By: Audrey Reeves
Kingston, Jamaica – Copeland Forbes has been referred to as Boss, Midas, and Chief, King, Godfather and superintendent. Not only is he addressed verbally with honor and maximum respect, but is treated royally both in his home, Jamaica as well as overseas.
Last November I had the distinct privilege of attending the late Gregory Isaacs tribute at the Ranny Williams Center in Kingston Jamaica. It so happened that I was standing with a group of individuals when Forbes came along. Just a few feet away I heard someone from the crowd said, “Here comes the chief, clear the way.” Two individuals took their hats off and bowed, then proceeded to clear a path to allow his unobstructed entry. Now, if this treatment is not befitting for a king, I don’t know what is.
All throughout the evening and into the wee hours of the morning I couldn’t help but observe interaction between Forbes and artists, politicians, patrons and organizers of the tribute. One commonality was the way he was treated and addressed with utmost respect; clearly representative of his stature. But who is this person and why is he worthy of these honored salutations?
Copeland Forbes is undoubtedly in a league of his own. This legendary, iconic artist manager, tour organizer, musicologist, reggae industry consultant and Managing Director of Comar Productions Ltd. has almost single handedly internationalize reggae music and the Jamaican culture. Forbes has been a part of the reggae industry for five decades. This is nothing to shake a stick at; especially in the entertainment world and in particular the reggae industry where longevity is fleeting at best.
When one takes a peek at the list of international reggae stars that this legend has managed, then one can really appreciate his longevity: The Mighty Diamonds, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Denis Brown, Frankie Paul, John Holt, Jimmy Cliff, Marcia Griffiths, Luciano, Garnett Silk, Burning Spear, Sly and Robbie, Luciano and the late Cool Ruler Mr. Gregory Isaacs. These artistes clearly represent the cream of the reggae crop. So does this warrant the name Midas?
Whether he discovered, managed or coached them, the fact is, he has been instrumental in their career development.
Copeland Forbes has been a part of or present at most if not all of the salient or historical moments in reggae history: Peter Tosh’s tour with the rolling Stones in the late seventies, Jimmy Cliff’s historical concert in South Africa in 1980 and most recently President Obama’s inauguration.
Copeland Forbes and CNN Political Analyst Roland Martin at President Obama’s Inauguration Ball
This is quite an achievement not only for Forbes but for the reggae industry and Jamaican culture. When asked how it feels to be a part of such ground breaking events, Forbes humbly replied: “You Know, I have been in this reggae industry since December 15th 1962 and I have witnessed a lot of growth and some barriers to progress as well, but one thing is for sure, is that I am honored and privileged to be a part of the evolution of the reggae culture.” Its Kind of funny that even though I have been in the reggae industry for a long, long time, I have never lost my passion for the music.” Everyday I wake up and look forward to what I can contribute to the industry on that particular day.” “So I suppose you can say my love of reggae music and the love of my country keep me going strong.” Forbes further commented that he has often been referred to as reggae’s walking history book. Truly befitting!
Copeland Forbes showing his country’s pride at President Obama’s Inauguration Ball
Copeland Forbes has ventured into turfs that has eluded even the highest ranking dignitaries and or government officials. This revered cultural and reggae music pioneer is one of the few Jamaicans who have actually hobnobbed with blue blood royals from various parts of the globe.
For instance, how many of us today can accurately state a claim to being in the company of: Queen Elizabeth of England, Princess Margret, Lord Snowden, Prince Philip and King Constantine of Greece. Additionally, Forbes has socialized with the likes of former UN secretary General Uthan and of course, His imperial majesty Emperor Sellasie of Ethiopia. Arguably this is no small feat. In fact one can argue to the contrary that this in itself is quite an accomplishment.
What is most impressive, however, is that all this is done on behalf of Jamaica, Jamaicans, and reggae music. Equally impressive, is the fact that for fifty years in the international spotlight, representing Jamaica, this great individual has maintained an impeccable reputation. As Jamaicans, We are most grateful to Forbes for his extensive contribution not only to our music and culture, but to our country.
Forbes is in the process of writing his autobiography, Reggae, My Life. This book focuses on his historical journey through the reggae evolution. This book tells about not only reggae as a genre, but also about the artiste he managed over the years.
In his earlier days, Copeland Forbes and legendary boxing promoter Don King
This is one of the most anxiously anticipated books ever to be written regarding the reggae genre. There has been quite a buzz as a lot of reggae lovers, historians and a lot of music lovers internationally await its release. Forbes expects to have the book completed for December 2011 launch. Having this glimpse into Copeland Forbes world, indisputably shed a ray of light on his esteemed stature in the reggae world and thus, hail Chief Forbes.