Winston Rodney alias Burning Spear: His Music, the message and global impact
By Joel Savage
Burning Spear, is no doubt one of the greatest reggae artists the world has ever known. Born as Winston Rodney, on Ist March 1945, in Saint Ann’s Bay in Jamaica, musicians such as “The Maytals” and “Bob Marley and the Wailers” influenced him. According to him, it was his encounter with Bob Marley, that ignited his life to fame from 1969. He has then made a couple of songs, but doesn’t know where to start. Then Bob told him to go to “Studio One” and he did. Today among great reggae artists, his music could be heard in every part of the world.
In the lives of individuals, many do remember the mistake one does, than all the good things the person has done. But Burning Spear never forgot the direction Bob gave to him. He gave credit to Bob Marley in his song “As it is” taken from the Grammy Award winning album ” Calling Rastafari ” Part of the lyrics goes like this “I start singing in the late sixties. Told about Studio One by Bob Marley” But who is actually this man called Burning Spear and why did he chose such a name unto himself?
It is very hard to describe a person when one haven’t met him personally, to interact with him to know his views, options and philosophies. But like the waves retreating into the sea, I went back and compiled the names of some of his old songs to the present and that vividly awared my consciousness the music and the message of Burning Spear. Yes “Man in the hills, far over, calling rastafari, the world should know, raster business and the spear burning in Jah Kindom. His mistress music don’t sell out and freedom and identity will make him a free man” That’s Burning Spear.
Being inspired by the late Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Burning Spear, who regarded him as one of Africa’s strongest leaders and statesmen, in respect for his work and as a man who has fought and sufferred for his beliefs, put the title of Jomo Kenyatta (Burning Spear ) unto himself as name. From there on, the flame of the spear is unquenchable, singing against slavery, discrimination and praising men like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah and Martin Luther King. His reason of cherishing these men are simple and logical. Because they paved the way for everyone and I and I to be recognised.
Burning Spear showed his love for Africa from his great hit “Greetings” from the album “Far Over”, after his trip to Africa. Greetings Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa.” He said. He lamented bitterly about blacks in the United States of America who have no intention and no respect for the culture. As if they have forgotten their history, some even hate to be referred to as Africans. “Even though they say I’m a Yankee” Burning Spear said he still loves them because they are his brothers and sisters.
After over thirty years of his prolific music career, the tireless Burning Spear surprisingly came out last year (2003) with his new album captioned “Free man” with great numbers such as “Trust, Not Guilty, loved for who I am etc” His songs speak of its self. Truly, the achievements of Burning Spear, in the field of reggae, shall remain in the music history for ever.