Dennis Howard Pays Tribute to Bob Andy
Updated: Jun 29
The reggae fraternity is mourning the loss of legendary singer/songwriter Bob Andy who transitioned on March 27. Andy was revered in the business as a legendary songwriter and performer. He was given a national honour by the Government of Jamaica, the Order of Distinction (Commander Class), for his contribution to the Jamaican music industry. Riddimstyle now presents a tribute to the famous Jamaican entertainer, which was written by ethnomusicologist and creative industries specialist Dr. Dennis Howard.
Tribute to Bob Andy
Keith Anderson, aka, Bob Andy, is one of the greatest songwriters of modern pop music. He occupies the same hallowed space as Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Ernie Smith, Lennon and McCartney, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. Bob Andy is the philosopher, the unrepentant romantic, the quiet revolutionary with a vision of love and prosperity for mankind. For three decades his lyrics have evoked every human emotion possible and have left us better from the experience. Although some might consider it belated, Andy is now getting his fair share of deserved recognition. His songs have been covered by major stars including, bluesman Taj Mahal, UB40, Barrington Levy, The Body Snatchers and Freddie McGregor. I caught up with Andy recently and reiterated my admiration for his work. Bob gracefully accepted the compliments and poignantly noted that it was good to hear it while he was still alive.
Andy served his singing and song-writing apprenticeship with the legendary vocal group, The Paragons, which he co-founded with Don Tyrone Evans, Howard Barrett and later John Holt. During that stint, The Paragons scored several hits for legendary producer Clement Dodd. Among them was the number one hit “Love at Last,” penned by Andy. As one of the leading lights of the famous Studio One, Andy worked closely with the great Jackie Mittoo on creating (to a large extent) the label’s seminal sound. Besides writing for himself, Andy also contributed hits to other artists, including Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson and Alton Ellis. Andy emerged as a solo star in 1966 with the smash hit “I’ve Got To Go Back Home,” taken from the Songbook album. This classic has become an anthem for Jamaicans abroad and evokes similar emotions of patriotism at home. It was during the Studio One days that Bob did the landmark Songbook. Lyrically Songbook is one of the most powerful albums of pop music. With gems such as “Unchained,” “Desperate Lover,” “Let Them Say,” “Feeling Soul” and “I’ve Got To Go Back Home.” Songbook helped establish Andy as one of the top songwriters of modern Jamaican music. It was also a manifestation of the depth and versatility of the Jamaican musician as a credible force in international music. Global recognition came with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Young Gifted and Black,” which also featured the Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths. It sold 500,000 units in the United Kingdom and Europe. Andy and Marcia soon became household names appearing on the BBC’s Top of the Pops.
They toured extensively before releasing the “Pied Piper” produced by Harry J. The project is still considered one of reggae’s most brilliant productions. Apart from the seamless vocals of Andy and Marcia, the album’s use of orchestration and state-of-the- art recording techniques made the project cross over to markets hitherto denied to Jamaican music. “Pied Piper,” in conjunction with albums from John Holt played a major role in broadening the appeal of reggae in the international marketplace. To this day, “Pied Piper” retains its magic. It also points to the awareness and vision of Andy. As a vocalist, Andy’s style was gentle, yet potent. Some say he is the original reggae balladeer and could have had an outstanding career as a rhythm and blues singer. This accounts for the power of songs such as “Fire Burning,” “Check It Out” and “You Think it’s a Joke,” as well as his outstanding cover of Joe South’s “Games People Play.” Andy managed to reach an audience where other protest artists failed because of the radio-friendly nature of his arrangements and vocal styling. As with all great songwriters, Andy’s lyrics were an honest reflection of his environment and personal life. He penned some fabulous songs for his former lover, Marcia Griffiths, such as “Truly,” “Feel Like Jumping,” “Melody Life” and “Mark My Words.” These songs rank high in Marcia’s repertoire. The indignity meted out to people in the Third World by bigger countries is adequately addressed in songs such as “Unchained,” “My Time” and “Let Them Say” all from Songbook. Andy the philosopher is manifested in songs like “Life Could be a Symphony,” “Feeling Soul” and “Strange World.” His revolutionary spirit, albeit reflective, is in full force on classics like “Check It Out” and “Fire Burning.” “Cherry,” “Honey” and “Friends” all done in the 1980s portray a reflective Andy, putting aside the struggles and frustrations of a brilliant career to sing of hope, love and passion – Andy the romantic fool in the end. Ian McCann wrote in the (British newspaper) Black Echoes, “If everything in life was right, then Bob Andy would be a real star by now ... No amount of words from me can right the fact that Bob Andy remains to this day a great, unrecognized talent, an original, natural soul singer in the business riddled with half talents and copyists ... Let time be the winner”. Bob Andy’s Songs covered by other artists: Impossible Love (UB 40) Too Experienced (Barrington Levy) Really Together (The Body Snatchers) Let Them Say (Freddy McGregor) Desperate Lover (Taj Mahal, Carlene Davis, Barrington Levy) Sun Shines For Me (Don Perez, Gregory Isaacs, AJ Brown, Big Youth)
Feeling Soul (Ruddy Thomas) My Time (Barrington Levy, Sluggy Ranks, Nando Boom, Big Youth) Unchained (Ken Boothe) Feel The Feeling (Maxi Priest, Trevor Hartley, Klearview Harmonix) Feel Like Jumping, Truly, Tell Me Now, Mark My Words (Marcia Griffiths) Fire Burning (Marcia Griffiths, The Mighty Diamonds) I’m Leaving, Let Them Say, I Don’t Mind (Mighty Diamonds) I’ve Got To Go Back Home (Chalice) I’ve Got To Tell You Goodbye (U-Roy, Delroy Wilson) I Believe In You (JC Lodge) Feel Like Jumping (William Orbit) Higher Ground (UB 40, Nadine Sutherland) Half The Way (Leroy Smart) Going Home (Jackie Paris) I Don’t Want To See You Cry – (The Trojans: - John Holt, Ken Boothe, Horace Andy)