Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Cheerful colours for Tyrone Downie’s thanksgiving service today

Published:Saturday | November 26, 2022 | 12:06 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Tyrone Downie, an internationally acclaimed musician who played with Bob Marley and the Wailers, passed away on November 5.
Tyrone Downie, an internationally acclaimed musician who played with Bob Marley and the Wailers, passed away on November 5.

The family of late keyboard genius, Tyrone Downie, is requesting that all who attend his thanksgiving service today at the Chapel of St Augustine of Hippo at Kingston College, 2a North Street, dress in cheerful colours.

Downie, a past student of Kingston College and an internationally acclaimed musician who played with Bob Marley and the Wailers, passed away on November 5.

His partner, Bernadine Simpson, said the service starts at 1 p.m. at the chapel.

“It will also be live-streamed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1Uy-N9vv7U. We are asking everybody to wear cheerful colours,” Simpson said, adding that tributes are welcomed on the website, forevermissed.com.

Since his passing, tributes have flowed from across the globe, hailing the exceptionally talented Downie, who, in addition to being a keyboardist, was a harmonica player, singer-songwriter and producer. A set-up and musical tribute in his honour was held Friday evening at MECA in Marketplace.

Born on May 20, 1956, in Kingston, Tyrone Downie was always close to music, and his talent was such that the word prodigy had been used to describe him. He was a 15-year-old schoolboy when he played in Eric Donaldson’s Cherry Oh Baby, which won the Festival Song Competition in 1971.

Downie joined The Wailers in the mid-1970s, making his recording debut with the band on Rastaman Vibration, and played on subsequent albums until Marley’s death in 1981. Before joining the Wailers, Downie was a member of the Jackie Jackson-led The Caribs band. He also played with Impact All Stars, The Abyssinians, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Alpha Blondy, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Sly & Robbie.

From the ‘90s onwards, Downie resided in France and was a member of the touring band Youssou N’Dour, whose album, Remember, he produced.

His friend, Robbie Lyn, remembered Downie as possessing a special charm that people gravitated towards, and it comes as no surprise that he was the muse for singer Grace Jones’s 1983 single, My Jamaican Guy. According to his bio, “unbeknown to Downie, he (though in a relationship and not romantically linked to Jones) was the subject of the song”.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange referred to this in her tribute to Downie. “I was so very sad to hear that Tyrone had passed. He was an even greater person than musician, a great human being. Tyrone was one of the musical stars that helped make the music around Bob Marley exceptional. [He] will be remembered as one of the significant contributors to reggae music. We echo the sentiments that were expressed by singer Grace Jones; Tyrone Downie was ‘Our Jamaican Guy’,” Grange said.

Downie earned himself the nickname Organ D, which he used as the title of his solo album, which was released in 2001.

More recently, he played keyboards on the album, Maroon Songs: Born Free, Live Free, Ever Free with Earl Chinna Smith’s InnadeYard Binghistra Movement, released in August this year.

Tyrone Downie is survived by nine children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com