Saluting Reggae Royalty Ras Denroy Morgan
Rastafarian reggae singer, Denroy Morgan, father of 30 biological children, grandfather to 104 and great-grandfather of 15, exuded greatness of biblical proportions. Little wonder that he was known as a patriarch, a term that has its genesis in the Bible, a book that he held in high esteem. Morgan’s sudden death in Atlanta, USA, on Thursday sent shock waves through the music industry because very few people knew that the Rastafarian royalty had been ailing.
“Jamaican reggae icon Denroy Morgan died peacefully on Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia, after a brief illness. He was surrounded by close family members,” said a release from the Morgan family, who also requested privacy “during this time of healing”. Those who knew Morgan well said it was only natural that his children and entire clan would drop everything to be with him when he needed them most.
“Mr Morgan was really an amazing human being. When you have 30 children and more than 100 grandchildren, your hands are full. But he made time for all of them. Guidance was provided for every single one of them. Mr Morgan was a very caring and loving soul, and they all loved him greatly. The entire family is devastated,” said PR specialist Dave Rodney, whose association with the Morgan family dates so far back that he is now considered family.
Denroy was the father of Grammy award-winning sibling group Morgan Heritage, a group that is always media-friendly, but on this occasion, it was next to impossible for them to speak. “Please pray for my strength. I will need it many days to come,” was Gramps Morgan’s simple request.
Elder statesman of reggae Freddie McGregor could feel Gramps’ pain.
“I heard early this morning. This is so sad. My condolence goes out to the family. Denroy and I go way back from Cornelius, [an area] in Brooklyn when Gramps dem a little youths starting out in music, so I know the struggles, but may he rest in peace. Denroy’s love for music was never-ending. Like mine, his kids grew up seeing him doing music and fell in love with it, thinking, ‘We can do it, too.’ And here they are today, Grammy winners. He will be sadly missed by the likes of me and those who knew him well. I’ll just say rest well, my Elder, until we meet again … may Jah guide and protect your soul … from my family to yours.”
As the tributes continued to flow, Ephraim Martin, founder of the IRAWMA awards, told The Sunday Gleaner, “Another reggae legend says goodbye. The man who says, ‘I will do anything you want me to do, I will do for you’, my friend, Denroy Morgan, father of the Morgan Heritage, is dead. On behalf of my wife Shelvin Hall, Martin’s International, IRAWMA, and the reggae and world music community we serve, our deepest condolences to Gramps, Peter, Una, Nakhamyah, Lukes, Mojo, and the rest of the family as we continue to pray for them. RIP my friend.”
‘I’LL DO ANYTHING FOR YOU’
In 1981, Morgan, who migrated to the United States in 1965, savoured commercial success when his hit single I’ll Do Anything for You topped the international charts. The song was written and produced by an American of Jamaican heritage, Bert Reid, and featured musical backing from Morgan’s former band, the Black Eagles. I’ll Do Anything For You entered Billboard Magazine’s pop chart. It went Top 10 in Billboard’s R&B chart and number one on its Dance chart. It also peaked at number nine on the American soul chart.
“As an artiste, you would love for everything you do to be a hit. I am no different. But I did not know it would become such, and I did not know what it was like to have a hit,” Morgan told The Gleaner in an interview in 2011.
“We have been blessed and honoured to have had a personal and business relationship with the patriarch of the Morgan family, Honourable Bishop Ras Denroy Morgan. This is a relationship which our family holds dear to our hearts. Our sincere condolences go out to the entire Morgan family, especially Una (Sis) Roy (Gramps) Peetah, Nakamyah (Lukes) and Memmalatel (Mojo). We are truly saddened and grieve his passing,” Randy Chin, president of VP Records told The Sunday Gleaner.
The affable Morgan, was known for his big heart, generous spirit, and his marijuana advocacy. He had also been pushing to establish November 2, the coronation day of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, as a United Nations International Day. His Rastafarian faith was ecumenical to him, and in an interview with The Gleaner last year, Morgan shared insight into this.
“My journey started in 1975 when I got my calling. It was like a visitation. I was walking from Sudan Street in Brooklyn when I heard a voice say ‘I am the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah’,” he said of the incident, which he writes about in detail in his book, From the Cross to the Throne.
Morgan gave Rastafarians good reason to celebrate when he beat what was considered “incredible odds” in New York City by getting off a charge of possession of over 20 pounds of marijuana with a court fee charge of US$25 and 90 days probation. When brought before the court, Morgan argued in his defence that ganja was a sacramental requirement for his Rastafarian faith. It is recorded that a few months after Morgan’s case was closed, legislation changed in New York that prevented persons who are found in possession of under 23 grams of marijuana from being arrested.
Morgan had just finished up an album that he referred to as a concept album that embodies the vision of Kwame Nkrumah and His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. “When Africa speaks as a continent, it will be a superpower. The lyrics in the album encourage African leaders to unite. Without the United States of Africa, the diaspora will not see the substance of Africa. As a Rastafarian, we always speak of repatriation, but it must take place mentally and spiritually,” he had said in a previous interview.
The album is titled Divine Destiny, and Morgan was happy to present it to the world. One of his last posts on social media said, in part, “Today begins pre-order for the upcoming album Divine Destiny by Denroy Morgan & The Black Eagles. This album is a conceptual album where Denroy Morgan shares his views on Africa and the state it’s in as a continent. Get the single Slavery Offenses and watch the lyric video produced by @mjmorganiam MJ Productions @reggaeville NOW! Glory to JAH.”