Growing up in Grenada, West Indies in the ’60s, we were poor, but we always had music. There was music on the transistor radio. There was music from Mom’s vinyl record collection that she played on a turntable that was also used as a cupboard.
Being from the Caribbean, we had a wide range of music. We had Calypso, Reggae, Soul, Country and Western. As early as age 4, I remember dancing my heart and soul out to a Calypso song, whose name I can’t recall. I played in my first Carnival at age 6. I wore a white plastic boot. I had a love for those boots so much that I wore it to school until the color faded and the tip eroded. Coming to think of it, I probably wore it until the bottom fell off.
One of my all-time gospel albums came from a Trinidadian group called the Goretti Group. It featured a Black Caribbean woman in Afro posed in deep spiritual thought with a silhouette sunset behind her.
The Mighty Sparrow was a king in the music world to me. He was like the Muhammad Ali of the Caribbean. He was born in Grenada but grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and the battle to claim him felt like we were fighting over a sacred plot of land.
The ’60s ushered in the 70’s introducing me to a new identity in music in the form of James Brown. There was a certain level of Blackness in the beat and sounds of the music. I perceived myself to be a reincarnation of James Brown. His screams, his dance moves, and his Black empowerment beat, I imagined them all to be me. He was not only the Godfather of Soul, but he was also in my mind, the Godfather of the Black Power Movement. Following closely behind him was Wilson Pickett. Vinyl records never felt nor smelt this good. It was the place for me to lose myself.
I had a love for music that surpassed everything, I did. I had difficulties reading because the words in the book, I would replace with the lyrics of my favorite songs. My range of music grew wider every day. I knew the name of every song that played on the radio and the artists, who sang them. In Country music, I knew all of Jim Reeve’s albums thanks to my grandmother who was a big fan. I knew Marty Robins, thanks to my neighborhood friends, who I won at marbles. We pitched marbles with such accuracy that we saw ourselves as gunslingers. On Sunday mornings, we listened to Pat Boon and Aretha Franklin.
There was a certain spiritual feel to every Aretha Frankin song I had listened to that gave me the feeling of slaves singing their way to freedom. Aretha had the sound in music that empowered everyone.
Jimmy Cliff and Ken Lazarus dominated Reggae music at that time. Ken Lazarus sounds had a way of awakening the sadness within me.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Written by Ricardo Williams
Author of “Unchained Mind.”