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REMEMBERING BARBADOS SOUL BROTHER JACKIE OPEL!

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL

Observer senior writer—

 

 Jackie Opel—

 

WITH Independence from Great Britain beckoning in 1962, Jamaica attracted a number of artistes from the Eastern Caribbean. They included guitarist Lynn Taitt and singer Lord Creator of Trinidad and Tobago, and singer Jackie Opel from Barbados.

Opel, who died March 9,1970, at age 32, was a true Caribbean man. He made his mark as a recording artiste and performer in his homeland, T&T and Jamaica.

JackieOpelStage

His soul-drenched vocals, comparable to American singers like Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett, won him fans throughout the region.

It was in Jamaica that he made his biggest impact, working with The Skatalites and producers Clement Dodd and Byron Lee.

Lee produced a version of Opel’s version of Cry Me A River, a passionate ballad that remains the singer’s signature. At Studio One he cut a number of ska sides, including Welcome You Back Home (with Doreen Shaffer), the risquè Push Wood,and Mill Man.

Jackie Opel

Jackie Opel

On the last, he was backed by none other than Peter Tosh and Bob Marley of The Wailers. Another Wailer, Bunny, is on record as saying Opel is one of the best singers he has heard.

Jackie Opel, whose real name was Dalton Sinclair Bishop, was not only a vocal innovator. He created spouge, a blend of Caribbean sounds he hoped to make an international brand.

That never materialized. Opel died in an auto accident 48 years ago in Barbados.

JackieOpelCryMeARiver

His legacy has gained gradual recognition from his countrymen in recent years. The Barbados government commissioned the Jackie Opel Auditorium in 1998, and his music has been introduced to a new generation through numerous acknowledgements by artistes like soca singer Edward Yearwood, who saluted Opel at the Sir Arthur Lewis Distinguished Lecture by performing Cry Me A River and You’re No Good.

 

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