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Interview: Freddie McGregor

Interview: Freddie McGregor

Interview: Freddie McGregor

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"With the new breed of artists coming through right now, there is no doubt in my mind that reggae can enjoy international success. Contrary to what Mr Blackwell said recently, I still have hope for the future."


Interview: Freddie McGregor

One of reggae’s long-serving and most respected artists, Freddie McGregor is back with a new (ish) album. 'Freddie McGregor Sings Jamaican Classics' was originally released in the early 1990s, but this new two-disc compilation features digital versions of many historic Jamaican hits from the ‘60s and ‘70s, such as Love Has Found It’s Way and Let Him Try.

Never a man to sit still for too long, McGregor has also started work on another album that is due for release next year.

“Now this is going to be a very interesting album,” McGregor says enthusiastically. I’m going to re-record 20 of my own tracks but with a semi-a-cappella, acoustic vibe, and with collaborations too. Artists like Mavado, Kartel and Beenie Man will all be on the album. Stephen has the responsibility of programming it musically.”

Stephen is, of course, McGregor’s son who - at just 18 - has blown the dancehall industry away with his innovative and exciting style of production. Fusing a variety of genres, Stephen has produced riddims for the likes of Sean Paul, Mavado and Elephant Man, and his style has been regarded by many as, quite simply, the future of dancehall.

“From early childhood, he had shown musical ability, both as a singer and musician,” McGregor proudly states of his son. “In fact, Stephen has perfect pitch as a singer. He's very talented like that. At the moment, he's also the top engineer in the country, which is outstanding. He’s learnt from me but I learn a lot from him too. With the type of riddim tracks Stephen is creating, that really encourages me to consider doing something on one of those riddims.”

Now that would be an obvious move, father and son working together. But what would McGregor - who’s known for traditional reggae songs like Just Don't Want To Be Lonely and I Was Born a Winner - say to his long-standing fans who might be dubious about hearing him voicing on one of his son’s new-school riddims?

“If I were to do someone one of Stephen's riddims, it would be something that my fans would love. That's the Freddie McGregor magic. I know how to make my songs my own. Being on a riddim tracks is not an issue. It's what you do with that track. I think people respect what I have built over the years. But I'm also very flexible and I'm not afraid to venture into new territories. When the dancehall genre broke through in the early 80s, Punanny was one of the biggest tunes. I was challenged to do something on that riddim and I came up with a song called Fever. That went on to be a very popular dancehall song. So I'm really up for a challenge.”

With his career having begun in the ‘60s, McGregor has been around to see the various phases in the ever-changing reggae industry. Is he hopeful that reggae can ever again enjoy international success; the type that Bob Marley achieved? Just last month, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell - who is credited for launching Marley’s career - said that he felt the golden years of Jamaican music had passed.

“With the new breed of artists coming through right now, there is no doubt in my mind that reggae can enjoy international success. Contrary to what Mr Blackwell said recently, I still have hope for the future. I understand where he's coming from, as a man who has been there and done it already. But if we give up hope, we may as well just disappear. So I believe that the new artists in this generation and future generations, will do things that artists like us never did before. I can't give up hope.”

'Freddie McGregor Sings Jamaican Classis' is out now on VP Records.

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