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Interview: Bob Andy

Interview: Bob Andy

Interview: Bob Andy

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - 2 comments

"Studio 1 and myself are in the courts trying to determine who owns Songbook. Ideally, I’d love for them to just grow up and give me my album"

Sampler

Ask a random person for the greatest song-smith in reggae and they’ll likely say Bob Marley. But try someone immersed in the music and they’ll doubtless tell you it is Bob Andy. A founder member of the rocksteady group the Paragons, the man born Keith Anderson became a songwriter for Coxsone Dodd’s Studio 1 label then formed an international hit-making duo with Marcia Griffiths as well as being a celebrated artist in his own right. Peerless compositions Too Experienced and My Time would be covered by later greats such as Gregory Isaacs and Barrington Levy, yet, sadly, legal wrangles with Dodd over his tour-de-force album Bob Andy’s Songbook have resulted in his deceptively simple writing not being sufficiently recognized in wider, non-reggae, circles. Nonetheless he has remained a hallowed figure in the Jamaican arts: becoming an actor, getting heavily involved in the island’s copyright issues, and receiving the Order Of Distinction in 2006. Angus Taylor was granted a short interview with the legend after performing at Rototom Sunsplash 2010, where, despite feeling unwell, he enjoyed rapturous applause. Thanks are due to Teresa Fontanelli and Nicole Jewitt for helping make this and other Rototom interviews possible.

Bob Andy

How did it feel to play at Rototom and see the songs you wrote decades ago still touching and moving thousands of people, many of whom were born generations after?

I’m still flabbergasted, as they would say, it blows my mind. I was so pleasantly surprised. I was sick when I went on stage and the response was so medicinal that I was able to get better and better and better. It’s going to take me a long time to come to terms with what happened last night. I’m still surprised.

So you’ve been unwell?

I got sick in England [where he played at the Jazz Café in London the weekend before] and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to sing. But once I got here and saw the audience I knew I had to make the effort and I was so glad I was able to complete the show. A wonderful experience.

You’ve praised as one of the great songwriters in reggae and in all popular music. But who’s your own personal favourite songwriter?

I would have to say it’s between Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson – with Bob Dylan probably topping the list. And also, as far as I’m concerned, all my contemporaries in Jamaica: Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley and to some extent Leroy Sibbles and Junior Byles. These guys are also great songwriters.

My favourite songwriters are Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson – with Bob Dylan probably topping the list

Now you have worked harder than most to help ensure that Jamaican artists are paid what they are owed. But at the same time your great Songbook album is still very hard to get hold of. What would be your ideal solution to get this crucial album to the people while ensuring you are recompensed for what you have done?

Bob AndyWell as we speak Studio 1 and myself are in the courts trying to determine who owns what. Ideally, I’d love for them to just grow up and give me my album -  because I think they’ve already made enough money from it – so I could make it available to the people at large.

It’s been 40 years since you cut Young Gifted and Black with Marcia Griffiths who is also on the bill for Rototom here in Spain. Would you consider doing anything with her to celebrate?

Oh yes! This minute! We’ve talked about it so it’s still possible. While we’re alive anything is possible. As a matter of fact, Marcia made a big fuss over the fact that we weren’t playing the same night here. We would have loved for us to play on the same night because we could have done something together.

Your songs have been covered many times. What would be your favourite version done by someone else?

Bob AndyI would say Barrington Levy has done me great compliments as has Sanchez. But I would have to say, Eddie Lovette, an American R&B singer, did a cover of Too Experienced that was an amazing rendition.

What would you say has been the greatest honour of your career?

Well last night certainly was one of the greatest honours of my career! For me, though, it’s that they say a prophet is not praised in his own country but in Jamaica the amount of respect, admiration and love I get on a daily basis from all strata of the society is just overwhelming. It continues to be an honour.

They say a prophet is not praised in his own country but in Jamaica the amount of respect, admiration and love I get on a daily basis from all strata of the society is just overwhelming

Finally, you’ve been a singer, a songwriter and an actor. Do you have any more hidden talents or career options up your sleeve?

Well I’m sixty-six years young – we’ll see! (laughs)

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Read comments (2)


Posted by misssunshine on 11.18.2010
Another great interview.

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