Conversation With Singer Richie Stephens

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Fri. Dec. 9, 2005: Jamaican singer, Richie Stephens, strongly believes that providing a way out of poverty for the poor in his homeland is one way to curb the rising crime and violence there. Stephens spoke to us this week on crime, the possibility of a first Jamaican female prime minister and of course his music and upcoming performances.

The Savannah-La-Mar-born singer says while he feels rising crime and violence is a “worldwide crisis;” in his own country, he senses “the stress and the agony from the poor class of people” is one of the main reasons for the rising violence there.

Stephens, who runs the ‘Pot Of Gold’ company, says he believes that, “As soon as the government can show the poor a way out, then I think we’ll have a damper in the crime and violence.”

Still the man with Jamaica’s ‘Golden Voice’ is optimistic that the security forces and the government are “slowly getting it under control.” But he points out that the country is a small one causing the crime rate to look larger when compared to other countries that are bigger in land mass.

Turning to politics and the possibility of Jamaica being headed for the first time by a woman, Stephens says while a lot of people are optimistic about this, all he cares about is someone who would make a change.

“I care about someone who will come and make a difference,” said the singer, who has been rocking worldwide audiences and performing alongside many musical greats since the 1990’s. “Male, female or bird in the sky.”

But he refused to be dragged into the furor of the homophobia debate, an issue that has left many Jamaican singers locked out of European concerts for their tough stance against gays.

“I leave all judgment to God,” said the singer, who is known for songs like ‘Father I Love You,’ ‘Winner,’ ‘Take Me Away,’ and ‘Weakness For Sweetness.’ “In this society we were brought up a certain way and it’s difficult now for us to accept certain behavior but my view is I leave all judgment to the Almighty God.”

The same spiritual attitude is obvious as Stephens talks with humility about the day he made a promise with God to give back to his community if he ever became famous. Today, he keeps that promise though a number of humanitarian community projects including the adoption of the Savannah La Mar Infirmary, a home for the aged and homeless, as his personal charity seven years ago.

He recently gave the institution J$1,000,000 from the proceeds of his ‘Take Me Away,’ concert held in May. He has also helped to support the Savannah La Mar Primary School, giving both time and money to build a basic school and he also sponsors and runs an annual soccer competition in the area.

Stephens achieved worldwide fame in the early 1990’s while he was on tour in Europe with Shabba Ranks. Famed producer Jazzy B from Soul II Soul saw his performance at the Brixton Academy in London and asked him to do a song on Volume III of the album titled Just Right.

The song, “Joy,” was selected to be the first single released from the album. In 1993 he went on the album’s European promotional tour with Vanessa Williams and James Brown. “Joy” climbed to the number three spot on the British Charts and the top five on most of the charts in Europe and led to Stephens appearing on the Arsenio Hall Show, where he performed the song live.

He soon caught the attention of music giant Motown Records and was signed to the label in 1994. Stephens did one Album for Motown Records, Pot Of Gold, which sold tens of thousands of units throughout the American, Japanese, European and Caribbean markets. Over the past decade he amassed a hit list and now owns his own record label, Pot of Gold Records and has recorded and released 11 albums.

Next March he will release his 12th album, titled ‘Take Me Away,’ a follow up to the single dropped this year. And fans can catch him at the 10th annual Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in Montego Bay on January 27th. It’s a show the singer says he’s “really, really looking forward to,” stating that fans can expect an hour-long performance filled with both old-time and current favorites.

“It’s a night for you to come and discover what I have to offer,” he added.

The three-day festival will get underway at the Rose Hall Resort and Country Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica from Thursday, January 26 through Saturday January 28. An event pass for the three-day festival costs US$160 while individual ticket prices range from US$50 for the Thursday night performance, $55 for Friday night and $60 for the final tribute night, Sat. Jan. 28. For JazzFest packages call Air Jamaica vacations at 1-800-LOVEBIRD or for more information, log on to: www.airjamaicajazzandbluesfestival.com.– Hardbeatnews.com