Asked how he's doing, Jack Radics replies that he is “tired but inspired”.
The Jamaican singer, whose voice buoyed the Chaka Demus & Pliers international hit Twist & Shout, has good reason to feel positive these days. Reviewers have praised his new album Way 2 Long as a great return to roots reggae, and he’s on the road to healing after more than “30 years of being exploited by record companies”, as he puts it.
When Twist & Shout reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, back in 1994, Radics’ name was hardly mentioned because the song was seen as a vehicle for Demus & Pliers, the top-selling Jamaican reggae duo. But Radics’ sonorous voice was unmistakable on the record.
“You needed a magnifying glass to see my name in the credits,” he laughs now. “I had to fight tooth and nail for recognition. Such are the travails of us the artists.”
Speaking from a beach-view apartment in Negril, in a long-distance video interview with SWAN, Radics describes how he “stepped off the damn merry-go-round” some years ago and almost turned his back on the music industry.
“Commercial exploitation of artists prevails,” he says. “Some people make music for a living, and some live to make music. But me nah look no money - my quest and motivation are not for money.”
Radics depicts a hotbed of dishonest deals and mistreatment in the entertainment sector, but he says that he couldn’t help missing the music when he was away from it.
“I missed the music, the creativity, but I didn’t miss the business,” he told SWAN.
Supporters and a new manager encouraged him to return, and the current album is a “collective” of the different styles he has pursued over the years, from blues-and-soul-infused rhythms to roots reggae.
The title song is a slow, mellow track, with gentle strings and Radics’ persuasive voice declaring, “I been away too long, I wanna put my feet in the sand again”.
This sets the tone for an album that includes autobiographical notes, political views, love songs and covers of hits such as Valerie, which Radics reinterprets, in Caribbean style.
The CD might remind listeners of a certain era in reggae when accomplished singers like Jacob Miller, Beres Hammond and Dennis Brown ruled the airwaves, and the songs told a story while still being “danceable”. This is the tradition to which Radics seems to belong, even though he released his first solo album in 1991, just as dancehall was going global. Way 2 Long shows Radics as a balladeer above all else.
He says that he was always singing as a child, so much so that family members thought he was “a pain in the neck”. Still, he got into the professional music business mainly by chance. After high school, he went to visit a friend in the Bahamas, only to find that the friend had moved to the United States. Stranded, Radics found odd jobs, and he was at a club relaxing one evening when it just so happened that the featured singer didn't turn up.
|Radics in pensive mood.|
Radics says he took the mic and after performing was offered the job to sing at the venue. On his return to Jamaica, he stopped in Miami, Florida, and bought musical instruments, and so his career was launched, with stints in England, the Netherlands and other countries to follow.
Now a father of six, he is back home, with a comfortable base in Negril, on the westernmost tip of the island. He emphasizes that he’s “Jamaican to the bone” and told SWAN that he feels inspired and relaxed by the birdsong he hears every day, and by the sight of the white-sand beach outside his window.
“I don’t like to go to Kingston at all anymore because everybody is a tough guy, and nobody smiles,” he declares, referring to the intense ambience of the capital.
Radics' rejuvenation seems a reflection of one of his hits, a song titled No Matter. The refrain goes: It don’t matter ’cause life has never been better … I’m free to be me, and as far as I can see, it’s much better. (© SWAN)