During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gramps Morgan released a “healing song”, People Like You. It was in May that he lost two persons who were very close to him, one of whom had succumbed to the coronavirus. That led Gramps to go in a friend’s studio in Nashville, Tennessee, and record the song. It has since amassed over one million views and counting on YouTube and thousands of comments from persons who can relate to the sentiments and who have been transformed by the message.
He followed it up with Runaway Bay, which he describes as “a love letter, from me to Jamaica”. Gramps, whose real name is Roy Morgan, is the son of well-known reggae artiste Denroy Morgan, and a member of the Grammy award-winning reggae band, Morgan Heritage. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, but was raised partially in Springfield, Massachusetts. Most of his brothers and sisters are also in the music business, and so too is his son, Jemere.
What influenced the song ‘People Like You’?
My Uncle David died from coronavirus, and the same day of the funeral I woke up to the news that [producer] Bobby Digital died. Bobby Digital was instrumental in the career of Morgan Heritage. We were doing music before, but when we met him, our music changed, our life changed.
How did country music become such a big part of this song?
When you think of it, country music is Jamaican music. When rice and peas a cook on a Sunday wi parents and grandparents a listen to some Kenny Rogers or other country singers. Actually, I met a country singer from Scotland, Johnny Reid, while in Nashville and he said he had just opened a studio and he invited me over. I have been doing some work with him and there is more to come.
Are you surprised at the response to ‘People Like You’?
A song like this comes around every 10 or 20 years. The last time I had a song like this was 23rd Psalm, the collab with Buju Banton. I sent People Like You to Irish and Chin, who do a lot of hardcore dancehall just to listen to it for feedback, and he sent back immediately and said he wanted to premiere it. A lot of people identify with it and say it is the right song for the right time.
What are you working on currently?
My new song Runaway Bay was recently released, and we plan to release an acoustic version to make people realize that it is really a love letter to comfort all the people who want to come home to Jamaica now, but can’t. What I would love to see is a lot more singing songs in reggae music so [I] want to help to invigorate that element of the music.
Any lessons learnt from the pandemic?
I decided that as a man I cannot enter the pandemic and exit the same way. I needed to be a better person, a better father, a better song-writer, a better musician. This pandemic has made me realise that we all can do well with less. Happiness is going to buy an ice-cream cone with your kids; spending quality time with your older kids who you weren’t there for because of touring. I want to tell my colleagues to find a way to enjoy your family during this time. And I pray that everyone stays safe.