FRIDAY, SEPT. 7: Maxi Priest and Bermuda go way back — he has visited the island many times either to perform or on private trips: he considers some of our locals as close as family and even has a half Bermudian son. With a new album ready to drop and a new cover of The Beatles All My Loving, which he will perform at the upcoming John Lennon Tribute Concert, he spoke to the Bermuda Sun’s Sarah Lagan about why he can’t wait to get back.
Reggae superstar Maxi Priest has deep connections with Bermuda and he says he is itching to get back to the island that gave him a son some 14 years ago.
He has visited the island regularly since the 1980s and counts some of the islanders, including the late promoter and Clayhouse owner Choy Aming, as being close as family.
Maxi, known for a multitude of hit songs including That Girl with Shaggy and Close To You which hit number one in the US Billboard charts, will be on the island later this month performing The Beatles’ song All My Loving which he co-produced with Livingston Brown.
He was last on the island playing at the wedding of his personal friend, Bermuda cricketer Janeiro Tucker, and in 1989 local promoter Tony Brannon was on tour with the reggae star stepping in as guitarist.
Maxi will join numerous local and international artists with links to the island for the John Lennon Tribute Concert being hosted by Tony Brannon and Michael Freisenbruch’s Ride The Wave Music.
Speaking exclusively to the Bermuda Sun Maxi said: “I spent a lot of time there back in the day when I used to play there — it is fabulous, I love Bermuda. We had some fabulous shows and I can’t wait to be back there.
“My son’s mother is from Bermuda as well — I met her there many years ago. He is 14 now. I like to keep my things private.
“We did shows at least once a year through Choy Aming — he was like family to us. Even during the times I came there and I wasn’t playing I would be around Choy.
“We would stay in contact and he would always inquire what I was doing and how we were getting on.
“I did a performance at Janeiro Tucker’s wedding because he’s friends of the family.
“I love the island, the people, the appreciation they have for the music. The island itself is a beautiful place — it’s not everywhere you go that you see people having a car garage and a boat garage!”
Maxi’s performance in Bermuda comes at a time when his name is already in the headlines — he is about to drop his latest album Nothing But Trouble. It is the latest of eleven albums and compilations including his last album Maximum Collection. The album is a collection of his best songs past and present and stands as a testament to the fact that he has earned his place among the reggae greats including Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Toots and the Maytals.
As one of the most widely toured reggae artists in the world he has spread the music far and wide and at the age of 51 he is showing no sign of slowing up. After his Bermuda trip he heads straight to the UK for a few concert dates followed by a tour of the US.
Maxi was approached by Brannon to play the Bermuda concert in memory of John Lennon who visited the island in 1980 and was inspired to write his last ever album Double Fantasy.
Maxi chose to sing the early Beatles song All My Loving and wrote a reggae-inspired version which is available on the John Lennon Tribute CD by Ride The Wave and can be seen along with the video online.
“When they first came to me they kept insisting that I choose a John Lennon song but I was saying that I liked the whole vibe between him and Paul.
“I was flicking through some of the songs and I was really persistent that I wanted to do something that him and Paul did because I felt more close to that situation with the two of them — their collaborations were his best works to me.
“However the friendship was between him and Paul I thought that was the chemistry of The Beatles. Man, when you hear that song it’s like — once you have sung it you don’t let it go. It’s time for that song to wake up again.
“This version is more modern day and has swagger — it’s a cross between reggae, pop and R&B with a little rock as well.
“I was just adamant that I wanted to do this one and they thought, ‘why not’.
“I understand that it was one of the first songs that they brought to the States out of England and then I heard it was one of the songs that they were playing when they were pushing John through the hospital after he was shot.
“After that Paul played it at the Queen’s jubilee and that just went down a treat. It just goes to show the significance of the song.”
Born Max Alfred Elliott, Maxi was the second to last of nine brothers and sisters and was raised in Lewisham, South London. He later joined the Twelve Tribes of Israel and, embracing Rastafarianism, he changed his name to Maxi Priest. He was also was active in some of London’s historic anti-racism demonstrations.
Among his musical influences are Jamaican legends such as Dennis Brown, John Holt, and Gregory Isaacs as well as Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The Beatles, Phil Collins and even Frank Sinatra.
After his first number one hit Should I (Black Echoes charts) in 1985 he signed to Virgin Records. In the same year he released his debut album You’re Safe and was invited to perform at the name making Reggae Sunsplash concert in Jamaica.
Strollin’ On, taken from Intentions — his collaboration album with Aswad, brought his first chart success in 1986 and by then he was headlining venues such as the Brixton Academy and Hammersmith Odeon.
He left for Jamaica in 1987 and in 1990 he released Bonafide to much acclaim. It included the song Close To You which hit number seven in the UK, and topped the US Billboard — he is the only British reggae singer to have a US number one hit to this day.
By then his fame was truly global and he released Best Of Me — a compilation of his best songs including Housecall featuring Shabba Ranks.
His 1992 album Fe Real was groundbreaking in that it fused the traditional reggae sound with hip-hop and R&B. Again, he ventured into new territory when he made his film debut in Scam starring Christopher Walken and Lorraine Bracco.
Then in 1996 he was in the charts with Shaggy with That Girl from his album Back Together Again. The track featured his son Ryan from the group Ultimate Kaos.
In 2008 he toured with UB40 which resulted in the unforgettable song Dance Until The Morning Light.
His next album Nothing But Trouble is due for release either the last quarter of this year or the first quarter of next year.
• The tribute concert will take place at the show ring at The Botanical Gardens on September 21 along with international artists including Roy Young, Paul Muggleton and Judie Tzuke, and local artists including Heather Nova, Biggie Irie, Joy Barnum and Michael Cacy. Tickets starting at $50 are available via www.ptix.bm or by calling 278-1500. Gates open 6:30pm for 8pm start. Proceeds will go towards the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, The Coalition for the Protection of Children, Chewstick and Ride The Wave. See http://ridethewavebermuda.com for more details.