonds?
Oh. Okay. I just thought I would ask. Now I noticed, Judge, on my music streamer, when I [input] “The Mighty Diamonds,” I saw a release of a three-track album that was called “Fools Rush In.” [Released] at the end of last month; it was like a tribute album; and I sent you the cover of it. A picture of the cover of it. Did you get a chance to see that picture? Do you know what I’m talking about [concerning] this album “Fools Rush In?”
Is that in fact a[n] [official] Mighty Diamonds release?
Nice. Can you talk about that? Did that project—that project was released just about a month ago, true?
Right. It was done through our publisher who—what he’s really doing now is like remastering some things [to] put them back out. And that [mini-album] “Fools Rush In”—that’s one of them.
Yeah. There’s a dub on it. And then there’s two really nice [new] Mighty Diamonds tracks that are on it. Now a hardcore reggae fan, he’s in Nairobi[, Kenya,]—
—and he heard that I was going to be interviewing you—he goes by the name of “Totty.” And Totty asked me—I want to ask you his question just like he asked me to ask it. He said: “I know it will be hard for Lloyd to be onstage without Tabby and Bunny, but will he be touring Africa to promote the new album?”
Well, we would, if somebody made it possible. Like the promoters or whosoever.
You would definitely [go] to Africa to [perform] if you could?
Cool. Well he’ll be happy to hear that, and hopefully he can get into some of the promoters’ ears.
So they know they need to get you on a plane over there. Now an article in May, Judge, in the Jamaica Observer—I just want to tell you what it says, and just to be sure that we got everything accurate here today, because you never know with all of these articles that come out. The article was titled “Judge Ferguson Hints that Might Diamonds Legacy Will Continue.” And in the article the Observer did assert there are plans to continue to tour and perform as the Mighty Diamonds. And in fact, as we’ve established today, it seems like that news is accurate. And you—
And like you said, there’s no way you can replace your brothers but the legacy will continue. Judge, I want to jump ahead and also mention that there’s a reggae lover in Germany—this guy also, he loved the Mighty Diamonds. And he goes by the name of “Guddy.” And he said that he noticed that the last Diamonds LP—that the Mighty Diamonds released, “Rise Up,” had come out, and he got very excited. And so he was kinda wondering—and I know it sounds like you’re still trying to answer this question—but he wanted to know specifically, “What’s going to be next for the Mighty Diamonds? What’s next?” That’s what his question is.
What’s next for the Mighty Diamonds?
To get cracking.
(Laughing) To get cracking?
Recording. Whatever. Music.
Nice. And who—is there anybody that you’d want to collaborate with Judge—that you would collaborate with—that you’re already thinking about—and maybe in the reggae world?
Well I don’t have any specific person in mind now.
I am open [and] up for it.
You know just recently—and I sent you a copy of it—I interviewed Nadine Sutherland.
And I would love to see Nadine Sutherland and Judge do something together—
(Laughing) Yeah? Okay.
Yeah? Would you be up for that?
Okay, well cool. I’m gonna definitely let her know. Now I noted, the Mighty Diamonds, as I know you know, you guys released some forty-six albums together, and many, many other singles. And you worked with many, many producers. And I just want to remind you because we talked a little bit about this [in 2019], but because it was so late at night I couldn’t get a full answer from you. But now I can.
And this was what I wanted to ask you: You worked with producers like Joseph Hoo Kim, Lee Scratch Perry, Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs, and more. And when I asked you in 2019 from this very impressive group of producers [and others, too,] whether there was one or more producers who really stood out—you know, just in terms of making the Mighty Diamonds so successful, and you said—I want to remind you what your answer was. You said: “Well, our success, started at Channel One. But I would say Gussie [Clarke]. Because he was the one who produced “Pass the Kouchie.” And Donovan Germain, because he produced ‘Heads of Government.’” I want to follow up on that answer that you gave, and ask, was it solely because Gussie and Donovan produced those giant hits that you named them as being most responsible for the Mighty Diamonds’s success? Or was it because of the way that they produced—was it more than that?
Well, to be frank, in terms of production, there are a lot of people in Jamaica who say they are producers who are not. They only go by the name “producers.” But my take on that is that out of all of them I give Gussie, Gussie Clarke the edge. Gussie Clarke is a good producer. He knows what he wants.
What are the qualities of a good producer?
The qualities of a good producer [are] you got to be somebody who knows music. Can play music. Or sing music. Or he can at least tell you, give you something that he wants you to do. Gussie has all those qualities. Gussie can at least tell you what he wants. And in truth, and in fact, Gussie doesn’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. You can always talk to Gussie and he will listen to you, you know?
So Gussie is quite different from the rest.
Well first to comment, “Pass the Kouchie” was entirely a Diamonds song. I wrote that song.
Me and Bunny Diamonds wrote that song. Musical Youth has nothing to do with writing that song. What they did was change “Kouchie” to “Dutchie.” Because they didn’t want to sing about the herb pipe. So they sing about a food pot.
Right, they said it was about pots.
No. It was about a food-pot. “Dutchie” in Jamaica, it’s a pot to cook food [in].
Yeah, yeah, a pot to cook food [in].
They didn’t want to sing about herb. So when [Dennis Seaton] is talking about writing [that song,] I don’t know what he’s talking about. Musical Youth’s manager called me in Jamaica when they were going to do the song. Said they were going to remake the song—and they did. I got another call from England—from somebody [at] MCA Record Company—they said that justice was not done, and they were going to work—they were going to do justice to the song. And then, what you know later on, the song went into the British charts at sixteen, and then it went to number one. But our local one, that Gussie made, hit in Jamaica, and then it hit in England. And then Musical Youth did it over, and changed “Kouchie” to “Dutchie.”
So they did ask for—that was gonna be one of my questions, Judge, and I think you answered it just now. But just to be clear, [Musical Youth and/or their representatives] did call you—someone called you from England and asked for your permission—
—they said they were going to remake the song?
Musical Youth’s manager, Tony Owens.
And you gave them your permission to make the song then?
Yes. I told them, yeah, you can make it over.
Okay, cool. But you’re kinda wondering—it sounds like you’re wondering how [Musical Youth members] are complaining about the songwriting [credits], because all they did was change a word. Right?
Right. They didn’t write the song. That song was registered with the performing rights society in 1982. It was recorded.
And Bunny [Diamond]—I found Bunny [said] in an article—in an interview Bunny Diamond gave, he said, he commented on—apparently what happened—I don’t know if you know this—but Musical Youth sued their lawyers. Because they said that they had gotten bad legal advice. And if they had gotten good legal advice, then maybe they would have gotten their songwriting royalties. As you’re saying it seems strange that they would have gotten any songwriting royalties to begin with, but, this was reported in the news, and Bunny was asked about it. And Bunny said, “If I had gotten a good portion of that—(meaning I guess how much money Musical Youth was asking for—) I would be living in Beverly Hills now.”
So I think Bunny kinda had the same mind that you did, that that song—
Bunny [knew] everything about that song; it was written by me and him.
You guys have written so many beautiful songs together, Judge.
And you were the chief songwriter, I think everyone knows, for the [Mighty] Diamonds.
Well, I wrote 95 percent of the Diamonds’ songs.
Yeah. Yeah. And can I ask you about that song? You know, I’ve asked you about other songs before. But since you mentioned how you and Bunny wrote that song, do you remember—I know it was so long ago—but, how was it that you came up with the song—why did you decide to write the song to begin with?
Okay, I’ll tell you how [“Pass the] Kouchie” came about. Kouchie was really done to make dubs for the dancehall sound system.
Bunny came with the words “pass the kouchie from the left-hand side, it a-go bun, it a go done.” So they started—that was all that was there. So I went to Gussie, and I said to Gussie, you know [we] could make a full song from this. Gussie said, “Okay, I’m going to England. When I get back”—when Gussie went to England and came back, I went to Gussie. Gussie gave me the cassette with the music. And I went home and I write the entire song.
With the few words that Bunny had there.
Wow. Wow. Were you—I have to ask this Judge—when you were writing the song, were you smoking a spliff here or there as you wrote the song? (Laughing)
No. I don’t smoke anything.
You didn’t smoke anything?
No, because I’m not a smoker.
I am not a drinker, either.
I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t gamble.
Has that always been the case?
Always been the case.
Wow. Wow. You’re blowing my mind. You’re blowing my mind, Judge. Oh my gosh.
Now Tabby—Tabby would smoke, though? Wouldn’t he?
Tabby is a smoker.
Right. Well I didn’t know that about you, Judge. But I’m glad to know that. And I think a lot of people will be surprised—I know I’m surprised to hear [that]. Now on the question of—because you know, we talked about royalties, we talked about Musical Youth. And I have to ask you this. Because I sent you the cover of another album that was released—I think it was a twelve-track album; I sent you both the front cover, and the back [cover of the album]; it was released on the Global Beats label in the fall of last year. It’s a twelve-track album, it’s kinda, it’s a pretty mellow album. And it came out on the musical streamers. And the host of the Sounds of the Caribbean reggae radio show in New Jersey, Selecta Jerry, he’s the one who pointed out this album to me; sent me the picture. He bought it digitally, so he was able to send me the pictures of it. So I could send it to you. And Selecta Jerry wanted to know, did you know about this album? Is this an official Mighty Diamonds release?
Well what’s really happening, what’s going down, there’s a lot of piracy as I’ve been [observing] over the years.
What they do is pirate the songs, compile them, and then put them out.
You [once] comment[ed] in the [Jamaican] press that the [Mighty] Diamonds were gonna go after the pirates.
Is that ongoing? Do you have lawyers who are going after the pirates?
Okay. Good. Are they capturing any of the pirates?
And killing them?
(Laughing) Well, they don’t capture any yet, but it’s gonna happen. [They’re gonna find all these] illegal things that have been done.
You know, Judge, I’m so curious about this, because this happens all the time, with great legends such as yourself getting ripped off all of these places; let me ask you, is there a particular country that you’re getting the most pirates? Where are the most pirates? Are they in the U.K.? Where are they?
Well the most piracy I think it comes between the U.K. and U.S. And I don’t know how it goes in Africa.
I wanted to also ask you, because I had this moment with you, and it’s such an important thing I think—and [an] important historical note. When we talked in 2019, Judge, and we talked about how many of the Mighty Diamonds’ hits talk about Marcus Garvey, and how “dem never love poor Marcus.” And you mentioned to me—I was very glad to learn that—I think your father was the one who told you a lot about Marcus Garvey. And that, for Tabby, it was his grandmother who schooled him in the learnings of Marcus Garvey. And I wanted to ask you this, Judge, during the last few presidential administrations that we’ve had—Obama, Trump, and now with Biden in office, here in the U.S., the Jamaican government, and also, representatives of Garvey’s family—at one point his son, Garvey’s son who is a professor—I don’t know if he is still alive—he was in his late 80s. But he was part of a petition, Marcus Garvey’s son, along with officials and representatives of the Jamaican government. And they petitioned the President [of the United States]—and they still have a petition. Even before President Biden, even before he was elected. And they petitioned, and they said, please, can you exonerate, clear Marcus Garvey’s record for his felony mail fraud conviction that he had in New York. Where he was imprisoned, and then he was eventually deported, and everyone knows that the only reason why that happened was because the FBI director in the U.S. was racist. And he went after Marcus Garvey in a selective prosecution. And so that’s why the Garvey family and Jamaica have been pleading with the U.S. government to do the right thing, and clear Marcus Garvey’s record. And they still have not done this. And every time the situation is raised, I think about the Mighty Diamonds.
And I think about the music. And I think about how “dem never love poor Marcus.”
What do you think about that situation, and why do you think all of these U.S. presidents have refused to clear what was a racist embarrassment for the United States to go after Garvey. Why won’t they fix that situation?
I don’t know why they won’t fix it, but when a fair-minded person comes, I guess it will be done, you know? Because clearly the man was a good man. My father teach me a lot about Marcus Garvey. So it’s how I came to know about him. And my father used to follow him.
How did your father himself learn about Marcus Garvey?
Well, I don’t know how he learned about him, but he teach me about him. So that’s how I got my knowledge about Marcus Garvey.
When you and Tabby came together, were you surprised that both of you already kind of knew about and [were] familiar with Garvey before you became friends—you and Tabby?
Well I don’t know about Tabby’s version. But what I know is I wrote some songs about Garvey, and the group sang them (laughing).
(Laughing) Yeah, yeah, yeah. True. Judge, on National Heroes Day in Jamaica, in [October of] 2021, the Mighty Diamonds were vested with the Order of Distinction, or O.D.—
—Officer Class for—
—[its] contribution to the development of Jamaican music.
So first of all that happened since I last saw you. So I want to tell you: Congratulations! That was awesome.
I saw the pictures of you and Tabby getting the O.D.—
—and I know that every reggae fan was happy when they saw that. What did you do, just out of curiosity, do you hang that up [on] your wall? What do you do with the O.D.?
(Laughing) I don’t do anything with it as yet, there are a couple of things to put into photographs, and so, I haven’t done that yet.
Well you have to put that somewhere, Judge, you can’t put that in like a pillow-box under your bed—(Laughing)
That has to be—
—you have to put that on the wall or something. (Laughing)
So I wanted to ask about this, because I was very, very happy, Judge, to see that that happened. And I think that everyone who knows me knows that a theme, something I ask about [in almost] every reggae interview, so it would be impossible not to ask you about this: [A subject] that has been concerning me. Especially because we see, we have so many reggae legends who are leaving us, either on natural terms like Bunny, or on unnatural terms like Tabby—
And we’ve had so many legends passing away. We had Lee Scratch Perry pass away. We had a lot of people who passed away. And so, because we see that a lot of reggae stars are passing away, it’s been very concerning that the Jamaican government has continued to—in my mind—fail to properly invest [in] and [otherwise] support reggae. Even though they all love it. They all know they love it. [But] [i]t seems like there’s still a problem where the government, for some reason hasn’t, for example, done right by honoring some of the biggest legends in the genre. I mean they just got around—it took them so many years to give the [Mighty] Diamonds—the Diamonds should have been given an O.D. like 10-15, 20 years ago.
And so, Judge, I have to ask this question. The names of the legends whom the Jamaican government has not yet seen fit to honor—they are way to numerous [to list]; we’d be here all day if I tried to list them all. But I want to mention just a few of them to you. Just so that we could both pause and wonder how it could be that these people have never received any kind of recognition at all from Jamaican officials. So I want to mention hand-drummer and conga-player, Larry McDonald, who just turned 85 recently. I want to mention all of the members of the Soul Syndicate—I was in touch recently with [legendary guitarist] Tony Chin, for example, who reminded me of all the many Mighty Diamonds songs that [the Soul Syndicate backed] the Diamonds [on]. [Then there’s legendary sound engineer and dub pioneer,] Scientist[, also known as Hopeton Brown,] who I asked you questions about last time we met. Then I want to mention to you 82-year-old [legendary singer], [the] “True Born African,” Winston Jarrett. And I want to mention [legendary singers] Earl Sixteen [and] Carl Malcolm. I want to mention [legendary bassist] Flabba Holt. I want to mention [legendary songstresses] Nadine Sutherland [and] Sister Carol. And like I said, the [list of] names would be too long for me to keep going, but I want to mention one more. Because when I interviewed Sly Dunbar, he mentioned this name. He said how could it be that [legendary] drummer Joe Isaacs has never received any kinda official recognition from the Jamaican government. So in your opinion, Judge—in your very respected opinion, Judge, how is it possible in 2022, that the Jamaican government could continue to fail to recognize and honor the contributions of all these artists, and more, that I just mentioned?
Well really, in fact, what I would really say [about that,] you know, most of those people that you are mentioning, they migrated a long time ago—they’re not living here [in Jamaica, anymore.] And there’s no—nothing has been said about them back here. So in terms of the government, I don’t know if things are not being picked up by them, but some of them are—
Do you think that the Jamaican government then loses track—they lose track of people—
Right. That’s what I think, you know? It’s not that they wouldn’t honor them. But it’s just that some of them have migrated. And they [haven’t] lived here [in Jamaica] for a long time. But they are getting around to doing things now.
Yeah. Well I want to ask you about some of the things that they’ve been talking about. Like for example, I know that the Mayor of Kingston has said, and I think they’ve started to do some kind of murals—they have a bunch of murals that they’ve painted in downtown [Kingston] to honor different musicians. But, one thing I of course want to mention to you, there’s also been a lot of talk about, you know, why there hasn’t been a great “Reggae Hall of Fame,” or Jamaican Music Hall of Fame [built]. [One] that is really properly funded, and you know, is built in Kingston. You know, somewhere where all the Jamaican school children, and all the tourists could come. And really learn about reggae, beyond Bob Marley. So that they could learn that Bob Marley isn’t the only artist from Jamaica who’s involved in reggae. So how come—I will say this, because I—it was reported in the news that [respected reggae historian] Roger Steffens has sold his Bob Marley—and I guess he has more [beyond Bob Marley, too]—collection of artifacts and things that are going to be maybe brought to Montego Bay. And there’s some kind of promoter who is going to set up a museum—I think in the Rose Hall area there, in Montego Bay. But, you know, a lot of people have said [maybe] that’s not a sufficient thing. That what you really need to have is a well-funded, you know, beautiful museum that’s somewhere in Kingston, which is where the heart of the music is. What do you think about that?
Well I think the government is getting [to do] certain things [now], it’s only that they have taken quite a while. They are getting into those things right now.
So better late than never?
Right. I would say that. Yeah.
Okay. Well, Judge, we’re coming close—I know I can’t talk to you all day, even though I would like to. And much more, I would love to hear you sing. And I hope that you’ll come through Los Angeles—or even if you come anywhere close to Los Angeles, you know I will travel and come to see you. But I want to thank you already for being so generous with your time. I only have a few more questions. I want to remind you, Judge, of the eloquent words—they were really the most beautiful words I could ever think [of]—that Tabby used—I was so amazed that he said this to me after you guys performed at the Dub Club in Los Angeles, [in 2019]. I mean, you guys were tired, you just had done an encore, and I couldn’t believe the poetry of what [Tabby] said.
Because I asked him, you know, whether harmony is still something that people really want to hear these days. And Tabby said, I want to remind you what Tabby said, Tabby said, quote: “Harmony can never go out of style. The harmony, to me, it is more like a togetherness—
—people come together as a unit, to have a sound, where it brings peace into the ears, you know? One man can sound good, but harmony has more melody—
—more substance to it.” To this day, Judge, when I read back what Tabby said about why harmony can never go out of style, and, you know, now, especially, after his passing, I really get chills to listen [or read] what he said.
As it concerns Tabby and Bunny, Judge, was there anything else that you wanted to say, you know, concerning their passing, or their legacies, or anything at all that you want to say [more] about Bunny or Tabby?
Well really, in fact, what I want to say, it’s kinda heartrending to experience what has happened, you know?
And I have to live with that for the rest of my life, you know? And with the legacy now, well, we are setting up [Bunny and Tabby’s] families legacy for both.
I’m glad to hear it. I’m so happy to hear that. I’m sure that will make a lot of people feel good to hear that their families will be taken care of.
And I know that people throughout Jamaica will help with that. Judge, I read in Carribeanlife.com that you’re gonna be honored at the Second Annual Jamaica Music Experience, or “J.A.M.E.,” Tribute awards on September 10th. In New York. Along with a few other greats like Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Johnny Osbourne, Beverly Kelso, and Doreen Schafer—who used to sing with the Skatalites. So, congratulations again, you’re gonna get honored in New York, in September. Will you be traveling to New York to attend?
Oh. Okay. Well, maybe they’ll do a video, hopefully they’ll get you on video to accept the award. Well, Judge, I just want to wish you all the very best health, travels, and safety, my friend.
And before I turn it over to you, I want to turn it over to you one last time, Judge. Just because, you know, if anything before I turn it over to you one last time, if anything we learned that life is so precious, and life is so fragile. And so I may never get—I hope that I will get another chance to see you again, but you never know. Because we know that life is fleeting, and you never know—you’re never promised the next moment.
So, I have to tell you, I have to make sure you understand how much the Mighty Diamonds music has meant to me over [the course of] my life. That the Mighty Diamonds music—that whenever I need to hear some true consciousness, and some true dealing with real suffering and pain—and whenever I want to hear something pure and real, I put on the Mighty Diamonds music. And so, I just want you to know that that music that you made—that you and your brothers Bunny and Tabby made—you know, is probably some of the most important music ever made in the world. Ever. So, I just want to thank you so much for that. Now, before we say our goodbyes, Judge—and until next time, cause [this] is not “goodbye,” we’ll see each other again, I’m sure.
Do you have any last words, any final message, for all of the Mighty Diamonds fans all over the world who love your music?
Well, we would say we give thanks to all the fans that has been following the Diamonds from then ‘till now—those who are still doing [so]. And we would say thanks to them, because without them there wouldn’t be any Diamonds. You know, there’s no me without you, there’s no you without me. So we give thanks. I’m glad for the support, and hope that they will still go on and support the Diamonds.
I know that they will, Judge, and so much thanks, and so much respect to you, my brother. And stay in touch with me, my friend. And I’ll be in touch with you on WhatsApp. And we’ll talk, and please, you know, just understand how much we love you, and we love the Mighty Diamonds.
And you can tell them thanks for making the Diamonds a success.
Thank you, Judge. Take care of yourself, my brother. Have a good rest of your day, my friend! (Waving goodbye)
(Waving goodbye) Alright.