Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Tradition" - Burning Spear


Burning Spear is the group, Winston Rodney (above) the main vocalist and anchor. This anthem, from their 1975 classic Marcus Garvey (named for the Jamaican black-nationalist leader), isn't well known. But it's one of my three or four favourite reggae tracks, and therefore demands consideration (at least when it's my blog). Even better: of all the songs gathered here, it's the one that can best be taught to very small children -- even pre-verbal babies. Come on, how big a leap is it from "goo-goo" and "da-da" to "why oh why oh why, dloop-boop"? Kids will love it. One of the comments on the YouTube page for the record states: "Just spent the last week listening to my son doing the backing vocals to this, thought I'd better check it out." And once sung in childhood, it's an anthem you can keep on singing forever. The lyrics -- well, they're kind of elegiac, emancipatory, forward-looking, like "Redemption Song" -- without being particularly clear. So you can make up your own to fill in the gaps, or just sit around and chant "Why oh why oh why, dloop-boop." You're bound to feel better, and make those around you feel better. It's perfect for any demo involving children, or rainy evenings on picket lines, or a not-too-tragic candelight vigil ...

I don't know about the anthemic potential of the rest of the lyrics, but you can find them here.

Here's the original recording of "Tradition," from Burning Spear's 1975 album Marcus Garvey, one of the essential reggae records:



I know of no live footage of Spear performing the song, but here he is in an undated studio session, singing "Old Marcus Garvey" from the same album:


 And a great "Slavery Days," also from Marcus Garvey, in the same studio session:


Other Resources


Song available on Burning Spear, Marcus Garvey (1975), track 7.


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