As a girl, Barbara grew up in the church and adhered to the Christian faith, but as she grew older she found herself straying further away from it, particularly after she moved to Kingston, where she encountered many disillusioned churchgoers who believed that 'every parson a pirate'. This was due to those few 'bad apples among the clergy who considered the offerings on the collection plate as a gratuity.
Such hypocrisy led to confusion amongst congregations as these same pretenders called Reggae the devil's music and decreed that these fashionable sounds were not welcome in church. Fortunately attitudes have moved on since then: as Max Romeo so eloquently put it, 'Now the Christians are using Reggae as their base music to get their religious message across. It came a long way from being an instrument or tool of the Devil to a stairway to Heaven.' In fact even Dancehall is reaching out to the people with the Main Street Crew promoting several gospel Ragga stars, such as the suitably named Prodigal Son and Mr Goddy Goddy, who have found their way back home
Young Barbara made the transition from sacred music to Reggae in the early seventies. Her talent soon resulted in international acclaim and by 1972 she released her debut album 'Sad Movies', named after her first hit single. Barbara's revival of Country singer Sue Thompson's 1961 smash, which was released on the Bullet label and backed with the wicked 'Movies Version' by Sir Harry. The LP was re-released in 1980 with bonus tracks; luckily our compiler has managed to locate the masters to 'This Love Makes Me Happy' (aka 'Cherish This Love'), alongside, 'Someone Who Cares', 'Please Release Me' and 'Don't Turn Your Back On Me', all of which were released in 1974.
In that same year a number of her singles surfaced on Trojan's Attack subsidiary: 'Changing Partners', 'Walk Through This World (With Me)' and the classic 'Slim Boy'. These tracks were later compiled and licensed by the producer Alvin Ranglin to Trojan in 1976 for the release of 'The Best Of Barbara Jones' (TRLS 136). The album was later re-released on the producer's own Camberwell based GG label in Britain, which included tracks such as the appalling 'How Much Is That Doggie In The Window' and the much better 'Watching You Grow' and 'Oh What A Night' as well as the abovementioned 'Please Release Me'. Also included was the wonderful 'I Can't Help It Darling', which can be found on the excellent 'Trojan Reggae Sisters Boxed Set' (TJETD 073) alongside the perennial 'Walk Through This World' and that classic from 1975, 'Come And Get Yourself Some'.
In the second half of the seventies, Barbara released 'Young Love' with DJ Trinity inna discomix style at the height of the twelve-inch phenomenon. The song first appeared as a GG Hitbound seven-incher before relishing a revival on its re-release. Following this was the heartening 'Have A Good Time', which proved another Jamaican favourite. In response to her hits, much of her work was compiled on the album, 'For Your Ears Only' that was basically a reworking of the previously mentioned tracks from the early sessions. Another significant release from this period was her mid-seventies rendition of Barbie Gaye's 'My Boy Lollipop', notable as the international chartbuster that introduced both Millie Small and Ska to the world. In 1978, Barbara maintained her high profile when she recorded a version of 'Hey Jude' as well as the powerful 'Who Feels It Knows It', both released on Alvin's GG label. The producer also issued another album, 'Don't Stop Loving Me' which included 'The Kiss' and 'Personal Belongings', as well as our featured hit 'Dream, Dream, Dream', a song first made popular in 1958 by the Everly Brothers as 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'.
In 1980, Alvin's faith in Barbara's vocal style came to fruition as she scored a huge hit with her cover of Randy Vanwarmer's 'Just When I Needed You Most'. Barbara's interpretation was licensed to A Side Records, a subsidiary of Westbourne Grove-based good guys, Sonet Records; through Sonet's backing, the disc entered the British Pop charts. In fact, so keen were Sonet to satisfy growing demand for the record that its initial UK 'release' consisted of imported GG's copies with Sonet LP label blanks stuck on them. Press officer, Sandy Sneddon recalled staying up most of the night laboriously typing the titles on these labels and gluing them over the GG's pre's; he had aching fingers for weeks, but his efforts helped to make it a Top 40 hit.
Entering the Pop charts in January 1981, the record reached no. 31 in a seven-week chart run. Her success led to an appearance on the BBC's 'Top Of The Pops', which resulted in a massive European hit - and, though the record sold more copies that week than it had done the week before, it actually moved down the charts! It was around this time that Barbara recorded 'Tear Drops', 'True Believer In Love', 'Why Birds Fly', and 'Will It Last Forever', the last of which was also the title of one her many GG-released albums.
A year later Barbara recorded the sublime 'You And I' as well as an exceptional medley of Bob Marley hits incorporating 'Small Axe', 'Nice Time' and 'One Love'. The medley subsequently appeared on the Trojan series of accolades to the gong, 'Tribute To Bob Marley Volume Four' (CDTRL 428) along with a superb dub version.
Since her debut in the Reggae charts Barbara has released thirteen secular albums and walked away with numerous awards. An unprecedented achievement came when she won the 'International Female Artiste Of The Year' in consecutive years, 1983 and 1984. During this time she scored a succession of hits outside Jamaica with 'Angel Of The Morning', 'The First Cut Is The Deepest', 'Single Girl' and 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow'. These hits were compiled on the suitably titled album, 'Sings Songs Inna Reggae Stylee' that maintained her popularity with the so-called 'big people' audience. Elon J. Robinson produced the set for the Top Ranking organisation, ably assisted by the celebrated saxophone player Dean Frazer. Following her work with Top Ranking, Barbara's next sessions were recorded with Willie Lindo at Dynamic where she voiced an excellent version of 'You Were Always On My Mind', which we are pleased to feature on this set.
While performing big people music, the singer also worked alongside Linval Thompson, noted for his Dancehall performances and productions. However, while a stylistic departure for the lady, the combination proved particularly fruitful with hits such as 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go', 'Ebony Eyes' and a wicked combination with the mysterious Barker B they on a revival of Joya Landis' Rocksteady favourite, 'Moonlight Lover'.
The fame and success for Barbara did not end there, as her 1985 release 'Dream Lover' won her the 'Top Female International Reggae Artiste of the Year' at the Canadian Reggae Awards. This was followed by the album, 'Need To Belong', which was an indication of the direction she was taking in her music and in her personal life. By 1989, Barbara was on a soul-searching mission to find new purpose in life. In an interview with the Jamaican Daily Gleaner, she explained. 'People always encouraged me that if I sang gospel I would feel so much better.' She also stated that she was initially hesitant, 'Because I hadn't committed my life fully to the Lord.'
Two years later, she hesitated no longer: on Good Friday 1991 she pledged her allegiance to God and went down to the river where she was baptised. 'It wasn't difficult for me to fit in, because the foundation was already laid by my grandmother who I grew up with', she explained. According to Barbara, growing up with her grandmother in Porus, Manchester, had given her the right start in life, as she was taken to Sunday School from an early age where she learnt of Christ's teachings. As she said in that Gleaner interview, 'I think it is important for parents to bring their children to Sunday school, for example, because in my case no matter how far I stray, I will always come back to my foundation.' While a successful singer, she felt that her faith in God had not failed her.
To date she has released three Gospel albums that commenced with the favoured 'Jesus Is Calling' produced by Lloyd Campbell. The collection was initially released in the USA through America's leading Reggae label, VP, which was set up by the late Vincent Chin of Randy's fame. The sessions were recorded at Willie Lindo's Heavy Beat studio and included a guest appearance on the Dancehall version of 'Leaning On Jesus' from the Raggamuffin DJ, Harry Toddler, best remembered for his hit 'Bad Man Nah Dress Like Gal'. Disregarding the criticism of his involvement and that song, Barbara summed up the album as 'Caribbean-flavoured with the sound of drums and bass, mixed with a little Soca, Reggae and slow-type hymns'. Something for everyone, then! Its success led to other Gospel flavas, including 'Let It Be' on the album 'Caribbean Gospel Book One' and her own 'Thank You Lord For Your Blessings', alongside 'So Much To Thank Him For', which were produced by Silver Lining Promotions.
While appeasing her Gospel fan base, the Rhino label satisfied her Reggae supporters when they released the favoured 'My Love', titled after her version of another Millie favourite, 'My Love And I'. Also included were other hits from 1980, such as our featured track 'Ooh Wee (Baby I Love You)' and 'I Really Want To Know'.
By this time, Barbara enjoyed a significant following in Toronto where she promoted her Gospel albums and, more importantly, her faith. Through her popularity in Canada she performed alongside Winston Dias and Dobby Dobson at another Canadian Reggae Awards ceremony and although she might not have won any prizes, she certainly won the hearts of her fans by putting on a scintillating performance. Barbara received a lengthy ovation from the gathering and, with support from Dobson along with Johnny Clarke and Half Pint, made it a night to remember.
She also appeared at the disastrous 2001 'Tamika Reggae Awards', together with Square One's celebrated Soca queen Allison Hinds, alongside Ce'Cile, Half Pint, Junior Kelly and Madd Anju. Sadly the event was marred by poor organisation, owing to lateness and curfews, but in spite of the problems, Barbara's performance was highly commended. The singer was nominated alongside Papa San, Lieutenant Stitchie and Claudelle Clarke who were all runners up to Carlene Davis in the 'Gospel Artist Of The Year' category. It was around this time that there seemed to be a Reggae Gospel music explosion, which brought the Reggae world albums such as 'Yow! Reggae Gospel' and 'Dancehall Baptism', which revived interest in Barbara's top selling, 'Jesus Is Calling.'
In 2003, at the third 'Hopeton Lewis Caribbean Gospel Awards', Barbara was nominated twice for 'Thank You Lord For Your Blessings' in the Best Album and Gospel Song category, although on both occasions the Grace Thrillers secured victory. While recently this kudos may have eluded her, Barbara has accomplished a great deal both spiritually and commercially, proving that longevity is a far more accurate indicator of true talent.