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Horace Andy

by Margo Tiffen

Horace "Sleepy" Andy Hinds holds the rare distinction of having one of the most recognizable and unusual voices in the history of Jamaican music. Andy's voice is a supple instrument whose tone and nuanced delivery has made a lasting impression upon the catalogue of reggae, ska, dancehall, dub, and -- through his collaborations with Massive Attack -- pop music. King Tubby favored him to version more than any other vocalist, featuring his voice in many of Tubby's widely popular dub tracks. Andy's long and prolific career has produced a steady stream of hits. He has worked under and alongside the cream of the crop of Jamaica's producers, arrangers, and session musicians. Andy's music is continually vital, most recently garnering critical acclaim with the 1999 release of his album Living in the Flood (Melankolic/Astralwerks).

Born in Kingston's Allman Town in 1951, Andy (ne. Horace Hinds) grew up amidst the ghetto culture and music in the streets and soundsystems of Jamaica. His mother, an avid dancehall fan, exposed him to music at a young age, often taking Horace with her to dances. His father spent his time chasing women in Jones Town, an area Andy also frequented. In 1966-69, he could often be found hanging out on street corners with his friends, harmonizing or leading the crew through renditions of songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and James Brown, musicians the young men admired greatly. It was during these sessions that Andy says he honed his unusual sound, practicing all day to create his lilting, otherworldly tenor. Eventually, people began to notice his gifted chords.

"I think how it really started was when people tell ya you have a nice voice. I would be singing American songs all the time, and I would be singing Jamaican songs and I have a brilliant voice. You don't know until friends start hearing, because that's how people hear you -- singing other people's songs." Due to an amusing propensity for falling asleep while hanging out with friends, he was dubbed "Sleepy", the name he is still known by on the streets of Kingston today.

Andy began to mature as a musician, teaching himself to play guitar and learning songwriting under the tutelage of producer Phil Pratt. He had embraced Rastafarianism in 1968, and his spirituality began to influence the content of many of his songs. When asked if he had grown up with the influence of Christianity before he took on Rastafarianism, Andy replies with some deliberation --

"I think when you're born, you're born a good person. When you grow up the parents will be telling you this and telling you that. They will take you to church. But it is up to you. At the end of the day it is up to you. When people ask if I was born Christian, I would say that I was born a good person, everyone is born good. It is the teaching that the elders teach you. You have to see the right and follow the right elders."

During the time that Andy was spending his days in Jones Town, Kingston's legendary Studio One was in its prime. Producer Coxsone Dodd was at the helm of much of the brilliant material being released from Studio One, which was racking up a torrent of hits. Dodd and the label were constantly on the lookout for new talent, and on Sundays auditions were held outside in the yard of the studio on Brentford Road. In January of 1970, like many other hopeful young rude boys, Andy went down and took his shot at a Sunday audition. Dodd himself happened to be running the auditions that day and the 19-year old's distinctive sound caught his attention. On Tuesday, Andy was back at Studio One to record his first single with the label, "Got to Be Sure".

Andy subsequently released a series of records on Studio One. He also began freelancing with several producers around Kingston. With Coxsone Dodd, he cut tracks like "Fever" (1970), and "Skylarking", the title track of his 1972 LP on Studio One. "Skylarking" became a massive hit in Jamaica. On the record, Dodd listed the singer as "Horace Andy", a name he had given to Horace as a nod to Bob Andy. Bob Andy was a founding member of the Paragons and a famous singer/songwriter who also wrote hits for Ken Boothe and Marcia Griffiths. In turn, over the years, several artists have taken on the professional surname "Andy" as a nod to Horace himself.

Skylarking also marked Andy's first work with Leroy Sibbles. Originally known as the singer for the mighty Heptones, Sibbles picked up a bass in 1967 and began turning out some of the most inspired and driving basslines in the history of Jamaican music. With Sibbles on board, as well as members of the Soul Defenders and other top-notch session musicians, the tracks on Skylarking were nothing short of classic. Andy describes those early session as highly collaborative and creative.

"I would play the guitar and they would listen. The keyboard or the piano player would say, 'Come over here and stand up you, man. Just sing a song, man, sing!' I would sing... 'Wah, oh, wa-oh' and he would start to play. He would get the chords them first. He would bang in the chords and the guitarist would start from his guitar. And the organist would say 'which chords?' and he would start 'chuck-ooh, chick-ooh'. And the drummer he would rooolll, and everything would start to jump."

"The bass player would sit down and think and start to play a bass line. Everyone would say, 'yes, that's wicked, man!', or I would say, 'we don't like that one there man, find the next line.' And he would search. That's how it really comes up. Everyone would come together and they would run it down one time. The engineer was balancing, and say take one, READY! (shouts) Aah, it was really nice, I tell you."

From then on, the beat never slowed. In 1974 Andy recorded trademark songs "You Are My Angel", "Zion Gate" and "Money Money" with Bunny Lee producing. He laid down the hit "Don't Let Problems Get You Down" for Leonard Chin at Randy's, with Augustus Pablo arranging. He worked in America with New York-based producer Everton DaSilva and Studio One engineer Sylvan Morris, on the album In The Light (1977). Around this time, Andy moved to Hartford, Connecticut after marrying his first wife Claudette Hastings. The couple had two daughters, but eventually split.

"It is reggae music I do. I've never worked in my life." Andy explains. "So I always want to come back to Jamaica because Jamaica is where the roots is. When you making records, you always leave and go everywhere over the world. So me sitting down in America, not doing anything, sitting down far away from Jamaica, you be left in the house all day and you start mixing with people and you start behaving badly. When I was married, I always had to go back to America and sit down and do nothing. My ex-wife will be saying - 'Aah, come home, come home.' I'm not going to 'come home' to America. I was born in Jamaica. I'm not putting down America, I love America, but Jamaica is my home. That is where reggae music comes from. She wouldn't give me the chance to come to Jamaica and do what I have to do. So it caused problems." Andy says he still visits America as often as he can to see his daughters.

In 1981, Andy was shot in the arm accidentally while caught in the midst of a gunfight. He doesn't like to talk about the incident, but he does say that use of his right arm has never been the same. In the 80s, Andy stayed busy, moving to London, England and marrying Caroline Williams, his second wife. The couple had two sons together, bringing to four the number of children he has fathered in wedlock. This, however, excludes the fact that Andy has reportedly fathered quite a few other children. In 1990, he wrote "One Love" with Caroline, and although he says he believed in its words at the time, they broke up soon after.

While living in England, Andy worked with Sly and Robbie and teamed up with old Kingston pal Tappa Zukie, scoring a big hit with "Natty Dread A Weh She Want". Another notable release was an album Andy did with Bullwackie in New York titled Dance Hall Style, which included the single "Spying Glass".

Massive Attack, a highly successful British band who describe their sound as "Trip-Hop", were big fans of Andy's work. They re-made "Spying Glass" in 1994, with Andy's permission, a version which he says he likes better than the original. Andy further lent his talents to Massive Attack on their album Blue Lines, singing on several songs, including "One Love" and an inspired cover of the Doors' "Light My Fire".

Today Andy lives and works in Kingston, and has recently released Living in the Flood, an album of new and original material. One of his collaborations on the album is a song with former Clash front man Joe Strummer.

Andy explains, "3D from Massive [Attack], he loves Joe Strummer. Joe's really a big reggae fan. They wanted me to do one of Joe's songs. It was the protest one that he wrote about the Vietnam War. It's a brilliant song, but I didn't really want to sing that song. And my management said 'well would you like to work with Joe? You and Joe collaborate together?' And I say yeah. And they made the contact, and he was happy to do it."

"When I went there he had a very nice herb for me. Joe, he's a nice person. We recorded at his studio first. He and another young man who played the guitar and he was brilliant. He and Joe, they put the riddims together. When I went down, I start to play the lyrics. Because he sent the riddims. When he heard the lyrics, he was amazed. We did it and we mixed it but we said, we're going to do it over live, with the live musicians. That really paid off."

Andy continues to tour and record because, as he says, that is what he does. When asked about the future, he quips cheerfully, "I'll be fifty next year, if life is fair. I always say I am nineteen, because I think I'll go on like a nineteen year old."

 

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