By Michael Benjamin
The Manhattans are coming!!
Boy, oh boy, did I hear correctly or is someone deliberately pulling my legs just to gauge my response? Well you got me; I am interested.
The fact is that even as a young man I have been interested in good classical music. I never really enjoyed the rock and reggae music emanating from Jamaica. Few singers succeeded in holding my attention.
When Yellow Man burst unto the scene I started to pay some attention to that genre of music, not for the words but the beat that caused me to gyrate in the bubble sessions that dotted every playfield around Georgetown.
In those days, everyone was into Yellow Man’s music. Fans belted out his songs and shame on the person unfamiliar with the words of the songs.
Later on, several Jamaican singers captured my attention. Maxi Priest, Dennis Brown and Peter Tosh were among those that caused me to stomp my feet, click my fingers and eventually get caught up in the throes of sounds with their pulsating music.
I listened to Garnett Silk, the late Jamaican rock singer that many prophesied to be a young Bob Marley in the making. Silk entered the musical scene with a passion and wowed his audience with such renditions as ‘Hello Africa’ and ‘It’s Growing’.
He died in 1994, the unfortunate victim of a tragedy in which his mother was trapped in the house after a fire broke out. Reports had suggested that a friend was showing Silk how to use a shotgun when it accidentally went off striking a nearby cooking gas cylinder giving rise to a lethal blowtorch.
Silk and a few others managed to exit the premises in record time but after doing so, Silk realized that his mother was still trapped in the inferno. He re-entered, attempting to free her and paid the ultimate prize. The world had lost a potential Bob Marley.
Michael Jackson was another singing icon that inspired the world with his music and exited without having once visited Guyana to share his talent. I had a taste of Jackson in concert in 1992 while in England. He was on his world tour and entertained Londoners at the Wembly Stadium. A friend gifted me a ticket. I watched in awe as Jackson entered the stage and began to serenade hundreds of thousands. Some literally fainted as he dished out a generous helping of his popular renditions like ‘Thriller,’ Man in the Mirror,’ ‘Billie Jean’ and a host of renditions that kept the huge crowd rocking (and in some cases, moaning).
Apart from these musical icons, I have been feted by Maxi Priest at the Concert Hall, downtown Toronto. I have also danced the night away to the sweet songs of Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown. ‘Night Nurse’ and ‘Love Overdue’ still compete with ‘Revolution’ and “Solitary Confinement.’
These are music that will live on despite the death of these principals.
Oldies have remained popular on my list of music and I vividly remember swirling away to Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid,’ and Dobby Dobson’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ among other classics. Unfortunately, I have never had the joy of sharing the same room with these icons. So it was a special moment for me when I trudged to the National Cultural Centre a few months ago and listened to the sweet captivating music of Anthony Watson, lead singer of the Chi-Lites.
He was here for a one night performance, compliments of promoter John Hunt of Hunt’s Entertainment.
The Chi-lites group was formed in the late 1950s when The Chanteurs Record, Robert ‘Squirrel’ Lester, and Clarence Johnson teamed up with Marshall Thompson and Creadel “Red” Jones of the Desideros to form the Hi-lites.
Wishing to add a tribute to their home town of Chicago, they changed their name to ‘Marshall and the Chi-Lites’ in 1964. Johnson left later that year, and their name was subsequently shortened to The Chi-Lites.
Anthony Watson is a cool dude. His reverberating melodies filled the National Cultural Center and sent the mostly senior citizens audience into a reverie. I missed the few CDs that he flung into the crowd but managed to clinch an autographed portray which still decorates my wall. Watson will be back with the Manhattans. Ohhh, I could hardly wait.
Shortly after the Chi-lites had exited the stage when they last came, Mr. Hunt promised another special evening, this time with the Manhattans. He will deliver the goods on December 19 and December 20. Patrons dare not miss this treat.
The Manhattans, a four-man musical group, inspired many during the seventies and eighties with such hits as ‘There’s no me without you,’ ‘Kiss and say goodbye,’ ‘Rendezvous,’ feel so good to be loved so bad’ and ‘We never danced to a love song.’
This will be a special night and Guyanese music lovers should support this venture and allow themselves to be serenaded and taken on an ecstasy ride.
Coupled with this, the promoters have promised a repeat on the following night when the Rotary club stages their Christmas presentation on the following night. All proceeds would go to the Rotary Club to assist with its humanitarian work locally.
Indeed, the sweet sounds of the Manhattans would serve as the icing on a well baked Christmas cake.
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