Interview with Clinton Fearon
Clinton Anthony Fearon was born on January 13th, 1951, in Essex Hall, St Andrew and raised in the hills of St Catherine, in a little district called Mendez, Jamaica.
He took his inspiration from church and old Motown music, with his favourites being The Temptations, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye.
On his move from the country to Kingston, Clinton met with a couple of men named Neville and Vin, and they formed a group known as The Brothers. Clinton's role with this group was that of guitarist and he was part of The Brothers from 1968 to 1969. They were all learning, "but I was ahead of them." Out of the three of them, Clinton was the only one who could sing harmony. This would leave Vin or Neville to lead while Clinton concentrated on constructing the harmony section.
Clinton later went on to meet with Albert Griffiths and Errol. They were in search of an additional partner, so Clinton took up the position and they formed The Gladiators. By 1970, music wasn't just something that Clinton enjoyed, it was now a profession. Clinton was nicknamed Basie by Albert because Clinton first used to hum bassline during intervals when they weren't singing. Albert thought that Clinton would be a good bass player, so he got started on the bass. As well as playing bass, Clinton would sing harmonies for other producers and singers.
Clinton also wrote and sang lead on his songs while still finding the time to sing the lead on a couple of Albert's songs. Some of the members of The Gladiators that Clinton worked alongside included Albert, Errol, Gallimore Sutherland, Rufus, Winston Carty, then Barnabus replaced Winston and Audley Taylor. This union would span for nearly two decades from 1969 to 1987, with Coxsone produced the majority of The Gladiators' music.
Clinton has taken ideas for his song lyrics from all walks of life. Most of his inspiration comes from personal experience and from the streets. "You walk down the street and there's always something to write about...poverty, greed, you see hate, you see war, you see crime, and if you're lucky, sometime you see love"!
Clinton has worked with producers like Coxsonne Dodd at Studio One, Lee Scratch Perry at Black Ark, Yabby You, Channel One and singers like Delroy Wilson, Jimmy Riley, Don Carlos, Wayne Wade, Niney, Enos McCloud, Sugar Minott, Bunny Rugs, Sparrow, The Ethiopians, The Bells, Max Romeo, Yabby You, Willie Williams, Silvertones and many, many more.
On one occasion, Clinton released a song under the name Tony Fearon at Black Ark Studio. "I used Tony to disguise who I really was - just to change up the vibe".
Some of the biggest tunes that Clinton has worked on include “Hurt So Good,” where he played the bass for Lee Scratch Perry. He also wrote and played the bassline for Scratch on “Roast Fish and Cornbread” and for “Yabby You” on Jah Vengence. He played on many sessions and he's not sure which tracks were released as singles, but there have been numerous hits that he's been involved with.
Clinton worked for approximately six months almost non-stop with Scratch, playing rhythms for different artists he produced. Obviously when you are in the studio, working like that, you're moving rapidly from one track to the next. "Sometimes it brings back memories to hear a song over some system and realize that I'm the one who played bass on that.”
The most successful album that he has been involved with entitled Proverbial Reggae, had him once again playing bass and singing harmony. He also wrote and sang lead on about three of the tracks, namely “Marvel Not,” “Can You Imagine How I Feel,” and “Stop Before You Go.”
The next group that Clinton was a member of was the Defenders from 1987 to 1992. He was the co-founder singer, writer, bass player and guitar player. He classed himself as "the invisible leader of the group" and he dealt with bookings and took care of other business.
Clinton can't even begin to comprehend a career without music. When he manages to snatch some spare time from his busy schedule he enjoys listening to the music from the ‘70s and ‘80s and that's "because of the recording situation today, where it's all buttons and drum machines and things like that." If not listening to music then there is a good chance you will catch him in front of his PC playing solitaire.
After many years of concentrating on other people's projects in 1992 he finally got the opportunity to put the majority of his energy into his own music. He founded and leads Clinton Fearon & Boogie Brown Band and composes all of the music, sings lead and plays guitar and percussion. Clinton also produces the Boogie Brown CDs and he helps promote the shows.
On asking Clinton his thoughts on the direction that Reggae music is heading his response was, "I don't know ... but, from a personal point of view, I think we've lost that spiritual edge that was with it. I think money and militancy have kind of taken over. Too many machines and not enough human musicians in the recording industry. I think that producers need to take a break and see what is happening to the music - and I also think musicians should take out their instruments, dust 'em off and start playing again!”
Clinton would like to see small companies with good material getting the opportunities to expose their works, just like the larger companies. "As a small company, I've observed that, no matter now good your music is or no matter how good your product is, you just get looked over." Clinton would also like to see more honesty throughout the music industry as a whole.
Clinton's plan for the future is to tour Europe and spread the message across Europe. While he was in Paris in the first quarter of 2001, he carried out a PR campaign for his CDs, What A System and Mystic Whisper. This paid off because TABOU 1 has purchased the CDs and they have agreed to distribute them in France. He's got enough new material to record a new CD, so he's hoping that he will catch the interest of a reputable record company interested in investing in some good roots Reggae!
Clinton had a message, "Wherever you are out there, just keep the faith. Soon, we'll be in your area! And remember to take care of yourself and follow your dreams, follow your heart, find time to do the things you love and may God bless you real good."