While friends, family members and people in the music fraternity were mourning the passing of saxophonist George Headley Francis Bennett (his name as I saw on his passport) on August 21, another set was celebrating the 81st birthday of Trinidadian-born Lord Creator on that same day.
Creator whose name at birth is Kenrick Patrick, belongs to a large group of persons who made lasting contributions to early Jamaican popular music, but whose origins lie outside of Jamaican shores. While living in Trinidad, where he was born on August 21, 1935, Creator first sang in calypso tents alongside stalwarts like Lord Kitchener and The Mighty Sparrow.
In one of those performances Creator – a man of sacred persuasions and good humour – was bestowed with the performance name. An ardent fan, who believed his performance was creative, hollered the name across a crowded calypso tent and somehow it stuck. But Creator wasn’t entirely comfortable with the name, as he expressed to me in an interview at his Montego Bay home some years ago.
“Lord and Creator should be reserved for God Almighty, not for human beings”, he said.
Creator had already made somewhat of a name for himself before coming to Jamaica, when he recorded several songs with the Trinidad-based Fitz-Vaughn Bryan orchestra. Foremost among them was Evening News, which became a big hit across the Caribbean.
It was while on a Caribbean tour with a group of musicians that the 26 year-old Creator made a stop in Jamaica on January 14, 1962, totally oblivious of the fate that awaited him. It was to be, perhaps, the most dramatic in Jamaica’s music history.
It all began when Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin, on one of his visits to The Havana Night Club in East Kingston where Creator was performing, intercepted the singer and asked him to write and record a song about Jamaica’s Independence, which was due on August 6 of that year. Drawing heavily on an article written by The Gleaner’sRaymond Sharpe, Creator composed in rhyming lines the calypso Independent Jamaica in “almost no time”, according to him. One of the most descriptive and informative narratives in song about the lead-up to the attainment of Independence, the lyrics ran in part:
«Manley went up to England to seek for Independence
And although Busta was late, he still attended the big conference.
Although from two different parties, it was very good to see
How these two politicians were shaking hands when they gained victory”.
The number one song in Jamaica in 1962, it was backed by the nucleus of the Jamaica Military Band, which also added its touch to the follow-ups Ma And Pa,Welcome Princess Margaret and Freedom Song, which also had to do with the Independence celebrations.
Creator suddenly found himself irresistibly attracted to the island, particularly its music and beautiful women, and decided to make it his home. He was particularly grateful to Randy for “putting him up” for the first few months of his stay in Jamaica. By early 1963 he was back in studio with a desire to record ballad songs:
“My love for music is ballads. I grew up listening to people like Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Frank Sinatra and others, but people thought I was a calypsonian because I came from Trinidad,”, Creator explained. Randy preferred to produce and record ska songs, as they would easily take the market and Creator realised this and adjusted accordingly: “Adjusting to Jamaican ska wasn’t difficult for me, because as a young boy I practised to sing all types of music,” he said.
With backing by the incomparable Skatalites band, Creator helped to immortalise the Randy’s label and name with some delightful ska classics, mostly written by him. These included Don’t Stay Out Late, Man to Man, Wicked Lady, a re-recording ofEvening News, I’m Sorry Now and We Will Be Lovers – a slow piece in duet with Norma Frazer that underlined his ability to sing ballads:
“Look through the window and you’ll see what I see
Two lovers walking just like we used to be
Gone were the days when we were just like they
But in our hearts they are memories to stay.”.
Creator’s next major move was to Studio 1, where the hits continued to flow withGolden Love, Rascal Boy, Little Princess and Precious Time. His reputation had by now soared and so did the birth of his Jamaican children.
He swore he would dedicate his life to them and so he temporarily moved to Montego Bay in 1968 in search of better job opportunities, having fallen on some tough times in Kingston. The greener pastures he hoped for in Montego Bay weren’t all that green and Creator was forced to accept an offer from a concerned family member in 1984 to return to Trinidad on condition that his children would eventually join him.
Conditions worsened for Creator when he became hospitalised in Trinidad after suffering a stroke. But the drama began to unfold in a positive way when lawyers contacted him on his sick bed, seeking permission for English group UB40 to record his composition, Kingston Town. As it turned out, the recording became a big hit for the group and attracted enormous royalties for the writer.
Creator returned to the land he loved a fairly well-off and happy man in 1990 and built a house in Montego Bay. In the meantime, Kingston Town became the subject of a heated controversy between Creator and producer of the song Clancy Eccles, who also claimed that he was due royalties. The song was in fact brought to Jamaica by Creator and was first recorded by him in 1963 for Randy Chin in the ska mould under the title Babylon. The re-recorded 1969 reggae version produced by Eccles had identical words, except for the Kingston Town replacing Babylon.
Now in his twilight years, Creator resides in Golden Grove, Hanover. Asked about how he spent his birthday, he was quick to respond: “I spent it at home quietly.”