It was only the previous weekend that I was talking about The Mighty Diamonds with a dear friend. Gutted that two members of the trio left us last week.
The Diamonds name had come up in discussion after my friend told me a story of another top reggae star that she knows well who maintains a very low profile in Jamaica due to the pressures of being pestered at every turn. Even taking his kids to school can be daunting. So that reggae star leaves any external matters in the hands of his immediate family.
I said to my mate that if her singer friend had earned the royalties he was due for his global hits then that person would living in a more affluent and comfortable part of Jamaica or overseas where many Jamaican reggae stars chose to reside for their personal safety and piece of mind.
I then mentioned The Mighty Diamonds to my mate as a similar example of those reggae artistes who should have been living a more upscale lifestyle if they had got paid properly for their hit songs.
The Mighty Diamonds hits songs especially in the 1970s were some of the most successful reggae records sold. We know this because Richard Branson had signed the group to his Virgin/Frontline label in the 1970s. Branson has disclosed publicly of how much of his initial wealth stemmed from success of the Jamaican reggae records he sold at the time.
Their first album Right Time (1976) is one of the seminal albums in all of music and not just reggae.
From my time in the 1990s when I worked in the West End of London, I used to hang out after work at Tower Records, the 2 HMV records shops, Branson’s Virgin and the smaller independent records shops in the area off Oxford Street. EMI Records was also next door.
Back then staff at these record stores the staff would tell me that The Mighty Diamonds CDs and LPs sold well. For one thing The Diamonds’ CDs were excellently packaged.
We all knew The Diamonds wrote all their songs led by Judge Diamond yet all they had to show for the sales of those classic records til this day was just $4000 Jamaica Dollars each the trio received in the late 1970s.
Now, some people in Jamaica must have made money from those Diamonds records. The hits were recorded at Channel 1 Studios. How much did the owners of Channel 1 make from their songs? Who else benefitted? Who is still benefitting globally?
We know that The Mighty Diamonds was signed by Virgin when The Right Time was made and that Virgin was eventually sold to EMI records in the early 1990s. EMI was eventually bought by Universal Music Group (UMG). UMG is also owners of Island Records who had signed The Wailers and eventually The Mighty Diamonds.
One can thus hazard a guess that UMG is in the driving seat on The Diamonds dollars.
The lack of any royalties since the 1970s has meant the trio have had to tour well into their advanced years and many of us have felt for Bunny when on stage as clearly, he should have been resting.
I know my mate’s reggae star friend is still livid about how he was treated by the record industry he was signed to at time his songs were doing well in the shops.
As a fan of reggae one of my regrets is buying records that enriched those who nothing to do with the song aka wolves in sheep clothing. These were the kind of people that reggae artistes such as The Diamonds warned Jamaicans about in the 1970s and not realising that such vipers were in their own midst.
The trio were one of the more uplifting groups of that era. I would say for true roots and culture moods The Mighty Diamonds, The Congos The Abyssinians, Black Uhuru and Israel Vibrations were head and shoulders above the other groups of that era.
In London The Diamonds were reggae royalty.
I have felt that the record industry or Jamaican government should have brought in some ethics to the record selling process so that the purchaser knows precisely how much percentage of the sale will go to the singer/composer.
The passing of both Bunny and Tabby is bound to lead to increased air play and sales of their songs. If only we kept our money/cards in our pockets.
The news of the killing of Tabby Diamond deflated an island nation that is fed up with the horrific violent nature of today’s Jamaica. By Friday, Bunny Diamond’s demise from health issues left many Jamaicans just heartbroken. One can only feel it for their families as well as Judge Diamond.
But if only these 3 men, these 3 roots men, were given the fairness their songs were signaling for us to do (human rights, justice, Garveyism) then The Diamonds would have been living in a better-off position for decades.