An interview with Jah lloyd
BY MICHAEL TURNER
I interviewed Jah Lloyd in 1995. He looked the part of the artist down on his luck, his frame wizened by poor health, his gait slow; but his clothing was flamboyant and his eyes keen. Sitting on a shady porch, he allowed me to turn his attention from his daily struggle for a living to his great works done twenty years before. He spoke about his songs with great care, almost tenderness. We made plans to meet again, but by the time I returned to Jamaica he had died. He’d been living on the streets for years, no money for food nor his asthma medications.When I heard the news of his passing I thought of one of his most poignant lyrics “Jah so loves the world, but the world doesn’t love I” .
JAH LLOYD: I was born in St. Catherine y’know, in a district call Pirate Hill in 1947. At the age of about 12 when I come to Trenchtown I meet upon guys like Theophilus Beckford, who sings a song, “Easy Snapping,” that was a song which I really love. Which give me a bit of feelings to do music, so at the age of 12 coming on 13 I used to sing in groups like Meditations, used to sing with guys like Ansel Linkers who sang “Woman Is Like A Shadow.”
MICHAEL TURNER: Under your name?
A: Under the name Pat Francis. And then I form a group called Meditators. With Paul Ashley and Aston Jennings and I myself as Patrick Francis.
Q: How old were you then?
A: I was about say 16, 17. We do song like “Darling Here I Stand” on Coxsone label. We never get through music those days y’know. Like people who sing music now who just go studio and voice pon a riddim that’s already done. We used to sing and practice with the guitar lots of nights before we could go to studio.
We do “Mother Cubba” on the Success Label. “Know Yourself Black Man” by me and Joe Higgs on Success label. And then I do “King of Kings” on the Upsetter label as Pat Francis. I did some more tunes, I forget what the names be, with the Meditators, but the guys was kind of lazy and didn’t want to push forward. I sing some more songs as Pat Francis and then later down in the ’70s I start dj. The first one was “Zion Rock/ Soldier Round the Corner” on my label, the Teem label. At the same session I do two for Upsetter label.
A: Yes. When I was working at the shop at 36 George Street I used to sell Jah Youth [Big Youth] songs like “Screaming Target” on the Gussie label, and “S 90 Skank” on Keith Hudson label and also “Keep on Moving,” Bob Marley, which he done a dj version. And I used to like the way him dj y’know, and when I’m selling it in the shop I always practice when I play the record. Rehearse behind the riddim y’know. And I find that my voice could able to deejay. So we do this one called “Zion Rock.” Me and a guy called Jah Scuff.
A: Jah Scuff. He just do that one song. He was never interested to do more. But I prolonged and keep on doing dj like “Make A Joyful Noise UntoJah,””Dry Bone Skank,” and “Channel One” with Douglas Boothe. Then I produce “Second That Emotion” with Righteous Flames, the one that Smokey Robinson was the writer for that. Then the Heptones sing “Drifting Away” for me on the same “Zion Rock” riddim. So I produce songs for a lot of artists like Heptones, Mighty Diamonds.
Q: They did “Shame and Pride” for you?
A: Yeah it was my song. Produced by me. At Randy’s Studio, y’know? North Parade Street.
Q: So the first dj you did was “Zion Rock.” What song was that?
A: That was a version of “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Q: By Ken Boothe?
A: No. Douglas Boothe. He always say he was his brother, but then I find out it was not his real brother. The next song after that was “Sunshine Girl” on same riddim and it was from Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise unto Jah, and serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord is God, cause He made us and not we ourself. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
Q: What did you make after “Joyful Noise”?
A: After making the “Joyful Noise” then I sing one called “Psalms 2,” “Why do the heathen reign and people imagine vain things?”
Q: What was that a version of?
A: That was a song called “Day By Day” by the Righteous Flames. [Sings] “Day by day, as we walk along together.” It was a nice song, we do that with King Tubby. But the version to that which I call it “Psalms 2.” Then Jah Youth come with “I Pray Thee” from the same “Psalms 2.” He finish the song with the whole Psalm, but I only do the verse and different lyrics to it. But his version was very good. I still admire the way he do it. So I came back with one called “Zion Gate”: “You got to honor your mother and father, that your days may be long.”
Q: What was that over?
A: That was from “To Be A Lover” riddim. Shenley Duffus first did that as adapted song, a do-over song, on Upsetter label. I used to sell it in the shop. So we do that piece from that version. That mean a certain amount of respect due to your mother and father and elders.
Q: Did Big Youth answer that one?
A: No, he didn’t answer that one. But each time when he do one I find myself have to hit him another time with one, y’understand. It was a musical fight. So each time a artist come with a hit, you find something to answer back. Like when he do I “Pray Thee,” I do “Zion Gate,” when he do “Sky Juice” I come with “Soldier Round the Corner.” When he come with next one I do “No Tribal War.”
Q: Was that over the John Holt song?
It’s like when I did, now, the version to “Police and Thieves” called “Police and Soldier,” it was an incident happen, so I make this one from that saying a soldier man pass through Jonestown who smoke some herb “and Babylon raid the scene and kill the soldierman clean.” The crowd run “with them shirt back full of wind, except the soldier who was a victim.” So we calling all Rastamen who is governed by the spirit of God. Y’know, “confusion in the city, corruption and iniquity.” Children who is not governed by the spirit of God shall not bear much fruit, shall not have no increase, shall not multiply. It is like a barren woman, or a mule, he won’t bear much fruit. People who is not righteous do not bear much fruit, or good fruit. Bitter fruit them bear. So, they are not governed by the spirit of God, or Jah. That cause confusion in the city, corruption and iniquity. The confusion becomes corruption, or pollution, y’know what I mean?
A: That song came very quick, usually in those days songs came very quick to me, just like you hear the riddim, listen the riddim, and then [snaps his fingers] the inspiration just come. Like, Bongo Herman was in the studio at that time, so we let him do a part like when somebody running, like out of breath.
Q: At the beginning?
A: Yeah [pants several times]! And Scratch laugh and say he running from something, police want him or something. And then I say “A soldier man pass through Jonestown.” And that was Bongo Herman, me and Bongo Herman go together. I remember I call him on “Soldier Round the Corner”: “Hey Bongo Herman what a whole lot of versions this riddim going on.” And him say: “Play I-ah, this riddim macka.”
Q: Now back to your recordings, “No Tribal War” was on your Teem label, right?
Q: And after that?
A: “Black Love.” I did it over “Shame and Pride.” “You’re my beautiful black girl. You mean the world to me.” I write that. It never press a lot but it a good song. It sound good. It could have sold a lot if I had press more. Way down in the ’60s I did one called “High Society” too. “I’m too poor to be in high society.” It was a good tune on Success label but we didn’t press enough also.
Q: After you did “Black Love” what did you do?
A: After that I fall back in dj part and do a tune call “Hammering” on the “Soldering” riddim. Me say “hammering what the young girl want.” Just a novelty tune. And then I do “Doctor Natty” on Jackie Brown’s Telegraph label. That was a nice one too. DJ version. Then I did “Leggo” on the “Sipple Out Deh” riddim, y’know, “War Inna Babylon”? You know that one “Leggo”? [sings] “Leggo Jim Screechy.”
Q: What was that? What does that mean?
A: [laughing] Jim Screechy mean when a man coming up on you dodging. He’s tipping toe, y’know. Hide and seeking. Not coming up full to you. So he’s Jim Screechy. Tricky. And then I say “leggo back biting.” Which is same as “carry go, bring come,” which is you’re in my face now and I can’t tell you the truth but as you left I talk behind your back. Chat behind your back. So me say never do them thing deh. A righteous Rasta man never deal with that. Me and Scratch mostly used to put things together by-clipping through things that happening and take things from it.
Q: What was the first thing you did for Upsetter?
A: First tune I do on the Upsetter way back was “King of Kings” as Pat Francis. Then I do “Flashing My Whip.” Then I do “Take A Sip of This A Collie.” I do those things same time in the studio with “Zion Gate,” I do those for him and I get one for myself. “Flashing My Whip” is on the Colombia Colly album. Then we do “Hey you fat man, as you climb up you drop down.” That song we do off of “Fatty Boom Boom.” Aston Jennings [of the Meditators] was doing the harmony, both of us singing together. And the Heptones and me, we do “Satta Massa Ganna.” That version is on Colombia Colly. One of the Gaylads, what’s his name, Joe something, he sung on that one with Earl and Barry from Heptones. We do Colombia Colly and then we do a lot more songs, which is where I gone and do my thing from then. And just hang on until now. Because me and Scratch get in a fight over money business right on the street in front of the shop and people say, “Bwoy you never see nothing like two little men fight.”
I do another track on Colombia Colly with a group which was Bagga Dread and a next guy, and they do a song called “Words.” It was a very good song [In fact, one of the greatest reggae songs ever written—MT] but it never press up a lot. And I do the version name “Wisdom”: “Jah shall protect my going out and my coming in. He lift up my eyes onto the hills from whence come my help. I have come from Jah which made heaven on earth. By his protection the sun shall not smite me by day nor the moon by night.” That song they use it in the Country Man movie, which I never gave them the right neither.
As you know nuff artists in Jamaica who only claims people’s right and say is them write song. Song like even “Know Yourself Black Man.” The original song is me write it as “Mother Cubba.” Me and Meditators. My group. And later for Rupie Edwards me and Joe Higgs sing it and he say him write it.
And I say me write this Congo tune “Row Fisherman Row.” We were over at Port Henderson beach and on Sunday we was on the beach. I saw a canoe passing, which him row with two stick. The old-time canoe, they row them with stick. So I say “row fisherman row” ’cause them was way out in the sea. Me used to love the sea Sunday morning time. So me say “row fisherman row, lot of hungry belly pickneys deh a shore.” When I go up the studio and saw the artists them which was Congoes, me start singing song to them and me play the conga at the studio too. Upsetter wasn’t there, so we intend that the Upsetter is the fisherman now and we the artists was the hungry belly pickney. At the shore, waiting till him come from town we get some money. [Laughter] Then as me leave, they record the song, but they don’t know the meaning of it. Where it come from. They only sing it. I didn’t do the recording of it, I only carry at the studio, and working it out while Upsetter wasn’t there. And gone home. And the Congoes record it and say it is them write it. I have a lot of songs that I write which I never get credit for because I never know much about performing rights.
I do a lot songs which I don’t really have line up in my brain right now. I hope to find copy back, ’cause most of the tapes them get messed through hurricane and move up and down while I was around. I lost some of those masters. But the rights of them, the original work, is mine.
But we do some great works at Upsetter studio. I like work for him too y’know cause him have vibes. In the song “Norman the Gambler” it’s me doing the domino. “Roast Fish and Cornbread,” Scratch ask me what I’d eaten, and the idea comes for a tune. So most ideas in studio like we’re working together. Is a one person come with a idea, there’s a body of people behind the idea. Nuff songs. Nuff song that people create them not even know where it come from. Scratch always had enough words. Like he call Max Romeo, White Belly Rat, and like him say he named the Ape. His name is the Ape y’know. He called me Jah Lion. I say, “why you call me Jah Lion?” and him say “you move strong.” Might be physically or musically strong. But he called me Jah Lion different from Jah Lloyd….
This interview was first published in The Beat in 1995. DanceCrasher would like to thank Mike Turner for giving us the opportunity to reproduce it.