Interview: Cornell Campbell part 2

May 9, 2011

Here’s part 2 should you not have found it on United Reggae…

The distinctive falsetto singer Cornell Campbell began his career as a child in the pre-ska era recording for Coxsone Dodd. Spells in harmony groups the Sensations and the Eternals during the sixties gave way to a successful run as a solo artist in the seventies recording for Bunny Lee. Cornell continued to cut hits into the dancehall era and was honoured in 2008 when the US R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan hit number one on the Billboard hip-hop charts with I Need U Bad, based on his classic composition Queen Of The Minstrel. A devoted Christian who has favoured the security of non-musical income sources over singing full time in a sometimes volatile industry, Cornell spoke to Angus Taylor about the highs and lows of his incredible 54 year career…

In the early seventies you sang a lot of love songs. Then in the mid seventies you sang some Rasta lyrics like Natty Dread Inna Greenwich Farm and Two Face Rasta. Did you become a Rastafarian?

No. I believe in Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. The reason I came with those songs is because in those days the trend was changing in Jamaica. When Bob Marley and all them came with rhythms that were very serious and then the other artists like Jacob Miller responded to them, the beat started to change in the dancehall. In the previous time when I came with those sophisticated love songs you’re talking about, people used to love them. But after a while the dancehall changed and some roots thing went more raggamuffin. Because when I’d stand up at Randy’s records I’d hear my love songs playing but I’d see the people buying songs like (SINGS) “THINGS A COME UP TO BUMP…” – the dancehall people loved those type of songs. So I said to myself, “You know what? I’m going to change my style. Just for a little while, not for long. I’m going to go into the dancehall and sing some dancehall things”. That’s why I sang Natty Dread In A Greenwich Farm.

How did you come up with the concept for Natty Dread In A Greenwich Farm?

Well, when I heard songs like Things Come Up To Bump and saw the dancehall was changing I went home and grabbed my box guitar and I wanted to write a hit song. I used to live in Jonestown a little above Trenchtown, and you have Greenwich Farm down the bottom. The reason I got the idea is because I used to go and check Bunny Lee down in Greenwich Farm. I was popping down there routinely to check Bunny Lee. That’s why I called it Natty Dread In Greenwich Farm because it was were Bunny lived and I was there most of the time. So I sat down with my guitar and sang (SINGS) “NATTY DREADLOCKS UP IN ALL THE STREETS.. BABYLON THEM CANNOT KEEP THEM FEET… SO THEM CHECK I MAN IN GREENWICH FARM… YOU COULD A HEAR THEM COME WITH THEIR LOUD ALARM”. Of course you don’t write it perfectly at first. You put in little mistakes and you have to rub them out again. But I thought I’d try this line out, “But I and I… Natty Dread Iyah…” you understand? You pick out and you put in.

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