BLACK HISTORY Month allows us to celebrate all aspects of the black contribution to mainstream society and when you talk about Freddie McGregor, few will have touched so many people in their time on this Earth.
It’s a real privilege to talk to a singer whose music has been the peripheral soundtrack to millions of lives all over the world.
Put simply, music – reggae in particular – would be a very different landscape if Freddie wasn’t a part of its history.
While his influence never universally hit the heights of the likes of Bob Marley, for many, this journalist included, he is just as important.
Heading to the UK to do a four-show tour, as well as being scheduled to sing the Jamaican national anthem before Jamaica Ladies take on Nottingham Forest Ladies on October 28, Life & Style caught up with Freddie to find out why we’ve had to wait so long to see him live.
“It’s been a while since I last performed here. I have a lot of love for the UK and over the years I have tried to be a part of the community.
“There is a wonderful audience here, a wonderful set of people from the community and our diaspora, so we’ve bonded together over the years.”
With his legacy secured and having travelled the world many times over, what still motivates Freddie?
“I am enjoying it,” he enthused.
“I recently did a US tour of nine weeks, we did almost 40 cities and it was really nice because we haven’t toured for a long time.
“You could see the excitement from the audiences, they haven’t seen us for a long time and they we’re begging us to come back and not to leave it so long. I am signed to a booking agent now so I plan to be there year after year.
“Eventually when I am not doing that I will go back to production. I want to help produce other artists, younger artists coming through.
“I want to pass my experience onto other producers, we have a bunch of them around me at the moment.
“I came through this thing rough and because we know how rough it is, I want to help others gain opportunities I never had. I enjoy that, helping others. The legacy will go on and on.”
Freddie rates the work coming from the likes of Chronixx, Junior Gong and Kabaka Pyramid, so, with his love for the music and what he does still at an all-time high, how does he see the future of reggae?
“It’s a different, younger generation now and it’s a little different in terms of groove and feel, but I feel reggae music will go on.
“There is a lot of positive music coming out now, moving in a positive direction, which is good.
“Sometimes when you are going that positive route it can take a little longer [to get recognised] but I just encourage them to keep going. “I think reggae is holding its own and it will continue to stay there for a while to come.” If you don’t get a chance to see Freddie McGregor in one of the gigs he is performing at, head on down to the Forest Ladies versus Jamaica Ladies football match, where he will performing the national anthem and hinted to Life & Style he’s up for a post-match knees-up should his beloved country win.
He said: “I’m only meant to be singing the national anthem but if we are winning the match at half-time then I don’t mind singing two tunes for the people. If we win… we’ll see.”
50 years of reggae celebrated
The Freddie McGregor UK Tour forms part of the BASS 2018 – 50 Years Of Reggae Festival.
Celebrating the golden anniversary of the genre, the festival has focused on the impact it’s had on music, popular culture and the world.
Below are some of the remaining events happening this month in Birmingham. For more info, check out wearepunch.co.uk/bassfestival/whats-on/.
Thursday (October 24) – Freddie McGregor: Special Acoustic Performance (at The Jam House)
October 25 – Homelands: Jamaica & BrukOut! A Dancehall Queen Documentary (at Mockingbird cinema)
October 30 – Reggae 100: A discussion on the next 50 years of reggae (at the Afro Caribbean Millennium Centre)
October 31 – Winta James: A Reggae Producer Masterclass (at Access Creative College Birmingham)