BORN in St. Catherine, Jamaica on June 11, 1947, pioneering reggae singer/songwriter Eric Donaldson â€œhas always been a peoplesâ€™ person.He believes in the songs he sings and the people he sings forâ€ It is a philosophy that is reflected in his success in the Jamaican Festival Song Contest which he won a remarkable seven times.
Eric Donaldson, will forever be associated with the Jamaican Festival Song Competition; in particular, for his winning 1971 entry â€œCherry Oh Baby,â€ sung in his trademark falsetto voice, and which launched his career in reggae music.
The song itself is perennially popular and both UB40 and The Rolling Stones have covered it. The rhythm has remained popular and by 1991 over 30 new versions were issued in Jamaica, including Donaldsonâ€™s own update.
Prior to his initial success at songwriting, Donaldson attended school in Spanish Town and took a job as a house painter, singing only in his spare time.
In 1964 he cut some unreleased sides for Studio One in Kingston and in the mid-60s he formed the vocal group the West Indians alongside Leslie Burke and Hector Brooks.
A collection of sides for producer J.J. Johnson produced a hit, â€œRight On Time,â€ in 1968. They also recorded for Lee â€œScratchâ€ Perry (â€œOh Lordâ€) the following year.
A name change to the Killowatts and a succession of songs for J. J. Johnson and Daley, Lloydâ€™s Matador label (â€œSlot Machine,â€ â€œReal Cool Operatorâ€) failed to ignite the fire of fame and the group split.
In 1970 Donaldson cut some sides for Alvin Ranglinâ€™s GGâ€™s label, the best of which was â€œLonely Night,â€ and a trip to Dynamic Sounds studio for â€œNever Going to Give You Upâ€ again led nowhere, although it did bode well for the future.
In 1971, apparently as a last stand, he entered the Festival Song Competition with â€œCherry Oh Baby.â€ â€œFrom the first rehearsals for the Festival Song entrants, those present knew we were hearing the winner.â€ Said Tommy Cowan, leader of the Jamaicans (themselves festival winners in 1967), â€œFrom the moment I heard Eric at the rehearsals, I recognized a talent which had the capacity to excite people; it excited me.â€
â€œWhen Eric came out onstage at the State Theater for the final competition, shouts of â€œGo way, Country Man,â€ could be heard.
Then he began to sing and before the first line was completed it was bedlam as people in the front rows rushed on stage, lifted him to their shoulders and proclaimed him even then, as one of the biggest superstars to hit Jamaica in a long time. And this was the case at all the regional pop shows.
His success was phenomenal. In Montego Bay a riot was barely diverted, while the Inner Circle band trembled for the safety of their instrumentsâ€¦. Fans jumped onstage, brushed every imaginary speck of dust from his clothes, shined his shoes; and all the time, unperturbed, he just belted out â€˜Cherry Oh.â€™â€
By dayâ€™s end the astute Tommy Cowan had been enrolled as manager. In the wake of this resounding victory, he decided the time was ripe for an Eric Donaldson album. The self- titled album was recorded at Dynamic Studios and released in late 1971 on Byron Leeâ€™s subsidiary label, Jaguar.
The album eventually sold an extraordinary 50,000 copies. Seven of the tracks were Donaldsonâ€™s original compositions, including â€œCherry Oh,â€ â€œMiserable Woman,â€ â€œBuild My World,â€ and â€œ Go Away,â€ with covers of â€œLove of the Common People,â€ â€œNever on Sunday,â€ and The Lion Sleeps Tonight (based on a traditional south African Zulu song called Wimoweh). Eric Donaldson became a household name in Jamaica.
Today Eric lives in Kent Village, Jamaica where he runs the â€œCherry Oh Baby Go-Go Bar.â€
He still loves the festival and often appears there. His music enjoys continued worldwide popularity, especially in Africa where he is particularly revered, as well as the UK, France and Brazil. His songs continue to appeal to fans, and send a perennial message of peace and hope.
Eric Donaldson (1971), Jaguar â€”reissued with bonus tracks as Love Of The Common People
Keep on Riding (1976), Dynamic Sounds
Kent Village (1978), Dynamic Sounds
Juan De Bolas (1980), Dynamic Sounds â€” also released as Stand Up
Rock Me Gentle (1981), Serengeti
Come Away (1982), Dynamic Sounds
Right On Time (1985), Dynamic Sounds
Rocky Road (1986), Capitol records and EMI Nigeria.
The System (1985), WEA â€” reissued as Children of Jah
Crazy You Crazy Me (1988)
Trouble in Afrika (1991)
Blackman Victory (1993) â€”reissued with bonus tracks as Beautiful Day
Peace and Love (1998), Joe Gibbs â€” reissued as Young and Reckless
In Action (2000), Roots & Culture â€” with Sil Bell & Keith Coley
Mr. Pirate (2004), Ice – reissued as 100 percent of Love
Cherry Oh Baby (1997),
The Very Best of Eric Donaldson (1992), Rhino
Very Best of Eric Donaldson (1998), Musicrama
Oh What a Feeling (1998), Rhino
Beautiful Day (1999)
Freedom Street (1999), Rhino
Super Medley Hits (2000), T.P.
Greetings (2001), Rhino
The Very Best of Eric Donaldson Vol.1 (2002), Rhino
Anthology (2003), Creole
Cherry Oh Baby (2003), Smith & Co
Eric Donaldson Sings 20 Jamaica Classics (2004)
Cherry Oh Baby (The Best Of) (2006), Trojan FastlearnInternational
For contributions on reggae/dancehall music and latest news contact Ras Libz Kartel on 0773 219 891.