Cindy Breakspeare Interview with Roger Steffens (Miami-LA phoner)
27 November 1993
Roger Steffens: May I ask your birthdate?
Cindy Breakspeare: The 24th of October, 1954.
RS: In Kingston?
CB: No, I was born in Toronto, Canada.
RS: Were your parents Canadian?
CB: No, Canadian mother, Jamaican father.
RS: So when did you actually move down to Jamaica?
CB: When I was four.
RS: So you don't really remember Canada.
CB: No, I don't and I think of myself as a Jamaican, believe me!
RS: Did you grow in Kingston?
CB: Yes, I did.
RS: And like myself and some of the absolute best of the early
musicians in Jamaica, you too are a victim of Catholic education.
CB: Oh, yes! I had many years at Immaculate Conception. I boarded
there. From the ages of seven to eleven I had four years in
boarding school, and then I finished my education there, so plenty
RS: How did that affect you later on?
CB: Well, I think that I got an overdose of religion to be honest
with you, cuz it's not something I find that I gravitate towards
now. In those days those institutions were very very strict. I
think they might be a bit more open-minded today. But I found that
there was just such a long list of do's and don't's, you know, that
I think I kind of had enough of that for this lifetime.
RS: Was there a lot of preaching of hellfire and damnation?
CB: Oh, for sure, because I wasn't Roman Catholic when I went
there, I was Protestant, or whatever.
RS: But you still had to take the religion courses?
CB: Well, you didn't have to, but you felt like you had to or you
were going to burn in hell, you know. And at the age of seven that
was a fairly uncomfortable feeling. It think it's a little bit
unfair to foist all of that on such a young child who really can't
sort their thoughts out at that age.
RS: Were your parents Protestant?
RS: The education that we got in those days said that Protestants
were going to go to Hell.
CB: Everybody else besides Roman Catholics were going to go to
Hell. But, I mean, let's be fair here. Roman Catholics are not the
only ones who are so sort of unbending. Many religions are guilty
of that and they feel their way is the right way and the only way.
So I find that that's an outlook that really pervades religion in
general and that's what I don't care for in religion.
RS: Well tell me about your early musical experiences.
CB: Early musical experiences: Beatles, Byrds, all that stuff. My
brother used to buy all the records in those days.
RS: Is that the man they call Reds?
CB: Yes, yes. Rolling Stones "Hey, Sister Morphine." We used to
listen to a whole lot of North American [music], not a lot of
reggae then, although I do remember "My Boy Lollipop" and "Sweet
William" and all that, and the ska. Of course we could do all of
those dances back then. But I think I must have been about 17 when
I heard Bob for the first time, and I think that was when I really
fell in love with reggae like so many other people.
RS: So that was just about "Catch A Fire" time.
CB: That's right. I just couldn't take the album off the turntable.
And we went between that and Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On."
RS: One of the great records of all time.
RS: And an album directly influenced by reggae music.
CB: Well, I just bought it on CD the other day. I mean it's
something I have to have in my collection.
RS: It still holds up doesn't it?
CB: Oh, for sure.
RS: Now Marvin Gaye actually played in Jamaica. Did you ever see
CB: Yes I did at Carib. Wonderful artist. So much soul, and so much
emotion. Like Bob back then, seeing a lot of things that are even
more relevent today.
RS: Did you ever see Bob perform before you ever really got to know
CB: Yeah, sure. At the Carib too. He played with Marvin I think
RS: He did, I think that was 73.
CB: Yes. I did.
RS: Were you ever at any yard dances when you were a little girl,
or were those places that you were not supposed to go?
CB: No, those were places I wasn't supposed to go.
RS: No sound system stuff?
CB: No, um um. But I always kind of had a rebellious nature and I
left home early. I mean I moved out on my own with my brother and
a friend really early, so I was able to make my choices, you know.
RS: How did you get away with getting out of the house that early?
CB: Well, my parents divorced when I was about seven, and both
remarried, and so things were sort of very up in the air.
RS: Did you live between them?
CB: Yes, and so you find that you just basically were on your own
from a very early age, and even though I ended up living with my
mother up until I was about 17, she just informed us one day that
it was time for us to find our own digs and make our way in life.
RS: And that's how you and [your brother] Stephen ended up at 56
CB: Well, yes, that's how we got there eventually. I mean we lived
somewhere else before, but, yeah, that was basically it. And I mean
I didn't have a problem with it, I was quite happy to get on with
RS: What did you do for money then?
CB: I worked! I did a multitude of different things. I sold
jewelry, I sold furniture, I worked at the front desk of the
Sheraton (what is now the Wyndham), I ran a restaurant, I ran a
night club. Whatever came along that looked exciting, I did it.
RS: Cindy, has it ever struck you as strange that so many major
figures in Bob's life share your initials.
RS: Carly Barrett, Cedella Booker, Chris Blackwell, Cindy
CB: Okay! I never thought of that! That is amazing. That is very,
RS: As I was preparing for the interview, it suddenly dawned on me
CB: Very interesting observation. Wicked.
RS: We'll file that away for whatever it's worth.
CB: You know what I mean. But these are the little things you have
to look at.
RS: Do you play any instruments?
CB: No. I wish I did. Lord, I wish I did.
RS: Have you always sung?
CB: In my heart, yes.
RS: But not in church choirs or anything like that?
CB: No, I did at school in glee club. And I used to sing for my
girl friends, when they used to ask me to sing, and they used to
love it I must confess.
RS: So you've always had a good voice.
CB: I guess. I always had the deep desire to do it.
RS: In that wonderful interview that you did with Malika Lee
Whitney in her book, she asks about your plans for the future - any
void in your life, and you say, "I have one or two secret ambitions
that I will not disclose at this particular time."
CB: (surprised) Did I say that?
RS: Yeah. Now I suspect that one of those must have been to sing.
CB: Oh definitely, definitely.
RS: So even like twelve years ago you were thinking of that.
CB: Yes I was.
RS: So what took you so long?
CB: You know I was just thinking about that the other day myself,
and I think it's basically a combination of two things. I think
that the desire to do it overcame the fear of doing it because it
hasn't been easy for me in Jamaica as you can imagine with so much
to live up to, and you're seen as one more beauty queen who thinks
that she can capitalize on something like that and it takes a long
time for people to take you seriously. It takes a long time for the
music fraternity to take you seriously. They're the toughest nut to
crack. And just the exploring of it, and trying to find your style
and your whole self within that genre, it takes time, and it's very
RS: Did you have a mentor along the way who helped you?
RS: Lately, now that you are actually beginning to release records,
who was responsible for that do you think?
CB: I wouldn't say any one person. I have some very close friends,
and I have some really close fellow musicians, people who encourage
me, and people who have acted in management capacity at one time or
another, just various people involved in the business who encourage
and inspire me and believe that it's something I should do.
RS: How's the record ["Midlife Crisis"] doing?
CB: It's doing well.
RS: Are you getting airplay?
CB: Yes, yes.
RS: I think it's a trip. I like it.
CB: Thank you very much.
RS: I'm 51 and my heart is about 20 years old, so I feel the same
way as your sentiments in that record.
CB: Well that's great, I'm glad that you can identify with it, I
really am. But the other thing that I wanted to say in terms of why
it took me so long to do it - I don't think I had as much to say
before. And that's a big part of what it's all about for me,
because I write a lot. And I'm looking forward to being able to
release many of my songs.
RS: So you have a backlog in your songbook?
CB: Oh, definitely.
RS: Did you write poetry as a girl?
CB: No. But I love to relate and exchange ideas and talk and rap
and I pride myself on being able to express myself and my feeling
about any particular issue. And I love to hear what others have to
say. I love communication. So I guess this is just - and my story
has been told so many times, written, printed -
RS: - by other people -
CB: Yes, that it's nice now for me to be able to tell it in little
rhymes and riddles, you know one can see if one can make sense of
it. It's fun.
RS: So you must be working on an album.
CB: Yes I am.
RS: With whom?
CB: I'm working currently with Rupert Bent, Jr. And I'm working
with Ray Hitchins and Jimmy, formerly of Skool, and Chris Bentley.
RS: What studio?
CB: I work out of CRS mostly, which belongs to the Couches, as you
probably know. Well, Ray has a studio at home, so we've been
working one some stuff there; very nice studio, new, that he just
put in, out in the hills by a river. Lovely. In Gordontown. And
Rupert Bent also has a home studio. You know many people do now, so
you do all your preproduction in there and try and save some money
before. But usually when I'm ready to make things permanent I go
into CRS. And I just did a cover of "My Guy" with Cat Coore and
Dunbar down at mixing lab, so hopefully that will be released in
the new year. It still needs some work, but we're not breaking our
necks, because you know you release anything now it gets lost in
the Christmas times.
RS: How does your husband feel about your musical career?
CB: Well, I think that he's really very cool about it. I think that
it was a big adjustment for the whole family, and he comes from a
pretty conservative background, and I think that maybe everybody
thought I had kind of flipped my lid for awhile, you know. And not
just my family, I mean that probably would for a lot of people. But
if you know me any at all, you know that's the way I do things. I
don't feel it's ever too late, as long as it's what you want.
RS: So he's not going to mind if you go out on tour?
CB: No, I don't think so. Because you know things have a way of
growing and gathering their own momentum, and I worked abroad a few
times this year, and so it's an idea that he's had time to grow
RS: How about a duet with you and Damian?
CB: Yes, we're looking at that right now.
RS: Lyrically, would it be a cross-generational thing, that might
be an interesting hook.
CB: Yes, I think it would have to be somehow. I mean it couldn't be
a love song, obviously.
RS: Well, there's all kinds of love, Cindy.
CB: Well, yes, but I mean not in that romantic kind of thing, you
know. And I don't think you'd want to do the corny mother and son
love song, you know what I mean. So it would have to be more a kind
of attitude/viewpoint, you know the way we look at life, the
generation gap, whatever.
RS: Yeah. In that interview with Malika you said something that
really struck me, that you had learned a lot about how to be a
woman from Bob. Can you be specific in any way.
CB: Well, Bob was not someone that you could really harness his
time or his attention because his life was so demanding and he was
so committed to what he was doing, that you really had to find
yourself or you would become very insecure, very disillusioned,
very distressed. Because the man in your life, as it were, probably
could never be there quite as much as you wanted him to be. So you
really had to look within, and look for your talent, and he was all
for that too. He was very encouraging that way, you know. All
things constructive and creative, and he was very instrumental in
the formation of Ital Craft [her store]. He brought us our first
power tools, he brought us our first materials from London, which
he sent someone out to buy for me. So he really was very
inspirational in my growth and development as an individual, and as
I say just being secure within yourself, and knowing the things you
want to do and going after them and not sitting back and waiting
for anybody to make your life feel important or exciting or
whatever. You had to get it on yourself.
RS: I want to talk a little bit about the songs he wrote for you.
I can think of at least three alleged songs. Obviously "Turn Your
Lights Down Low" which you talked about [with Malika]. Tell me
about him writing that song.
CB: Well, because I used to live on the ground floor there at 
Hope Road, and this was in the very early days of our relationship
before I was really sure if I was going to enter into a
relationship - because I knew from the first time that I ever spoke
with him that at length, that a deep relationship would change my
life permanently. I mean, I knew that.
RS: So are we talking 73, "Catch A Fire" period?
CB: No, we're talking more about 74/75.
RS: "Natty Dread" time?
CB: Yes. And he would go by the door and kind of glance sideways to
see if anybody was around, and attempt to engage me in
conversation, and of course it would always be philosophy and
talking about how you see yourself, how you present yourself as a
woman and all the things you should and shouldn't do, because of
course doctrine was everything then. And he would sit on the steps
out the back of my apartment there with a guitar and sing. I
remember hearing "Turn Your Lights Down Low" just like that. And
wasn't a man of words on a one-to-one basis, you know, not a lot.
And certainly not when he was just getting to know somebody, he was
very shy that way. And gestures were very innocent and very boyish.
He would offer a mango as a gift, or simple little things like
that, which I thought were very charming, especially since I had
been involved with people whose style was quite different. I found
it very disarming. Yeah, that's how I remember hearing "Turn Your
Lights Down Low."
RS: So it was a couple of years before it was released.
CB: Yeah. And I remember him saying when that album came out with
all the love songs on it, that he was being criticized for it so
much, cuz everybody was saying that he had gotten soft.
RS: Yeah, that was "Kaya."
RS: But that's a beautiful record!
CB: I know, of course it is.
RS: Do you feel that "Waiting in Vain" was written about you?
CB: I don't know what to say. I mean, I would love to, why not?
RS: Was it really three years he was "waiting on your line"?
CB: (laughs) Well, it took a while. Not three years, but it took a
while. But I can say that when that record came out, that was
certainly one of the finer times in our relationship. Cuz you know
relationships do go through changes and stresses and strains, and
you have times when you're closer and times when you're not so
RS: Especially with all the separations in your professional lives.
CB: That's right, and all the pressures that were being brought to
bear. But definitely. I mean, when I think of it, when we were in
England together on Oakley Street after the shooting attempt and
all of that, when I was actually Miss World, those were some very
very close days, very very very close.
RS: Do you have any idea when Bob started to write "Waiting in
RS: Because there's that tape that I sent you of the rehearsal in
London where he's rehearsing it with Sons of Jah...his voice is
real hoarse and he's reaching for these high notes that he can't
get to, and it cracks. Kind of like Joe Cocker on the end of "You
Are So Beautiful." Because he can't make it, but the soul is there,
it's just heartbreakingly beautiful music. And that seems to date
from the early part of 1977 after the shooting. So let me see if I
can get a little bit of chronology here. Do you recall exactly when
you moved into 56 Hope Road, Cindy?
CB: Well, let me see now. It would have been for the first time
when I was 17, so 1971. And then I moved away for maybe six months
or a year, and then I moved back there a second time, which would
have been I'd say 75. What was the first year?
RS: 71, and how long did you stay the first time?
CB: I guess a couple of years.
RS: Still 73, and then you were away for a year, then you would
have come back around 75.
CB: And I moved back there in about 75.
RS: And at that point, had Bob bought the house yet from Chris
CB: No, he was just about to get into that, but he was there all
the time, and he was basically living upstairs and what have you.
RS: So the first time you lived there, it was almost like a commune
RS: Who else was in the house the first period?
CB: Well, it was an office for Island Records who were on the side.
And I'm trying to think now, my God, who lived upstairs? Did
anybody live upstairs? I know Judy Ann McMillan lived there for a
time. I can't remember now, Roger.
RS: But the second time, now, back around 75, it had a whole
CB: We were the only outsiders who lived there. Nobody else was
living there at that time, because Dickie [Jobson] had cleared it
out on the basis that he wanted to make the whole place kind of
commercial, and he never went through with it, and we begged him to
let us have the apartment back, cuz we liked being there so much,
and he agreed. So we hastily moved back in.
RS: But Bob was around all that time, wasn't he?
CB: Oh yes, he lived upstairs, him and all his crew, and he was
around all the time then.
RS: So you were hearing music constantly.
RS: Are there any songs from that period that have not been
released that you remember hearing?
RS: Well, I'm thinking of one a little later that I've been told by
[Bob's cook] Gilly Bob wrote about you, called "She Used To Call Me
RS: Do you know the song?
RS: It's an out-take from "Survival" which would have been recorded
in 1979, and it's charming. Let me see if I remember some of the
words: "My woman she loves me with all of her heart/swear by some
powers we will never part/since she's left she's acting
strange/nothing remains the same, everything has changed/she used
to call me dada." And then there's a chorus about "she's working
down downtown somewhere as a clerk/I know she has lots of
potential/but I heard, heard she's gone commercial/She used to call
CB: (laughs) That's amazing!
RS: So I guess 79 was after you had broken off romantically with
CB: Well, actually that never happened until he fell ill. The
summer that he fell ill, I moved away from Russell Heights.
RS: Russell Heights was what?
CB: The home he bought for me.
RS: Oh, I see, and was that near Kingston.
CB: It was in Kingston, Barbican area.
RS: Do you still have that place?
CB: No, I sold it. And to be honest with you, it was never really
an official situation where I said, "Look, it's over," or he said,
"Look, it's over." It was just more or less a situation where
gone up to Miami to prepare to go out on tour, and I decided I
wanted to move away from Russell Heights, because it was just too
much of a scene, you know. I felt like I needed some space. So I
found a small place in the hills that was just big enough for
Damien and I and told everybody else they needed to find their own
yard. And when he called me and asked me to come up to Miami and
spend some time before the tour began, and I sort of said, "Well,
what's the scene there?" and he described it to me, and I said,
"No, I don't think I can penetrate that scene again. If you want to
come back down here and we do something..." Some quality time was
what I was looking at. But, of course, you know, when I heard the
news that something was seriously wrong, you know, you drop
everything and you go.
RS: Let's take it back to just a little bit to the 75/76 period. By
76 he had become a huge star, and the Smile Jamaica Concert was
planned. It seems that he was kind of coopted into doing that. Did
you go to that show?
CB: No, I was away.
RS: You were away when he was shot, you were out of country?
CB: I was in England. I had just been crowned Miss World.
RS: Oh, boy. When was the crowning? Do you remember the date?
CB: I think it was the llth of November.
RS: Ah. So right before the shooting!
CB: Yeah, cuz I was supposed to do some work that night, and I
flatly refused. And Julian Marley was in a fit. And what are the
newspapers going to say? Because once the news of our relationship
hit the newspaper, I mean it was just amazing. Some of the front
page newspapers: "Miss World and Her Wild Man" and all that stuff.
They really went wild over it, let me tell you. So you know there
was a lot of talk about it. So for me now not to turn up for things
I had been booked to do at the very time that he had been shot, and
it was just a big drama.
RS: That must have been so hard on you.
CB: Yeah, it was actually, because you know I really was concerned
and I couldn't make contact and it was rough, yes. We went to
Nassau for Christmas that year.
RS: Now he went to Nassau the day after the Smile Jamaica Concert.
How long do you remember him staying there before he left Nassau.
CB: Ah, boy, I don't know. New Year? It was just about the new
RS: So most of the month of December he was there?
CB: I guess so, he was there for a little while.
RS: Was that at Compass Point?
CB: Kind of, yeah. Yes.
RS: Now what was Oakley Street?
CB: Oakley Street was where everybody lived for the time that he
spent after he left Nassau and he went to England.
RS: So he probably went there, you think, in January of 77.
RS: How long was he there to your knowledge?
CB: For about a year I'd say, because he never went home finally
until about what, March of the following year?
RS: It was February of 1978. He came back two months before the One
CB: Yeah, because I came home just before him, I guess a matter of
days I came home.
RS: So his base of operations I guess basically throughout 77 was
RS: What part of London was that?
CB: Oh God, very central. Right in the middle of it. Very central.
RS: How did he react to the shooting, Cindy?
CB: I think he was very hurt that anybody would want to do that to
him. And I just don't think he could see any reason why they should
want to, you know what I mean?
CB: What was he doing to hurt anyone? What was he doing that was
bad for the people or for Jamaica, or why would anybody want to do
something like that to him? He who had devoted his entire life to
championing the people's cause, as it were. I think he was really
very hurt about that too.
RS: So you actually were resting with him in Oakley Street for that
RS: Do you feel the shooting was political? I don't want you to say
something that you don't want to say -
CB: I know, and you know, because my life is now so political as
well it's hard to say. Just one of those situations where you don't
know. There's so many other stories that went down at the same
time, involving other people that were there who were mixed up in
all kind of underhanded dealings.
RS: Say no more.
CB: You know what I'm saying?
RS: Oh yes.
CB: You just don't know exactly what to believe and I just cannot -
I feel that PNP or JLP, Bob was so loved. He was so loved, you
know! But, I guess it's also true to say of Jamaica's politics that
whoever is in power in any given time, anybody who does anything
during their administration is seen largely to be a supporter of
that administration, or of that party. And so there will always be
those on the other side who feel like you should not do that. You
never know whose wrath you are going to incur at any given time.
It's really sad.
RS: Tell me a little more about Oakley Street. Were the band
CB: Yeah, everybody. It was like a three-four storey.
RS: And the I Threes, were they through there?
RS: So Rita wasn't around.
CB: No, she didn't stay there at all.
RS: What was the scene like. Describe a typical day. What time
would Bob get up, because he stayed up very late as I recall.
CB: Well, I don't know, maybe sort of nineish he begin to move
around. It very much depended on what the agenda was for the day.
RS: And would Gilly be there cooking?
CB: Yes, Gilly would cook.
RS: What would Bob eat for breakfast typically?
CB: Porridge. He loved his porridge.
RS: Cornmeal porridge?
CB: And kind of porridge. And he loved his hot Irish Moss, and
linseed with nutmeg and vanilla and what have you in it. I used to
bring it for him everytime I went to Jamaica. I would arrive with
this damn brown paper bag full of seaweed, Customs digging down my
bag. (laughs) Roots, all these things you had to bring whenever you
RS: Then after breakfast what would he do?
CB: Sit around with the bredren and reason. A lot of that went on.
RS: Bible reading?
CB: Talk, philosophize. Yeah, refer to the Bible if necessary you
know, for a few hours. Or perhaps a rehearsal if there was a gig.
But I mean life just centered around music. Or go out and play some
football. You know, it was the same thing that went on everywhere.
RS: So he wasn't out nightclubbing.
CB: No no no no. Uh uh.
RS: He wasn't wasting his time.
CB: No sir. I mean that is something that he would do once in a
while. Once - I think the most nightclub Bob saw in those days is
when he used to come up to Dizzy to see me, when I used to work
RS: At what place?
RS: Is that in Jamaica?
CB: Um hmm. A nightclub in Kingston.
RS: And is that the one you managed?
CB: Um hmm.
RS: I see. Did the word get out eventually, like around the spring
of 77, that Bob was in London, and did a lot of people try to come
and see him?
CB: Oh yes. A lot of people
RS: Was he open to them?
CB: Yes, you know, he never ever turned people away. Never.
RS: Do you feel that that constant clamor for his attention helped
lead to his early death?
CB: Yes I do. I don't know what kind of life he would have, if he
were alive today. I don't know where we would put him, because he
was just so pressured by people everywhere he went. I mean he would
have to have - like in 77 before he came home - he'd have to have
an apartment on the third floor for himself and myself to have some
privacy, and then he'd have one on the floor below where everybody
would bundle up all day, because they were just drawn like moths to
a flame, they couldn't stay away.
RS: And that was the brightest light we've seen.
CB: I'm telling you.
RS: I have heard various reports of Bob's generosity over the years
and several people have told me about lines of people coming to
Tuff Gong to beg various things off Bob. And a few people have
said, "No, that never happened." What's your experience with that?
CB: No, sir, people begged him things every day. Every day! Whether
it was money -
RS: Did he usually react positively?
CB: Yes, he gave whatever to whoever. And I don't know that he was
- let me see how I can put this. He didn't prize material things,
you know. And he didn't prize money. And he would always just say
it was just passing through, so it really wasn't that important. I
mean you know Bob well enough to know that he always dressed in a
way that looked like he didn't have two cents to rub together. He
loved his jeans. They were the only thing he cared about. One shoe
laced up, the other one open. One tongue hanging out. One sock up,
RS: Rude boy!
CB: Yeah! And that was really, too, part of the essence of Bob,
that he was so unaffected. I mean, people would give him gold
chains, he'd have them on. Somebody would pop them off his neck in
a football match, he didn't even know when it left his neck. Two
days later he'd be looking in the mirror, he'd say, "Rahtid, weh me
chain?" He really didn't care for what money could buy.
RS: Do you think he gave most of his money away?
CB: Well, he gave a lot of money away. I mean he had money still
when it was all over, but he gave a lot of money away. He gave his
dinner away. He gave whatever, whatever it was that people required
of him, he gave it, cuz I think he felt that that was part of his
role in life - was to do for others and to give to others, and I
think he felt very blessed because of the level of inspiration and
the work that he had been called to do, and I think he just knew
that selfishness - selfishness just wasn't his way. He allowed
people to take full advantage of him. Full advantage.
RS: There are people in Delaware, Ibis and Jenny Pitts, and their
friend Dion, who knew Bob in 69 when he and Rita came up in the
summer to stay with his mother. And they have told me that Bob
said, in 1969, that he was going to die at the age of 36.
CB: You lie!
RS: And I actually have Mrs. Booker on video here at my house
telling that story...Did Bob ever say anything to you like that?
RS: Did he ever talk about death?
RS: No, I mean that's not a Rastafarian topic.
CB: No, it's not, he talked about life.
RS: So you must have seen some of the 77 tour shows in Europe?
CB: You know, I didn't because I was so busy myself.
RS: You didn't see the Rainbow shows?
CB: Yes, in London. Yeah. I did go to one or two. But to be honest
with you, you know, I'm going to tell you something funny. Those
were not the times when I enjoyed Bob musically. I used to enjoy
him when he was just writing songs and they were just coming
together and he'd be sitting in a room with a guitar and somebody
else would pick up a pack of matches and somebody else would pick
up something and start to knock the dresser and somebody else would
start to hit the bottle in their hand with their ring and music
would just come together and happen. And those to me were the
moments that were special.
RS: Did you ever run any tape at those times?
RS: But alot of the people around him did.
CB: No, he didn't like it.
RS: But after a while he did that to have a record of what he was
CB: Well, Neville [Garrick] was always there to record lyrics, that
was his designated task. And then when the music came together
sufficiently it would have been taped. But he didn't care for any
arbitrary person just taping. He didn't care for that at all, which
is common amongst musicians. They feel their ideas would be stolen
or whatever, and you don't want it out there until it sounds like
something. But you didn't just arrive in his place and start to
tape. I mean, I'm sure he wouldn't have minded if I had, but I
never did. You know it's funny because I just enjoyed it so much,
and lived each day, and never thought about chronicling things and
recording them, you know.
RS: I think all of us thought he was going to be around forever.
CB: Can you imagine?
RS: You know, the two weeks I spent travelling through California
with him in 79, I carried a bag of my records around with him,
hoping to find about a ten minute spot where he wasn't beseiged all
the time, and ask him to sign them for me. And at the end of the
two weeks, he had given me almost total access to everything he did
in those two weeks, and at the end of those two weeks I still
couldn't find the ten minutes alone with him to sign them. And I
said, well, I'll see him next year. But that was the last time I
ever saw him.
CB: Very very hard. And actually we were lucky in that we did have
a lot of time in Oakley Street for some reason. I guess because we
were both based there and we would come and go. You know I can
remember cooking liver at three in the morning.
RS: But not for Bob?
CB: Mmm hmmm.
RS: Now that's kind of surprising.
CB: Ummm hmmm. Now and then. Now and then he would have a bit of
calf liver. Because it's good for you. It has a lot of vitamin B in
it, a lot of pregnant women who are vegetarians become anemic and
they are told to take desicated liver pills, so why not sit down
and eat a nice piece of liver? So ridiculous to be extreme about
RS: So he wasn't dogmatic.
CB: Not to that. Um Um.
CB: Well, the foot was just a simple case of stubbornness where he
would not give it time to heal. I remember all the time we were
there at Oakley street he was soaking it in various solutions, and
applying ointments, all of which were supposed to help it to heal.
And it was coming on okay, and then I think he went to Paris and
played a football match there, and somebody stepped on it with the
damn football spikes.
RS: In fact, when I was in Paris in June ['93] I found the picture
of the guy stepping on Bob's foot.
CB: You lie!
RS: Yeah, mon. The actual moment the guy stepped on Bob's foot.
CB: Well, that just set it off again, and I think it's just purely
and simply a case of the cells not getting a chance to heal, you
know. And of course as we all know now, melanoma is just a really
unpredictable form of cancer. And although it's a skin cancer you
never know what it's going to do.
RS: What did the doctors say in, I guess it was June '77 when they
diagnosed the melanoma?
CB: They said they wanted to remove the toe.
RS: They wanted to take the toe. Was there to you knowledge any
talk or suggestion that he have his foot amputated?
CB: No. I remember hearing about the toe. But that was vetoed,
because you know that's very important for the balance - is your
big toe. So they decided to go with a graft. And I mean that healed
beautifully. It healed really really beautifully, and he used to
take good care of it and everything. It really healed well and he
wouldn't allow it to get injured in any way. The skin over it of
course was very tender, having been taken from the leg, the upper
thigh area. So it wasn't quite like the skin that would be on the
toe. It was softer.
RS: It wasn't hardened or calloused.
CB: No, it wasn't. So one needed to be careful, what shoes you wore
and everything, so nothing irritated it and rubbed on it too much,
but it healed beautifully.
RS: So that was the second half of 77. And were you with him
throughout that period then?
CB: Um hmm.
RS: What did he do? I mean, he couldn't do the rest of his tour. He
had to cancel what was going to be the biggest reggae tour in
history. How did he spend his time.
CB: Well, you know, just doing all the other things. Writing music,
reasoning with people. And he went home to Miami for a while there.
The second time around when they did it, spent a lot of time there
with his mother just relaxing, resting alot, which I think he
needed to do anyway, you know. That was a very restful time for
him. Working out on his weight machine out by the pool and stuff
like that. Just find different ways of amusing youself.
RS: Were you there when Bucky Marshall and Claudie Massop showed up
CB: No. I don't remember seeing them.
RS: That's when they invited him back to play at the One Love Peace
Concert. Did you go to that concert?
CB: Yes, I did.
RS: Tell me what you remember about that incredible event.
CB: That was an amazing night. I think I was pretty pregnant then.
RS: With Damian?
CB: Um hmmm. And I was sitting with his mother.
RS: In the crowd outside?
RS: Yeah. Up near to the front. It was just incredible. I mean the
whole place was packed as you can well imagine, and the air was
just so charged. It was just one of those nights that happens every
twenty or thirty years. You know, the sky was dark. It was a vibes.
Everything was just vibes. You could feel it. You knew it was going
to be a historical night. And then of course when he finally got
[Opposition Leader] Eddie [Seaga] and [Prime Minister] Michael
[Manley] up there to hold hands like that, I mean it was
RS: The following year, in November of 79, I arranged for him to
see the film of the One Love Peace Concert for the first time he
had seen it. And after we looked at that moment with Seaga and
Manley, he was asked what was going through his mind at that point,
and he said, "I man no politician, but if I man a politician, only
one thing for me to do at that moment - kill them both."
CB: Ohhhh!! I'm telling you. That's what you call a fresh start,
you know what I mean.
RS: Damn them all.
CB: I'm telling you.
RS: Because I think he had felt very betrayed by Manley.
RS: Because you are as well aware as I that he campaigned for
Manley in 71 on the Caravan, and by the mid-70s he was denying that
he had ever supported Manley. And there was ample evidence that he
CB: Yes, because the nature of politics in Jamaica has just gotten
to the point where you really could ill afford to support anybody.
And I think that somebody like Bob would have been disillusioned
with politics by then anyway, coming from either side. So I don't
think that he would have even wanted to support anybody. He just
wanted to see things go right for the people. By then that's what
it was about.
RS: Do you think that if had lived he might conceivably have become
a political figure?
CB: Well - I don't know. I think that in a strange sort of way, he
RS: Oh, absolutely.
CB: I don't know if he would have wanted to get any deeper into
that image or that mode, but I think that he certainly would have
continued to play a very very instrumental role in changing the
face of Jamaica and motivating people. But I think to get very
political might have been dangerous, you know.
RS: Sure, sure. Even more so.
RS: He really believe that the future lay in Africa. Did he talk to
you about that, about repatriating himself and his company to
CB: Not a lot. I mean, he might have thought that it would have
been difficult for me to get into because I don't really feel that
way about anywhere, I just see myself as a citizen of the world.
RS: Oh, yeah. He was a future person
RS: '78/'79 - what were your dealings with Bob in those years? Was
he around when Damian was born?
(tape end side A - several minutes cut)
[talk continues about the illness in '80]
RS: Cuz it's hard to talk about that period.
CB: Oh, God, it was so sad.
RS: So it was like the middle of October when the locks were
trimmed. And it was you and Rita and Jennifer and maybe Yvet
[Chrichton] who were there. What was Bob's attitude toward the
illness at point in mid-October 80.
CB: Well, I think he was trying to be strong for all of us. But I
think he probably realized you know, that it was the beginning of
the end. He tried to maintain his sense of humor. I think it was
really hard at that time. He didn't rest well at night. I don't
think he was in any great amount of pain. I think it was the mental
anxiety, what to do, where to go, who to turn to, what's the road
to take. Rita and I personally felt that Mexico would have been a
better place, because we felt the climate and the culture, he just
would have been more comfortable there. I mean in Germany you
couldn't even walk outside without boots up to your knees. Snow and
cold, and you know we are tropical people. All those things affect
you. They affect your whole head space. So we really would have
preferred that. And if it was left to me and me alone, I would have
said St. Anne's. With lots of organically grown vegetables, tea, a
good rest and just deal with a different way. I wouldn't really
have added to the stress by placing him in a strange place in a
climate he hated, surrounded by people he didn't know. I never
agreed with that decision and I know she didn't either.
RS: So who forced him to do it?
CB: Well, you know, we didn't have much say. We were merely women.
And the brethren seemed to think that that was the best place.
There was a doctor in the camp, Pee Wee, who I guess weighed up the
various track records of the two clinics that were being
considered, and decided that Dr. Issels was the better place go. I
don't know how he really arrived at his decision, but I always felt
that it was a very miserable time for Bob, those seven months he
spent in Germany. It just broke my heart to see him like that.
RS: So you did go to Germany?
CB: Oh, yeah.
RS: Were you there for a lengthy period of time, or several times?
CB: Three weeks.
CB: In the early part of the year that he died. It was
heartbreaking, you know. But some of the brethren were there. Skill
was there. Pee Wee was there. But it wasn't a happy time, and I
don't think anybody really wanted to be there. Well, naturally not,
least of all poor Bob. And by then it had begun to affect the side
of his face, and the use of his arm, and what have you. And I mean
when you see someone that you love, who has been so vital and so
incredibly healthy and physical, physically fit, and loving to be
that way, I mean somebody who believes in exercising every day
whether it was running, football, some light weights, just love to
be fit. And when you see pictures of Bob without his shirt you can
see how fit he was. There's not an ounce of fat anywhere. It was
just dreadful to watch him deteriorate like that. And I mean it
wasn't only hard for me alone. I'm sure it was hard for everyone
who knew him and cared for him.
RS: When he was carried back to Miami in May were you able to get
CB: Yes, I did.
RS: Were you there before he passed?
CB: Yeah, just like the day before. And I took Damien with me, so
he saw me.
RS: Oh, how wonderful!
CB: And we went into intensive care and he recognized me and say,
"Hmmmph, think you never did a come." Which is to say he thought
wasn't going to come. So I said, "No, man. I must have to come."
said, "No you don't must." So I said, "Yes, I must."
But by then he
looked quite different. Unrecognizable really.
RS: Almost like a little boy.
CB: Um hmm.
RS: Did he say anything specifically to Damien that you remember?
CB: No. No, he just touch his hand and, you know - .
RS: What do you think Bob's position is in the world today, 12, 13
years after his passing? How do you think he's regarded in the
world at large?
CB: Well, I think Bob is regarded - I need to catch my breath here
RS: I understand.
CB: Choked up. Umm, I think he's regarded as one of the true
heroes. True, true, true heroes.
RS: A hero of what?
CB: Of oppressed people, of poor people, of people with no rights.
Of people who come from nothing and so they're treated like
nothing. And so you need to have somebody out there who will stand
up and say, "Look, we're all people! Don't do that." I think he's
right up there with Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, anybody
who devoted their life who devoted their life to protecting the
rights of people. God given rights to a decent life, a wholesome
life, and a life that has opportunity for whatever it is you want
RS: Do you feel his work will last?
CB: Forever. I mean he gets stronger every year.
RS: It's amazing isn't it?
CB: Well, the rest of the world is waking up to what we knew back
then. I mean I couldn't even explain to you then why I was so drawn
to him, or why I just knew he would change my life forever. But I
just knew he would, and I haven't been wrong.
RS: Cindy, have you ever had a vision of Bob since he passed?
CB: Well, I don't know what you would call a vision.
RS: Well, like the Rastas say - as opposed to a dream.
CB: I dream about him, yeah. Sometimes well, sometimes not well.
Yeah, mon, I dream about him.
RS: What does Damian remember about his dad?
CB: Not a lot, and not enough. He so dearly wishes he knew him, you
know, he really really does. He really does.
RS: ...What does the phrase "Spirit Dancer" mean to you?
CB: I think it's a wonderful name. It makes me think of "Natural
Mystic" which is just what he was. He was just a natural mystic.
You know when you see pictures of him jumping on stage with his
locks flying, you know, that's the spirit dancer right there.
CB: I mean, people were just so fascinated by Bob, and they
couldn't even tell you why, they just knew they were. And make no
mistake about it, you know, when I got involved with Bob the uptown
folks were outraged. They were outraged! I mean, they've come to
accept him today as a man who has attained the Order of Merit in
Jamaica, and so there's a level of repect there for his creativity
and the mark that he made on the world. But back in those days
people thought I was absolutely crazy. Absolutely crazy! Is he
clean? Is his hair clean? Does he smell? And those were just some
of the petty things they could find to focus on. So it was really
quite outrageous. Uptown girls were not going out with
Rastafarians, and they certainly were not having babies for them.
I mean, that was a whole social revolution in Jamaica. I have
girlfriends who tell me today that their parents sat them down on
the couch in the living room and said, "Now listen, you see what
Cindy has done? Don't even think about it!" (laughs) It was quite
RS: You know, these days you don't find a great youthful embrace of
Rastafari among the young people.
CB: Because the music went astray
RS: It got so slack after Bob died.
RS: I mean, look what happened. Immediately in Bob's wake the
biggest star in reggae was Yellowman, within a year. And the rug
was pulled out from under the movement by a lot of different
RS: Do you ever think about some of the songs Bob might have been
writing if he were still with us?
CB: Boy, I'll tell you, they'd be just as great as what we have to
listen to. And we have so much to listen to! If he never wrote
anymore we have a life's work.
RS: And all the stuff that is still buried in the vaults that
should come out and hasn't...
CB: It was a life's work, that's why. He wasn't somebody who went
to work and came home and then didn't work. He was just moment to
moment, all day every day 24/7. It was a life's work. And by the
way, I'm still waiting for the Grammies to give him that posthumous
award that he so richly deserves.
RS: Well, we've been fighting for it for a long time.
CB: And it annoys me when I hear people talk about those who have
won it since then, and say it's something he never achieved.
RS: Well, it wasn't available to him at that time either, because
the [reggae] Grammies didn't start till '85.
CB: Precisely. And secondly, had he not done his life's work there
would be no reggae Grammy category at this point in time. And I
always felt that the first one in that category should have been
given to him. Anyway, you know what I believe? I believe he is
going to get a greater award than just a reggae award. I believe
he's going to hold a Lifetime Achievement Award.
RS: That's the one to get. Because he's no longer allowed to be in
the reggae category since his material is "not new." So the only
one available to him would be a Lifetime Achievement.
CB: Well, he's been inducted into the [Rock 'n' Roll] Hall of Fame.
RS: That's a wonderful thing.
CB: It's time for him to get all his just rewards. I want to see
that, because it really annoys me when you talk about this damn
RS: It's silly. And if you look at somebody as sleazy as Shabba
Ranks winning it two years in a row, it cheapens the award.
CB: Well, there you go.
RS: [That's what] I feel.
CB: Well, you know, I don't care who else they want to give it to,
right. And let us not even sit in judgment of them, as long as Bob
gets what he is to get. That's all I care about. I just want him to
get his fair share of recognition for the work that he did because
there is just nothing like it before or since. And what is going
down now that is being called music, is not going to inspire
RS: And it's certainly not going to create copyrights that are
valuable five years from now that people are going to want to
cover. It seems to have lost its soul to a great extent.
CB: I'm afraid so. I agree with that too.
RS: Discipline - with Bob, that's one of the first words you think
RS: There was hardly anyone that I've ever encountered in my life
that had that 24/7 discipline that Bob did. He was an inspirational
figure. We've talked about how he was a political figure. He was a
religious figure to some people. In fact there are even some people
around today that would deify him. How do you feel Bob would think
CB: Well, Bob never wanted anything, you know. He never wanted
praise or glory you know. He just wanted to do what he had to do.
RS: You don't think he read reviews or anything like that?
CB: Not religiously. No, sir. Somebody would tell him, or maybe
bring and show him, and he'd read two lines. He was too caught up
in the living out of it to be watching himself, you understand what
RS: He was constantly in the moment.
RS: He was like a Zen Master wasn't he?
CB: Yeah. He didn't have any time to be watching his shadow and
wondering. No, he just lived it out every second. I think that is
what captivated us all, because you couldn't influence him, let me
tell you, he was going to influence you before the day was out.
That single mindedness of purpose, I mean I have yet to come across
the like. It's really remarkable. But I don't think he really ever
contemplated the praise and glory, or the winning of awards, or the
being given medals or anything. He just wanted to do the work. So.
CB: Any final things that you'd like to say about Bob?
RS: No, not really, you know. Just I think to echo what I'm sure
that you would feel, and all of those of us who knew him closely:
just how lucky we were to have known him. And what an incredible
human being he was. And I doubt that we will ever know anyone quite
so great in our entire life again. Because you just don't meet
great people like that every day. And I really wish that my son
could have a hero like that. I mean he does have Bob in that it's
his dad but a real live hero here now today, I wish we could have
inspirational people like that around, cuz I know Bob inspired me
very, very, very much, and does to this day. And I had the pleasure
of knowing him personally and I wish that young people now could
have heroes like that. I'd like to see more people like that
emerging. Some of our popular figures now that you read about
constantly are not very positive or constructive or inspirational
RS: Or moral.
CB: No. It's sadly lacking and missed in the world today. A great,
great, great pity.
RS: Well, one of the things Bob always talked about was a living
God among us, that it's not something that you have to die and go
to heaven to experience, and we need those living heroes to point
the way for us and show that it's possible to be in this time with
these kinds of energies.
CB: Right. Well, that's what he was stiving for. That's what gave
him the energy. That's what you were asking me about before. He
would always set that example that he felt he could be proud of,
that anybody could look up to him and say yes, this man is being
true to what he speaks about. That was really the objective, and I
think that we are the worse off for not having him here anymore.
It's just great that we have all the wonderful music to listen to.
And it never ceases to make me feel good. Never! I mean, we put the
tapes in here the other day, put one of them in and started to
listen to it, Stella just moving around the house, and I. Before
you know what happened, we all just singing along and just good
vibes. Great vibes!
RS: Cindy, do you have an all-time favorite Bob?
CB: I love Natural Mystic. I love it, I just love it. That's Bob.
You know what I mean? That is almost him singing about himself. I
think it's just a wonderful, prophetic song and such a beautiful
piece of music. I love it. There's so many of them I love.
RS: Yes. "If you listen carefully you will hear." Again, it's
the Zen Master. You have to be quiet to hear the inspiration.
CB: That's right.
RS: And I felt on so many of these private tapes, these bedroom
tapes, that he was really like a mystic, channelling. He wasn't
even thinking. He had gone beyond the conscious process of thinking
into absolute divine inspiration coming out of his mouth.
CB: That's right, that's right, cuz the words are just kind of
garbled almost, just hearing them coming out.
RS: Sometimes when he didn't have the proper word yet, yeah, he
would just kind of sing syllables or just scat.
RS: Well, hopefully with the precedent set by the box set where
they included that acoustic stuff from Sweden, there will be a
chance in the future for these non-studio tapes to be released.
CB: I don't see why not, because I know people would be happy to
RS: They would treasure them.
CB: They would love to have them. I don't see any reason why they