Lead Singer of Boney M
A Speech by Marcia Barrett of Boney M
Berlin, the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy, 26th May, 2010
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates who are gathered here this evening for this special event hosted by Mr Mark Donfried, the founder of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, and his team.
I am indeed honoured to be invited here tonight as well, presenting a few songs from Boney M, that have made history globally and have brought some fun, some time or the other over three decades to you. People of the universe.
Some of you might be aware that we are the FOUR ORIGINALS- Bobby, Liz, Maizie and myself- as the group, giving our personal creative input into studio work, dancing skills and optic presentation which was not rehearsed was accepted by the world since 1976 until this day. We were disbanded in 1990 after our producer then decided that he needed a change in producing ROCK instead of POP. We then went our separate ways. My colleagues- I can't even say 'former'- because of the bond we had together during those wonderful years.
Let me give you a little synopsis of who I am and what I am about. The whole story will have to be in a film or in my intended personal biography; I am just waiting for a time slot to focus totally on that.
I was born and bred in Jamaica. Different parishes at different times. It all depended on which guardian could take care of me. Even though the bread was often scarce, Mama, my sister and I were destined for another sort of LIFE, in another sort of world. Life in Britain! Mama Minette Gordon left two years prior to our departure from Jamaica to pave the way for our 'new beginning' in a new land, where she had two jobs as a single parent. She worked and saved and within this short time-span she was able to purchase two plane tickets for her two daughters from 'CHIN YEES TRAVEL SERVICE' from Jamaica to Britain in 1963. I was thirteen years old and my sister Dorrett was eleven and a half years old. This was where we finished our schooling and very quickly got used to the 'Culture Shock.'
It was during these school years in Britain that I was always picked out by my 'Music Teacher' Miss Tetley to exercise the lead role in the class choir. She always made arrangements for the class to visit Sadler's Wells theatre to enjoy a presentation of 'Carmen' or 'Madame Butterfly' etc. I was getting the real thrill of MUSIC, with shivers going up and down my spine at each concert. Mind you, during our singing sessions at school, Miss Tetley at times would ask me not to sing so loud because my voice was drowning the rest of the girls! I felt a little confined but learned how to hold back, blending in with the rest of the girls after the constant reminder from her. Funnily enough, after over a decade of me finishing with school, already established as a vocalist with Boney M, my close girlfriend Elaine Tracy told me that she had bumped into Miss Tetley, who was asking for my whereabouts. She was getting married and wanted us to sing at her wedding. So I guess my voice wasn't all that loud after all.
Singing felt so GOOD, which always made me feel so free that my wish was to sing for the WORLD!
At the age of nineteen my dream was getting made into reality when I was offered a contract by 'Stigwood Organisation' (a management company) in England- through a friend of mine, who was the NAT KING COLE of Jamaica, Jackie Edwards, for a dancing job here in Germany. It was in Hamburg- Harburg, in the Top Ten Discotheque. This was straight forward creative dancing, entertaining teenagers like myself with my presentation on weekends between 4- 8p.m. NOT ON THE TABLE! Let me make that clear!
It was one evening at the end of my performance that I could not resist taking the microphone from the disc jockey, Uwe, and sang with the disc he was playing 'OH HAPPY DAY.' To my delight, one by one the audience stood up with a STANDING OVATION and applauded me wholeheartedly.
Roughly about a year later with the same act for every four months, I was approached by one Hernt Hanel to execute singing career... and he would be my manager. I took up his offer and before we knew it Marcia Barrett DE FUER WERK AUS JAMAICA was constantly booked out all over Germany, for GALAS, huge discotheques and even had a few TV appearances on German TV, for example at 'Shaudude' etc.
This went on for about five years as a SOLOIST until I was again approached by a girlfriend with a story that she knew of a producer that wanted to form a group and, if I was interested, to meet him for an audition. I did not react until four months later, thinking to myself why join a group when I was going so well already as a soloist. To my surprise this producer Frank Farian was still searching for three black girls and one black man to reproduce on TV a track he had already produced, 'Do You Wanna Bump.' I then met him and our arranger Stefan Klinkhammer in Sarrbruken, in Stefan's flat, where he accompanied me on piano and I sang four songs for both of them. At the end Farian turned to me and said, 'that will do.' The rest is HISTORY! I would also like to convey that it was my repertoire on my real to real tape as a SOLOIST that Boney M started off with, after our first couple of HITS!
What I have experienced in these years of my career and still experiencing over three decades is that MUSIC is indeed inspirational. It soothes within our souls- no matter what type of music you enjoy. It is a HEALER at all times. People can come together with their different cultures as one, any time, in singing, playing their instruments and dancing to the notes of the music. Even if only for one little moment, sorrows and despair just vanish into thin air and peace takes over, leading into comfort.
Politicians have come together, sharing different thoughts through music. Music is often used in operation theatres, to calm those skilled physicians who take care of us when ill health injects. I know very well with my experiences, being a CANCER SURVIVOR five different times within 16 years. During these years of healing, I was comforted as my co-writer and husband Marcus James and I composed some of our most beautiful songs, which helped us both to heal mentally and me physically with all the process of treatments.
I would like to share a fascinating story with you, showing how music is powerful. In 1985 two English mountaineers decided to venture into climbing a 21 000 foot mountain peak in Peru, 'Siula Grande.' They were young and fit, in their mid-twenties, and had no fear. They were Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. After a couple of days they encountered extreme danger, when Joe Simpson dropped into a fall of 150 feet and apparently saw no way out alive. His buddy Simon decided after no sign of Joe to cut the rope he was dangling on with a broken leg, thinking that he was not going to see him again.
Funnily enough, whilst Joe was figuring out what to do to avoid death, he explained in their documentary 'TOUCHING THE VOID' that out of the blue in desperation he heard a song from a band called Boney M, which was 'Brown Girl in the Ring.' He went on to say that he did not even like Boney M's music, but the song went around in his head for hours and hours as he desperately clung to life. He then asked himself who is that and started to laugh, then said (and I quote) “I'm going to die with Boney M?!” The miracle is that Joe did not die, but is ALIVE to tell his story. Can you imagine that this simple little song that my class mates and I danced and sang in JAMAICA between the age of five and seven at most, gave somebody the will to live almost four decades later, after being trapped for days not knowing if he was going to survive. That's the power of music, ladies and gentlemen.
Another experience is at our dentist in Palm Beach, where Marcus and I were living for nearly twenty years. Our dentist Mr Westcott was always whistling in his surgery to songs that came over the system he had constructed. It was so comforting to hear that a filling or two done by him was a pleasure, after getting into a relaxed mode for the drilling. Even when he had changed location, we would still drive at least 45 minutes just to hear his whistle. On top of that he was a good dentist.
In 2007, I was invited for a concert in Tbilisi, Georgia, to try and uplift the people during their troubled times with my presentation of Boney M songs. The evening was MAGICAL and brought everybody together, even the soldiers were singing and smiling. There again, MUSIC spoke LOUD and CLEARLY!
I could go on and on telling you about my different experiences GLOBALLY- how music is a way to bring all nations together, but I do not want to make my speech too lengthy. I personally would like to see more mingling of music into our day to day lives, with the challenges that confront us, in this troubled world today. From day one,musicians and other people in the arts haver tried to bring PEACE & LOVE to people of the world.
I have contributed for the cause and will continue to do so whenever time and plans permit.
On this note, I will say thanks for listening and I hope you will enjoy our show later on. Until we meet again, have a wonderful evening!
Marcia Barrett of Boney M