Carlton Hines’ objective was always to write good songs

by May 23, 2023News

Carlton Hines' onjective was always to write good songs
Widely considered by many pundits as the golden era of dancehall music, the late 1980s to early 1990s was the genre’s most creative and commercially-viable period. Producer Gussie Clarke was responsible for a lot of that success, as he assembled a formidable lineup of artistes, musicians and songwriters at his Music Works studio in Kingston.

While artistes like Shabba Ranks, Gregory Isaacs, The Mighty Diamonds and Cocoa Tea got the lion’s share of attention, songwriters such as Hopeton Lindo and Carlton Hines stayed in the background. The latter, now based in New York, still keeps a low profile.

Hines was in the music business for over ten years when he and his group Tetrack went to Music Works. The trio (colleagues being Dave Harvey and Paul Mangaroo) recorded an album called “Trouble” for Clarke, but Hines’ biggest contribution to the label was as a writer.

His best known composition is “Rumours”, a massive hit for Isaacs in 1988. He also wrote “Let Off Supm” for Isaacs and Dennis Brown as well as songs by The Mighty Diamonds, Beres Hammond and J.C. Lodge.

From east Kingston, Hines recorded a 1978 album titled “Let’s Get Started” with Tetrack (named for Tetrack Hi Fi, a local sound system) which was produced by Augustus Pablo. But although they recorded singles and another album for Clarke, writing songs was his forte.

“My objective was always to write good songs because a good song has the potential to be a hit song. As a songwriter, you have more longevity than the other people,” he stated. “The people who write songs and play instruments tend to last a very long time because it’s a creativity.”

After hours of rehearsing at the home of his girlfriend (now his wife), Hines, Harvey and Mangaroo were introduced to Pablo by a mutual friend. It was the early 1970s and Pablo had a growing reputation as an artiste, session musician and producer.

He guided them on “Let’s Get Started” which was reissued five years ago by VP Records. It featured Pablo on keyboards and melodica, drummer Benbow Creary and bassist Clayton Downie.

“To this day, people see that record as an underground classic. It’s powerful and timeless,” said Hines, who wrote or co-wrote five of the album’s ten songs.

Tetrack’s focus changed while at Music Works, which scored a big hit in 1981 with “Pass The Dutchie” by The Mighty Diamonds. Hines found a different culture at Clarke’s company.

“He was a different kinda producer, somebody with an ear for music. Gussie would recognise a song, like the song and then say, ‘Let’s try and make this a hit song’,” he said. “Pablo was a musician, an artiste who saw things from a different perspective.”

An economist by profession, Carlton Hines still writes songs but long gave up doing the recording studio rounds. He does keep his eyes on reggae’s young turks, some of whom he would like to work with.

“I have a few songs that I think would suit Chronixx or Chris Martin. And Aza Lineage, I like her lot,” said Hines.

(Photo courtesy of Carlton Hines)

Tetrack – Trappers


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