A tune that started out as a soft rock tribute to Bread singer David Gates’s dead father was repurposed as a reggae love song by Jamaican rocksteady singer Ken Boothe and became his sole number 1 in the autumn of 1974.
Gates’s father had died in 1963, long before his son’s group became successful, but he considered him his greatest influence. The title was also inspired by him, as when Gates was a struggling musician he had bought his mother an orchid, and his father wrote to him saying he could have ‘anything she owned’ in return. It’s a lovely song, and will mean a lot to anyone who has lost a parent, but despite reaching number three in the US in 1972, it stalled at 32 in the UK.
Boothe was born in Denham Town, Kingston on 22 March 1948. He developed an interest in music while at Denham Primary Elementary School, with the help of his eldest sister Hyacinth Clover, who was part of a comedy double act. One of his biggest influences was Owen Gray, considered Jamaica’s first homegrown singing star.
As a teenager, Boothe formed a singing duo with his friend Winston ‘Stranger’ Cole. They released singles together as Stranger & Ken between 1963 and 1965. He also recorded as Roy & Ken with Roy Shirley in 1966, the same year he went solo and began recording at the famed Studio One, scoring his first hit with The Train Is Coming, on which he was backed by The Wailers. Boothe toured the UK the following year, promoted as ‘Mr Rocksteady’. To the unitiated, ‘rocksteady’ came after ska and before reggae, and is basically a slowed-down version of the two. It has nothing to do with rock.
Boothe enjoyed a number of hit singles over the next few years, including Moving Away and covers of American and British soul tunes. He switched to producer Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records in 1970, but following his untimely death he moved around and eventually settled with UK-based Trojan Records and Lloyd Charmers in 1971.
Two albums, 1973’s Black Gold and Green and 1974’s What’s Going On followed, and then when they began another album, Charmers suggested they work on a cover of Everything I Own, which eventually became the name of the LP too. It featured the Federal Soul Givers, Lloyd Parks on bass, Paul Williams from Toots and the Maytals on drums, Willie Lindo on guitar and Charmers on organ, piano and percussion. Unlike most covers, not only was the arrangement updated, but the lyrics were changed enough to alter the meaning of the song, altering it from a son mourning his father, to a spurned lover hoping to change her mind by whatever means necessary.
Although a minor number 1 (strong enough to top the charts once more when Boy George released it in 1987, though), Boothe’s cover is a pleasant slice of light reggae-pop – the type of reggae I’d normally avoid (don’t get me started on UB40, plenty of time for that when I reach the 80s). Most of that is simply down to Boothe’s voice. Some find his delivery too exact and too tight to the music but his trademark deep timbre is unusual and makes the performance feel real to me, suggesting Boothe is wounded and broken but hopeful. However, it sounds like it was his fault, as Boothe mentions taking someone for granted.
Musically, Boothe’s version is better, but I prefer the lyrics to the original. They stand out more and after all, there are a million songs in which the singer is broken-hearted and trying to persuade their lover back. Not bad at all though.
Boothe had one more UK hit from the same album when Crying Over You reached 11. Unfortunately Trojan’s financial difficulties resulted in the label suspending operations, and Boothe’s career struggled to regain momentum when it returned in 1978. That year, he was name-checked in The Clash’s (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.
Boothe and Trojan parted ways again, and his recording output dropped considerably from then on, with only two albums released in the 80s – Imagine (1986) and Don’t You Know (1987), but often he was reworking old Studio One material. UB40 (there they are again) covered Boothe on their Labour of Love album in 1983, and its sequel in 1992. In 1995 Boothe collaborated with Shaggy on a remake of The Train Is Coming on the soundtrack to the action film Money Train.
In 2003, Boothe was awarded the Order of Distinction from his homeland for his contribution to Jamaican music.
Written by: David Gates
Producer: Lloyd Charmers
Weeks at number 1: 3 (26 October-15 November)
Cricketer Michael Vaughan – 29 October
Hammer thrower David Smith – 2 November
Singer Louise Redknapp – 4 November
Poet David Jones – 28 October
28 October: The wife and son of Sports Minister Denis Howell survived a Provisional IRA bomb attack on their car.
4 November: Judith Ward was sentenced to life imprisonment for the M62 coach bombing on 4 February. It took 18 years for her to be released due to a wrongful judgement.
7 November: Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, better known as Lord Lucan, went missing after his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, was bludgeoned to death in the Lucan family home. He was never found and his death certificate was granted in 2016.
Also that day, an IRA bomb explodes at the Kings Arms, Woolwich, killing two.
11 November: The New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms opened.
13 November: The Americanisation of the UK took a giant leap forward when the first McDonald’s restaurant opened in Woolwich, South London.