TENOR SAW: The REGGAE LEGEND of the dance.
LIVE in JAPAN
TENOR SAW: LIVE 1985 RING the ALARM
TENOR SAW, BURRO BANTON, CUTTY RANKS, SUPERCAT LIVE 1985
Tenor Saw's death was mysterious. In 1988, the 22-year-old's decomposing body was found in bushes near a road in Houston, Texas. One version is that he was shot; another was that he was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. But his mentor, singer/producer Lincoln 'Sugar' Minott, said he really died of pneumonia.
This, he believes, occurred after he got into an altercation with promoters about not being paid for a performance. He was allegedly beaten, left in bushes, exposed to the elements and died from pneumonia.
It was a great loss to dancehall music as Tenor Saw's voice was unlike any placed on a 'riddim'.
"The voice was so powerful, something that come from the church, like a Pavarotti kinda thing," is how Minott describes Saw's sound which influenced other artistes of the 1980s,including Frankie Paul, Junior Reid, Nitty Gritty and Michael Palmer.
But his impact did not stop with his passing; his songs are still being played. Hits like Roll Call, his first single produced by George Phang's Powerhouse label, Lots of Signs, Pumpkin Belly, Golden Hen and the dance essential Ring the Alarm are still popular choices for radio, dances and compilation CDs.
The talent, which produced these hits literally crept on to Sugar Minott's doorstep.
"I see a youth outside a lick the stone outside of the studio at mi house. So I check him and him seh, 'bwoy Fadda, a long time mi a try yuh nuh and mi caan get nobody fi listen mi'," Minott recalled.
This was the beginning of Tenor Saw's relationship with Youth Promotions, Minott's record label and sound system. A big break came when he accompanied Minott to King Jammy's studio in Waterhouse, where Minott was cutting songs on the new computerised Sleng Teng rhythm. With a dub plate, made to have four songs, Minott sang three and the eager Tenor Saw seized the opportunity to prove his worth on the other.
Birth of 'Pumpkin Belly'
"Him seh, 'Fadda, mi have something fi dat rhythm too'. So him beg mi a dub plate and mi gi him. That's how 'the song of an old-time proverb', Pumpkin Belly, was born in 1985," Minott told The Sunday Gleaner.
Tenor Saw would go on to create the classic Ring the Alarm during a lyrical battle between Youth Promotions and another sound system. Minott produced his debut album, Fever, in 1986.
Clive Bright grew up in the impoverished community of Payne Avenue in the constituency of south west St Andrew. The songs that would make him famous were mainly about everyday life, even referring to advice his grandmother gave him in Pumpkin Belly. He also had a spiritual side.
"He was serious about his work and getting paid, and he always tried to sing songs of consciousness, there was always a message," said Minott. There was a dark side.
"There was an anger about him, I figured that was his struggle coming up," Minott added.
If he were alive, his mentor thinks Tenor Saw would still be rolling out the hits.
"Just imagine Garnett Silk, just imagine if Bob Marley was still around. I don't even know where I could put him, he was like a little institution by himself," Minott said.