VERSION GALORE: Cynthia Richards & Sublime
Since I’ve decided to get my ass in gear and write some more stuff on this blog I’ve come up with a new semi-regular feature that I’ll call — wait for it —Version Galore! Original right? Well that’s kinda going with the new theme of the feature.
Reggae’s very core is built on the version going back to the earliest days of course. Taking soul and R&B hits or anything else really that the producers and artists heard being piped in from the states or that was brought back on vinyl on the many trips people like Clement “Coxsone” Dodd of Studio One label fame – IE: The Godfather, made to the states to find the latest U.S. hits for their respective sound systems, were ripe for a cover.
Artists were covering anything and everything as the recently independent country and quickly enlarging new music industry were hungry for home grown music and what did they have but songs they heard – until that is they had enough talent built up to create their own songs. Covers and recording new versions of old tunes or using old rhythms on new cuts has always been a staple of the recording industry – not strictly a Jamaican phenomenon.
The first track to launch this new feature comes from Cynthia Richards doing her version of “Foolish You”. Why this track? Well I was looking around the web and came up on a cover version by Sublime which made me think – so here you go.
First a little background on Cynthia (taken from Wikipedia): Born in Duhaney Park, Kingston, Jamaica, in 1944, Richards attended the Denham Town Primary School where after impressing teachers with a performance at an end-of-term concert she was encouraged to appear on the Vere Johns Talent Show.
While working as a magistrate’s clerk, she continued her career, working in the 1960s with Bobby Aitken’s Carib Beats band and later the Falcons (with a young Dennis Brown), Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, and the Mighty Vikings. She recorded her debut single, “How Could I”, in 1969, produced by Coxsone.
Although this wasn’t a success, it brought her to the attention of Clancy Eccles, who produced “Foolish Fool”, which became a major hit in Jamaica. She also recorded as one half of the duo Cynthia & Archie. She moved on to work with several producers, including Duke Reid, for whom she recorded “Jungle Fever”, “Sentimental Reason”, and “Aily I”, the latter a hit with UK reggae audiences in 1972. Other producers she worked with included Alvin Ranglin and Larry Lawrence, before moving into self-production with singles such as “Mr. Postman”, and had further chart success in Jamaica with her version of The Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”.
She was voted Top Female Artist of 1973 in Jamaica and toured with Dennis Brown and Toots and the Maytals. Later in the 1970s she worked as a backing singer, contributing to Beres Hammond’s 1976 album Soul Reggae and Pat Kelly’s 1978 album Lonely Man.
Check out the many versions of “Foolish You” below.
Original 1969 Version by Dee Dee Warrick
Cynthia Richards Reggae Version
and here’s a wicked cut by a more recent band showing the longevity of some simply “sublime” (pun intended) hits. Over 40 years and some cuts just keep finding new fans.