Judy Mowatt – Leading the Charge of Sisterhood 1996
By Howard Campbell. V14#5
A visitor to Judy Mowatt’s home is in for a fairly long walk before he or she reaches the spacious front porch which houses a piano. Mowatt’s not pounding the keys today; she’s enjoying some peace and quiet at the back of the home near the hills of St. Andrew, Jamaica, not too far away from where she was born in the small village of Gordon Town.
An admitted lover of the soil, Mowatt’s cozy back room hideaway is surrounded by a small farm of sugarcane and bananas. Gospel music wafts through the air as she appears, barefoot and bareheaded, her locks complimenting her African-style blouse. A photo of Emperor Haile Selassie greets you upon entering, with another postcard-sized photo of the Wailers, circa the Uprising album, occupying one of the shelves of a nearby cabinet.
May 11, 1981 was another beautiful Miami Monday morning. The excitement and anxiousness of starting a new job made for some tense nerves, not uncommon with the unknown. I drove to the Datran Center in South Dade to begin my new chapter as Don Taylor’s Assistant Manager. I arrived shortly before my 10 a.m. start time. Don Taylor Artist Management (D.T.A.M.) managed Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory Isaacs, and this was all a bit much for me to believe. I knew of and loved all three singers since my days living in Nürnberg, Germany in the 1970s; sadlyI also knew these were the final days for Bob Marley on this earthly plane. Tense nerves, indeed.
My initial meeting was with Betsy Berg, the young lady I would be replacing. I passed the first round of interviews with her and she highly recommended me to Don Taylor. That week leading up to my first day had me meeting a few times with Taylor, always on the phone. “Why do you want this job?” was the first question. “Because I love Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff… I love the message, the music, the call for the underdog to “get up, stand up.” S eriously. It was the truth. It worked.
From his fancy hotel room in LA, the street-smart Taylor, a self-made millionaire who grew up in a waterfront East Kingston ghetto, played hardball over salary negotiations with Quattro, the little Italian from Steel Town Ohio. Following a moment of me saying, “Ahhh…no thanks,” we finally (thankfully!) came to an agreement. He filled me in on Bob Marley’s current condition and let me know Jimmy Cliff was flying in that week. He mentioned returning to Miami the next morning and asked that I come in for a meeting. Continue reading →