Hailed by social commentator Ian Boyne as “smooth, suave and sensational in his delivery”, Frankie Paul was one of Jamaica’s finest and most iconic reggae singers and dancehall personalities of the 1980s and ’90s. Christened Paul Blake at his birth in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1965, the crooner was borned visually impaired and had an extensive musical career before succumbing to complications related to kidney failure on May 18, 2017, at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). He is well-known for hits such as Sara, Alisha, Worries in the Dance, I Know the Score, Cassanova, and Pass the Tu-Sheng Peng. Here are 10 interesting facts about him.
- He attended the Salvation Army School for the Blind in the early 1970s, where he learned to play the guitar, keyboard and drums. This was also where his singing talent was developed.
- While a student at the Salvation Army School for the Blind, he got the opportunity to sing for Stevie Wonder when the R&B legend visited the island in 1975. Wonder was very impressed and encouraged him to pursue a career in music.
- He went to school with some members of legendary reggae music band, Fab Five, who expressed a deep sense of loss at his passing.
- His hit, Fire Deh A Mus-Mus Tail, is based on a Jamaican proverb which basically speaks about how sometimes a person is in danger and doesn’t realise it (Fire deh a mus-mus tail, him think a cool breeze).
- In 1980, when he was just 15 years old, he did his first official recording under the moniker Frankie Paul for the song African Princess.
- He moved to Gambia in Africa in 1994 after doing a show there, then moved back to Jamaica in his later years when he developed medical complications.
- His visual impairment and silky smooth voice earned him the moniker, ‘The Jamaican Stevie Wonder’ – a flattering comparison to the world-renown R&B superstar, who was also visually impaired.
- He loved and was influenced by Dennis Brown’s music. His final album, titled Frankie Paul Sings Dennis Brown, was released in early 2017 as homage to his reggae hero.
- He was admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies in April 2016 following kidney failure. As his hospital expenses piled up, there were concerted efforts by family and friends to raise funds to help foot the approximately $1.4 million bill.
- He was only 51 years old when he died, and many lamented the fact that he did not get to live out his older years and reap the fruits of his labour, or be recognised in more concrete ways for his immense contribution to reggae and Jamaican music.