Tenor Saw, a yodel we'll never forget Image

by Biko Kennedy

In a musical platform where everyone seems to borrow elements from each other, Tenor Saw was truly an original; a Dancehall legend with an attention-required yodel. The legacy of Clive Bright, one of dancehall's most influential and unique singers, will forever live on.

August of this year will mark the 25th anniversary of Tenor Saw's mysterious death leaving many to wonder what role he'd be playing in Dancehall today.

"The voice was so powerful, something that come from the church, like a Pavarotti kinda thing," is how his mentor, singer/producer Lincoln 'Sugar' Minott describes Saw's sound during an interview with The Gleaner in 2008.

A sound which will inspire other major artistes of the 1980's including his close friend Nitty Gritty, Frankie Paul, Michael Palme and Junior Reid.

With hits including Pumpkin Belly, Roll Call, Lots of Signs, Golden Hen and of course the dance essential Ring the Alarm, by 1985, Tenor Saw's position in the Reggae pantheon had been certified. And as Minott puts it "he was serious about his work and getting paid, and he always tried to sing songs of consciousness, there was always a message" and if he were still alive today, undoubtedly he'd still be putting out hits

"Just imagine Garnett Silk; just imagine if Bob Marley was still around. I don't even know where I could put him, he was like a little institution by himself," Minott said.

Tenor Saw's death in 1988 truly came unexpectedly and unnecessarily; just when he entered the heights of his early career. The 22-year-old's decomposing body was found in bushes near a road in Houston, Texas. As the mystery of the incident is left unsolved, one version is that he was shot; another was that he was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. But his Minott, believes he really died of pneumonia.

This, he believes, occurred after he got into an altercation with promoters about not being paid for a performance. He was allegedly beaten, left in bushes, exposed to the elements and died from pneumonia.

Nonetheless, his talent will remain as one of the greatest to ever grace a mic.

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