Marcia Griffiths, The Grand Dame of Reggae, is a legend in her own right with 48 years of experience in the music business.
Her first hit Feel Like Jumping was released in 1968 and in 1970 she scored a British top 5 with Young, Gifted and Black alongside Bob Andy before forming the I-Threes, Bob Marley’s backing vocalists. She started her solo singing career in 1964 at the age of 15 and has during her career not only worked with equally big legends like Bob Marley and Bob Andy but also with almost every current artist around. Her new CD Marcia and Friends is witness to this as the double CD features singers as well as DJ’s she has worked with over the years, from Tony Rebel, Gentleman, Tanya Stephens, Queen Ifrika, Etana, Daville, Freddie McGregor, Sanchez, Beres Hammond, Barrington Levy, and Beenie Man to Bounty Killer and U-Roy. Whilst Marcia was in London, Vision had the privilege of speaking with her. Welcome! It is great to have you here in London, what have you been up to? I came to London for a couple of shows and just came back from a festival in Spain. I actually wish I could have shared myself for the independence celebrations because I was supposed to be in Jamaica for the gala as well. There were so many other offers to do independence balls in New York and other places. But I’m just happy that I can do what I am doing. Independence is also a time when Jamaica reflects on its history and national heroes. Many people are of the opinion that Bob Marley should be made a national hero, do you agree? I would endorse that as I think he earned it. No other entertainer has achieved what he has achieved. The same with me, no other female has ever done what I have done, continuously recording and performing for decades delivering hit songs which are still current. Bob earned everything that should make him a hero. He took the music to four corners of the earth and spread the gospel of the music. I can testify that. We have been to so many places and it was overwhelming, even shocking at times. How does his legacy still influence you today? His legacy lives on. Its something none of us can erase. I can’t do my performances without paying tribute to someone like him. Why do you have no rock-steady solo recordings? Well the songs I have recorded are from 64, I don’t know what they are classified as. I did Tell Me Now, Mark My Word, Feel Like Jumping and Truly – all those songs were recorded in this era. What do you miss in the music business? The sincerity, [she replies without hesitation], and that old ingredient when we made those songs and nobody was thinking about money; in a sense the purity. We just went to the studio and gave our hearts, that’s why these songs will live forever. The new school music tries to re-do the old beats because they have so much substance and longevity. All my songs from the Studio One era are still playing in the dancehalls. Many of the new songs don’t connect the way it’s supposed to be. They were not made with love and sincerity but by artists who run in the studio because they want hype or quick money, or they just want to be famous and get two girls. Whatever the reason, it is not sincere. It’s not like a calling, its just a hustle. Do you have any female artists on your watch-list? One of my greatest achievements in the music business is when I sit down and hear all the female singers. The young ones say that I have inspired them. You know, one of the good things is that the business is no longer male dominated. There are so many female singers now of which I am so proud and happy about. There is not any one person, there are quite a few. You also have a Foundation… Yes, it has been established to channel donations to programs for women, children and the elderly, and to fund music scholarships to the Edna Manley College. We go to different institutions and schools in Jamaica like the Alpha Boy School, which really has a lot of talent. We cover a variety of things not only in music but also production. I am however particularly drawn to the females. I try to reason with them and share my experience to enhance their career. A lot of them have no management. I have seen it many times where the women suffer, trying to be a business person and a singer at the same time. That doesn’t work. You gain more respect if you have someone representing you anyway. Marcia Griffiths, it has been a pleasure and we thank you for your time. http://www.marciagriffiths.net/