The longest, hardest, and most consistently working artiste in the history of the Jamaican music industry is the Empress of reggae music, Marcia Griffiths, OD.
In a career spanning 40 years to date and still going strong, she hits high points internationally as a soloist and as a duo with Bob Andy, as Bob and Marcia. She has toured the world as a member of the I-Threes with Bob Marley and the Wailers. On Thursday, January 26, she will once again don the cap of the soloist and perform at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium.
Griffiths will be joined by Shaggy, Chris Martin, George Nooks, Ky-Mani Marley, Pluto Shervington, Half Pint, AJ Brown, Lloyd Parkes and We The People Band, Marcia Barrett (Boney M), Yellowman, Etana, John Holt, and Mykal Rose.
Subsequently, as a soloist, she hit the Billboard chart with Electric Boogie and created a world-class dance, the Electric Slide. The superstar has been recording and performing ceaselessly.
At a recent reggae concert in South Florida, Marcia Griffiths demonstrated the same level of performance she has been known for over the years, as both a soloist and a member of different groups. She displayed, in combination with reggae rapper Cutty Ranks, on their duet of Fire Burning, all the zeal and elements that go into dancehall music.
“I started singing professionally as a vocalist in 1964, for Byron Lee and the Dragonaires band,” she said.
Her recording years started soon after, at Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd’s Studio One, where she recorded her first hit, Feel Like Jumping.
It was while recording at Studio One that Griffiths teamed up with Bob Andy on Really Together, the first of many duets that the two would record. “Luckily for me, Bob Andy was always a strong and wise person,” she said.
“He was there for me in the early days and that gave me confidence.”
Then the pair moved to the Harry J Label, hitting the international charts with Young, Gifted and Black and The Pied Piper, recording two albums of the same titles.
Hitting the High Note
Following that duet success, she went solo again on the High Note label with reggae’s sole established female producer – Sonia Pottinger – hitting with severalsongs, including her own original Stepping Out of Babylon.
Still in that set-up, she released two albums, Naturally and Stepping. When asked to express her opinion on female reggae vocalists, Griffiths said, “It’s been a rough, tough job standing up as a woman in this business, that’s why my album beforeLand of Love I chose to call Indomitable, which means not easily discouraged or defeated. My views on women in reggae are positive; most of the new or upcoming female singers in reggae started out singing my songs before doing their own originals. I feel very good about that; to know that I have influenced my people positively.”
Philip ‘Boasie’ James, lead singer of the Blues Busters vocal duo, was visiting his girlfriend, who lived next door to Marcia, and heard her singing. He took Marcia straight away to Byron Lee and insisted that she be included on an upcoming talent show to be held at the Carib Theatre.
Griffiths remembers that Lee was upset with Boasie for coming to interrupt his programme.
Griffiths remembers she performed a Carla Thomas original, No Time To Lose, to phenomenal response from the audience.
They demanded an encore, but to no avail, as she had only rehearsed one song with the band. As much as she wanted to, she could not do any more performances that day.
The attention Marcia received after that was overwhelming.
That same night, Byron Lee’s manager, Ronnie Nasralla, took her to the studios of the then Jamaica Broadcasting Commission where Griffiths made her first television debut.
Ten years after entering the music business, Griffiths united with Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley to form the I-Threes as an important part of the Bob Marley entourage.
“Words are not enough to express my experience with the I-Threes and Bob Marley and the Wailers,” said Griffiths.
“What a blessing to be so privileged … to have shared this experience.”
Griffiths’ longevity is phenomenal and the artiste will perform on Thursday, January 26 at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
“Music alone shall live, and it’s not only for the money, but the satisfaction I get from doing the work that I love, that is what really keeps me going every day.”