GRIFFITHS - "Shining Time"
Marcia Griffiths is best known to most people from her role as one of the I-Three's providing vocal support for Bob Marley on his albums and at his concerts. For the I-Three’s, she partnered with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt. While the three women perform occasionally as a group for special events, they each have had very successful solo careers. Judy Mowatt has been the most prolific with several great albums – “Black Woman” and “Sing Our Own Song” are stand outs. Our Rita Marley favorites are “Harambe” and “Who Feels It Knows It”. Before SHINING TIME, Marcia’s new release on VP Records, her best effort was “Naturally” which is a Reggae masterpiece. In the hymn like title track of the new album, Marcia sings that it is like “Shining Time again…”. That is very apropos – this album delivers a superlative collection of songs.
There is no
lacking of talent supporting Marcia’s effort on the disc.
Marcia with the I-Three's
Notes from VP Records: The legendary Marcia Griffiths is celebrating her 40th anniversary in music, with an album of newly recorded favorites and recent hits that highlight the ‘Shining Time’ of her life – the present. From her beginnings at the Studio One label, to her time with Bob Marley as one of the I Threes and again with her early ‘90s smash “Electric Boogie”, Marcia proved herself to be the quintessential female voice in reggae. Her unique sound has graced many classic reggae hits in each of these periods and spawned many imitators. And this album proves that Marcia is still making hits. The singer selected producers Hopeton Lindo and Syl Gordon to produce and record a mixture of classic pop songs and new originals. Shining Time is in part historical and autobiographical. And Jamaica’s top studio and production talent is on board to complete the package. The album is a tribute to an icon of reggae, with an esteemed past and a brighter future. It is truly a shining time for Marcia Griffiths.
If Bob Marley is the globally recognized king of reggae music, then Marcia Griffiths is the undisputed queen, the first lady and matriarch of reggae. Since making her debut some four decades ago with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires band, Griffiths has become a part of the very bedrock of reggae music, proving the most enduring and hard working woman in reggae.
With Shining Time, she celebrates her 40th anniversary in the music business with a mixture new originals and classic covers (including Paul and Linda McCartney's "My Love," Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "A House Is Not a Home," Stevie Wonder's "Until You Come Back to Me" and the Marley tribute "Crazy Baldhead") and new originals that feature guest turns by Beres Hammond, Shaggy, Cutty Ranks, Annette Brisett and Hopeton Lindo, who served as co-executive producer with Syl Gordon and Patrick Lindsay. Underneath it all are tracks delivered by such reggae luminaries as drummer Sly Dunbar, bassman Robbie Shakespeare and saxophonist Dean Fraser.
Laced with Griffiths' trademark messages of love and positivism, Shining Time takes its name from its most nostalgic selection, a wistful song announcing a spiritual rebirth of sorts. "That song is saying thanks to my audience," Griffiths says. "Every single word is like giving back to my audience, telling them thanks and about all that I've gone through over the 40 years. Whether it was good or bad, they stood with me, they supported me, and I'm just giving back, saying thanks to them."
Such tracks as "My Life" and "My Heartbeat" also find her looking back and sharing life experiences. On the former, she proclaims, "As long as I know that you love me too/Nothing can come between a love that's true/Love conquers all."
"In this album, I was very careful in some of the messages that I am sending, and these songs relate very much to my lifestyle and my experience in life. The lyrics are the most important thing because this is how we send a message throughout the world, through our music and the lyrics in our songs, so I am always keen on my utterance, and the things I say in my songs, because I want to send a positive message to my people to teach, educate and uplift through the medium of music."
It's a mission that began almost by accident, when the now-55-year-old Griffiths was overhead singing in her poor West Kingston neighborhood at the age of 15. While visiting Griffiths' next-door neighbor, Philip "Boasie" James, lead singer of the Blues Busters vocal duo, caught the young songbird belting out an Aretha Franklin or Carla Thomas song, as she was prone to do at the time. So impressed was he, James brought Griffiths, who sang in the church choir and in school plays and concerts, to Byron Lee that very same day, insisting that she be included on the upcoming talent show to be held at the Carib Theater in Kingston.
While Lee was initially resistant, he added her to the show, during which Griffiths brought the house down with a version of "No Time to Lose" by Stax soul diva Carla Thomas. "One of the things that knocked out the audience was that I copied Carla slur for slur, every slur I made like Carla," remembers Griffiths. "They couldn't believe someone could emulate Carla so well." Lee's manager was so impressed that he took Griffiths to JBC television studios where she performed two Nancy Wilson songs, again delivering a perfect facsimile of a celebrated American vocalist, leaving onlookers slack jawed.
"At that time, I was never myself," she says. "If I sang a Carla Thomas song, you could close your eyes and you wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't Carla Thomas singing. If I was doing Aretha, I would sound like Aretha. Anybody's song I was doing, I would sound exactly like them. I would cross every T, and dot every I. I would have the exact tone and the exact sound-everything."
She joined Lee and the Dragonaires as a vocalist in 1964. Soon after, Griffiths joined the elite group of reggae luminaries who recorded very early on for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd at the hallowed Studio One, birthplace of her first hit, "Feel Like Jumping." With American R&B and soul still very popular in Jamaica, Griffiths continued to cut her teeth on covers of songs by Thomas, Franklin, Wilson and Dionne Warwick. It was at Studio One where she would team up with influential reggae songwriter Bob Andy, with whom she would eventually form the duo Bob and Marcia. Beginning with "Really Together," they would record a string of local hits, and the top Five U.K. pop hit "Young, Gifted and Black."
It was Andy who pushed Griffiths to develop her own style, apart from her heroes. "Bob Andy, when he started writing for me at Studio One, he would say to me, 'Marcia, you cannot sound like this person or that person, you have to sound like yourself.' So when I started doing the original songs that he had written, then I started doing them like for myself, because I've never heard them before, I've never heard anyone doing them."
In the early 70s, she joined fellow Studio One pal and future icon Bob Marley and the Wailers, forming Marley's fabled I-Threes with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, a trio she still performs with to this day. From 1974 until 1980, Griffiths toured the globe with Marley and the Wailers, proving an essential component behind such tracks as "No Woman, No Cry," which recently entered the coveted Grammy Hall of Fame. Forever thankful for her time in the I-Threes and with Marley, she says, "I never took him for granted. He was very, very, very, very special, and I have no doubt that Bob was truly sent from the almighty God."
Scoring with such songs as "Stepping Out of Babylon," Griffiths continued her solo career while with the Wailers, recording such High Note albums as Naturally and Steppin' with reggae's sole established female producer Sonia Pottinger. In 1982, a year after Marley's death, she recorded "Electric Boogie," which would later go on to be a No. 1 hit in Jamaica. In 1989, after a Washington D.C. disc jockey started playing it, the song became a hit in America, hitting the Billboard charts and spawning the dance the Electric Slide.
Over the next decade, she released the albums Indomitable, Dreamland and Certified while appearing on albums by Bunny Wailer, Tony Rebel, Wyclef Jean, Jimmy Cliff, Freddie McGregor, Bob Andy, Buju Banton, Ninjaman, Steely & Clevie, The Itals, Beres Hammond, Cutty Ranks and many others.
After some four decades of music, Griffiths is a pillar of reggae music. And, without doubt, in terms of women in reggae, all roads lead back to her. And that's one of the things she's extremely thankful for: "Almost every single female that rose up in the business in Jamaica and elsewhere, they all acknowledged the fact that they were all inspired by me, and that to me, means more than money. That shows to me that I am a role model, and I'm admired, and I am doing something that is right and something that is good, because all the singers came up doing my songs, even most of the young, up and coming DJs coming up today, they're all inspired by me, and I think that's fantastic, that encourages me and that shows me that my work is not in vain."
Throughout her career, her mission has remained the same. Marcia Griffiths' music has always been about connecting with other souls: "The most important thing to me is how many lives I can touch during my time on Earth. And even from a little girl, I always say to myself, 'I want to be of service to mankind, to do something for people.' So maybe if I wasn't a singer, I would have been maybe a nurse, or something, as long as I'm helping people.
After 40 years and an estimated 20 albums, she's looking forward to a 50th anniversary in music: "I shall sing as long as I live," she says. "As long as God preserves me and as long as the talent is still there, I would just love to continue to feed people's souls with good, positive music, to teach, educate, uplift. That's my intention. I want to touch as many lives as possible."
Back to TOP