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Marcia Griffiths on her 40 year celebrations

The launch, which was more of a thanksgiving ceremony, was attended by the who's who of Jamaican entertainment, including Bob Marley's mother, Cedella Booker, former I-Three member Judy Mowatt, sax great Dean Fraser, storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks, leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga, and songbird Nadine Sutherland, all of whom delivered touching tributes to the most prolific woman in Reggae music today. And that was just a partial showing of the list of celebrities that turned out for Sister Marcia, toasting her achievements and wishing her blessings for the year ahead.

All sectors of the industry were represented, and singjay Tony Rebel, dancehall 'Fireman' Capleton, dancer L'Antoinette Stines, filmmaker Barbara Blake Hannah, sound system operator Bunny Goodison, Jamaica Federation of Musicians president Desi Young, percussionist Bongo Herman, and producers Donovan Germain and Sonia Pottinger were some of the famous faces spotted.

But even a cursory glance through the celebrity-filled event could not have prepared Griffiths for the emotional outpourings made to her by her peers, as the launch, she admitted, was planned almost completely without her input.
Tributes presented in song, poetry, speeches and video were all graciously acknowleged, some, like that by manager and childhood friend Copeland Forbes, revealing and humourous; some highly entertaining like the poem performed by Amina Blackwood Meeks and companion Umbala; and others, like the one delivered by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Delano Franklyn flattering in its historical sequencing. Throughout the presentations, Griffiths sat regally in a white suit and gold blouse, evidently pleased, and at times delighted.

When sax specialist Dean Fraser took centrestage to perform for her, however, there was no holding back the tears, and the usually composed Griffiths began to sob uncontrollably.

"It's usually only when you go to funerals that people say so many good things about a person, but it's wonderful to sit when you're alive and hear people say good things about you," an emotion-filled Griffiths said in her response to the many tributes paid to her.

She, too, performed, her selection Shining Time the title track of the album by the same name, one of two she plans to release later this year.

In addition to Shining Time, Griffiths will take on several other projects to commemorate her 40 years. These include a US tour, slated to kick-off with a performance at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the release of a 40-track anthology of songs that spans her career, and a massive concert at the National Arena in October. The anniversary will also be marked by a number of mini-specials on television and radio, as well as with a magazine detailing moments throughout her illustrious career.

Wednesday's event, therefore, was the ideal way for the songbird, recently honoured with the "Woman of Esteem" designation at the United Nations to start her hectic year.

Griffiths, who has released over 20 albums and countless singles and duets, began her career in West Kingston when she debuted as a teenager singing with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in 1964. Successful collaborations with top singer/songwriters and producers of the time such as Bob Andy and Clement 'Sir Coxone' Dodd put her on the map as a singer, and as a member of the I-Threes with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, she recorded and toured extensively with Reggae icon Bob Marley. Since the break-up of the I-Threes, Griffiths has performed as a solo act, collaborating with vintage and current Reggae and dancehall acts alike.

At the end of the evening, the sassy performer, known for her cutting edge yet regal couture and silken vocals, warned her supporters of her future intentions.

"I'm going another 40 years! Yes! Listen out for me," she said.

- WRTN 93.5 FM


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