Jamaica’s legendary Reggae Superstar (Mr. Cherry Oh Baby) will perform at the YOWronto Music Festival in Toronto, Canada. Eric will be on stage on July 2, 2017. The 2-day festival, which runs from July 1 to 2, will present an array of award-winning and chart topping international artistes including Tessanne Chin, Alison Hinds, Baby Cham, Professor Nuts, Romain Virgo, and over 26 Canadian performing artistes of varying genres of music. Learn more about YOWronto.
“Every song I do every song I sing — It doesn’t matter if it’s a love song, poetic song or a protest song — it is all spiritual to me. It is that meaning that is essential to people. It is the undercurrent to everything I do. So that is how I have grown.” – Eric Donaldson with the Reggae Vibes.
Reggae is a well-seasoned genre of music from which many performing artistes and legends have made their mark, contributing to the economies and social well-being of millions worldwide. Jamaica is the most popular hub for Reggae music and musical greats like Bob Marley and Eric Donaldson.
“The songs are all authentic reggae music and we all know reggae is accepted by different races worldwide.” – Eric Donaldson with the Jamaica Observer.
Eric Donaldson was born in Bog Walk, St Catherine, Jamaica on June 11, 1947 and prior to his climb to success he attended school in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. When he was only 17 years old, he debuted as a reggae artiste in 1964, launching his records for Studio One in Kingston.
“As a youth, I thought, ‘what am I going to do, what do I have to do to make some money to survive?’ That was on my mind. — I have a lot of different trades you know. I can cook, I am an electrician, and I am a mechanic. But I kept thinking and thinking: All these trades I have, but I really wanted to do something more meaningful, something which implied a personal progression.” – Eric Donaldson with the Reggae Vibes
In the mid-60s, he formed the West Indians, a group comprising of Leslie Burke and Hector Brooks and with the production skills of J. J. Johnson, they released “Right On Time”, an automatic hit. As the years passed, the group changed their name to the Kilowatts and recorded with producer, Lee “Scratch” Perry, however they split up shortly after the releases of “Real Cool Operator” and “Slot Machine”, a few songs which did not get the airtime and popularity they had anticipated.
Donaldson will be always associated with the Jamaican Festival Song Competition which he won six times in 1971, 1977, 1978, 1984, 1993 and 1997. He went solo after some time and submitted a song in the staging of the Festival Song Competition in 1971, the now renowned single and local hit “Cherry Oh Baby”, which was covered by both The Rolling Stones and UB40 amongst many other renditions.
“From the first rehearsals for the Festival Song entrants, those present knew we were hearing the winner… From the moment I heard Eric at the rehearsals, I recognized a talent which had the capacity to excite people; it excited me…When Eric came out onstage at the State Theater for the final competition, shouts of “Go way, Country Man,” 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.” – Tommy Cowan, leader of the ‘Jamaicans’ (themselves festival winners in 1967).
Tommy Cowan was dubbed Donaldson’s manager and in the wake of his victory in the competition, Cowan believed it was time for the artiste to debut an album. On the heels of the win, he launched his self-titled album which was recorded at Dynamic Studios in 1971 and released to the public on Byron Lee’s label, Jaguar; at the time the album sold 50,000 copies. He also recorded a version of the “Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1971 and released songs like “Lonely Night” under the Alvin Ranglin’s GG’s Label and “Never Going To Give You Up” with Dynamic Sounds Studio one year prior. It was just the beginning for Donaldson as he made albums, which included 1972’s Miserable Woman, 1973’s What A Festival and 1977’s Freedom Street.
Donaldson currently resides in his beautiful island of Jamaica to which he hails and runs the unique and successful ‘Cherry Oh Baby Go-Go’ Bar. He continues to make guest appearances at the annual staging of the Jamaica Festival competitions.
“Now I listen to all types of music. All kinds. Not only reggae music. I don’t particularly like slackness or lyrics which lack a certain consciousness. But really, music and life isn’t so simple — to divide music up into ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ music or ‘bad’ music — We have to look at reality. We have to work with the world the way it is. This world is made up of good and bad elements, light and dark, the positive and the negative. Yet, we have to accept we will never get rid of badness from this world totally. So what are we going to do? How to respond and live our life? Well, in a sense we have to live amongst the badness for we can’t totally kill out the bad, whatever we may do. But what we can do, however, is we can be aware — aware of what company we keep, who we work with, what music we deal with, how we operate ourselves, on a daily level. Even the Good Book tells you this — “good” and “bad” were created by the Almighty, so we have to work our way around them, weave our own way around the badness. This is what we have to do.” – Eric Donaldson with the Reggae Vibes.
His trademark falsetto voice has been able to not only launch his career in reggae music, but maintain a place in the hall of greats; he is undeniably a household name for Jamaica. His music continues to be a beacon of peace and hope and spread a positive message to fans across the world.
“I prefer to live with nature — near the elements and the freshness, the trees” he replies. “But I have to do my works, do business, so I do have to go to the city. When I am on stage the whole concept is to reach people, convey the message — I do it the best way I can, so that I can reach people, touch their minds. It is all a spiritual concept, and that’s always been a part of me. Everyone when they are born has a two way concept in their mind, existing in their head — There is light and dark, negative and positive — The positive aspect is a spiritual aspect, the negative aspect is Satan’s devil work. So I say: focus the mind and deal with the spirit, deal with the positive.” – Eric Donaldson with the Reggae Vibes.
By Alexandra Daley
- Eric Donaldson(1971), Jaguar – 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 – 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 – reissued as Children of Jah
- Crazy You Crazy Me(1988)
- Trouble in Afrika(1991)
- Blackman Victory(1993) – reissued with bonus tracks as Beautiful Day
- Peace and Love(1998), Joe Gibbs – reissued as Young and Reckless
- In Action(2000), Roots & Culture – with Sil Bell & Keith Coley
- Pirate(2004), Ice – reissued as 100% of Love
- Cherry Oh Baby(1997), Trojan
- 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