Rodriguez - The Music

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Nor your recipes for my happiness"

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Reggae Cover Versions

Sugar Mon?

Just as we thought the sugar man had made all our questions disappear, we discover that a number of 70s reggae stars have been recording Rodriguez songs and in some cases even giving themselves the composer credits.

Jim Hori wrote recently:

Here is the section of the liner notes from the compilation "Blood and Fire - Niney and Friends 1971-1972" (Trojan Records TRLS 263) written by Steve Barrow which mention Rodriguez: "Shortly after the sessions which brought forth the music on this compilation, Niney prouced a hit for the great Jamaican soul singer Ken Boothe (a version of the US singer-songwriter Rodriguez' 'Silver Words'). He was also successful with another soulful vocalist Delroy Wilson ('Rascal Man', included here, and a cover of Rodriguez again with 'Halfway Up the Stairs)."

This inspired John Samson to start some Reggae Sun Splash surfing and he discovered a list of covers of 'Silver Words'.

John writes:

Here's a link to a page that will give you a list of releases called 'Silver Words'. However, it often credits the song to Boothe/Brown.

I've checked the following artists who have covered the song: Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy, Richie Stephens, Ken Boothe, Mafia & Fluxy, Bob Andy (of Bob & Marcia fame). They are all reggae covers and all sound quite similar.

I found another 2 (presumed to be) covers of 'Silver Words' to add to the list. These are by Winston Reedy and Tyrone Taylor.

I found a download of the Ken Boothe version: {this is a one minute MP3 - ed}

Delroy Wilson's version of 'Halfway Up The Stairs is included on an album called 'Rock On: Greatest Hits of The Observer Label' and can be found at:

Brian Currin writes:

This is Reggae: I found a CD in Look and Listen at Canal Walk in Cape Town this week, titled 'This Is Reggae - Rhythm Addict' which included the Ken Boothe version of 'Silver Words' (though the line "it's not what I'm smoking" has been neatly edited out). Ken Boothe was the Jamaican who had a UK number 1 hit in 1974 with his cover of Bread's 'Everything I Own'. This compilation CD also includes a number of other reggae greats like Bob Marley, John Holt, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals and Inner Circle.

Is there no end to the mystery that is Rodriguez?

"...questions fell, but no-one stopped to listen..."

Would everybody who owes Rodriguez money (and that includes US rapper Nas) please form a queue on the right...

-- SA Rock Digest, 27th May 2002


I can provide independent confirmation that the song 'Silver Words' by Ken Boothe is Sixto's song. A couple of changes are made, aside from the fact one is a sweet guitar ditty and the other a skankin' number.

The opening words don't use the word "ain't" but "have not" -- those Rastas have long been known as persnickety, formal grammarians, and the first verse repeats right away.

-- Kurt Shoemaker, SA Rock Digest, 3rd June 2002


I have just received a CD called 'Rock On' which features Delroy Wilson's version of 'Halfway Up The Stairs'. Here is a extract from the sleeve notes:

"Halfway Up The Stairs", along with "Silver Words", was written and released by a Detroit artists named Rodriguez, born Sixto Diaz Rodriguez in 1942. Both songs were found on Rodriguez's Coming From Reality album, recorded in London and released in 1971 on the Sussex label, distributed by A&M in the USA. Sixto Rodriguez started his career on the US Impact label in the mid sixties and still lives in Detroit to this day.
-- John Samson, SA Rock Digest, 17th June 2002

Delroy Wilson Rock On - click for bigger picture 100KB


(Note to the reader: Please read this review in a Jamaican accent) 'Reggae Mon, won't you hurry... ah no sod it, this is Jamaica mon, der is no hurry.'

The men at thought they had managed to unravel the mysteries of the artist known simply as Rodriguez, putting together a very detailed website that included a complete (or so we thought) list of the various cover versions made of the man's songs. Then suddenly out of the blue an e-mail arrived talking of reggae covers of 'Silver Words' and 'Halfway Up The Stairs'. There was a flurry of excitement at Digest Towers and it's satellite offices in London and Texas. 'Rodriguez has been heard in Jamaica, we are not alone' was whispered around the virtual corridors of the Digest.

So here now is a run down of the various versions we have managed to track down so far:

'Silver Words' by Ken Boothe

It seems that Ken Boothe was the first to cover this song, and a number of subsequent covers actually credit the track to him. Best known for his cover of Bread's 'Everything I Own' (Boy George's version was number 1 this week in 1987), there are at least 2 different Ken Boothe versions of 'Silver Words'. The second part of the opening lyric 'Baby I'm not joking/and it's not what I'm smoking' is omitted on what I suspect is a later version when Boothe seemed to become involved in Gospel music. The non-smoking version is a rootsier version complete with that sort of "chukka chukka" guitar sound found on a lot of Bob Marley's stuff. The smoking version is smoother, relying more on brassy sounds for body. It also adds the line 'Leave us alone/In our happy home' at the end.

'Silver Words' by Richie Stephens

This version starts with Stephens saying 'This one happens to be a classic'. He got that right. From then on, try to imagine what this song would sound like if an entrant in Pop class="anchor" idols sang it. There is a lilting reggae beat, but the vocal performance is from the 'oh I'm in so much pain, but think I sound really soulful' School for the Degeneration of Pop Music. This is certainly the worst of the versions I've heard.

'Silver Words' by Barrington Levy

A bright and breezy, brass-filled version that bounces along. Musically this is how I'd imagine UB40 singing this song, except the vocals are Jimmy Cliff clear and sharp rather than Ali Campbell's nasal tones. There is also a flute type keyboard sound that spirals away at every opportunity. This is a "will you go out on a date with me" version.

'Silver Words' by Dennis Brown

The CD I found this on is called 'In the Mood' and has a picture of Brown's face half hidden behind a cloud of smoke issuing from his nostrils. And that's how the version goes. It's a smokey, slow seductive version. More rootsy than the Ken Boothe version, this one is the perfect follow up to Barrington Levy's one. You got her to go out on the date, now you're back at your place and you want to get her 'In the Mood'.

So there you have the Silver Words versions, but no article on reggae would be complete without some mention of Ranking, so here goes:

1. Rodriguez
2. Dennis Brown
3. Ken Boothe (Non-Smoking)
4. Barrington Levy
5. Ken Boothe (Smoking)
6. Richie Stephens

'Halfway Up The Stairs' by Delroy Wilson

A quite rare recording, this one was found on an album called 'Rock On - Greatest Hits From the Observer Label'. This is a pleasant version driven by a standard reggae guitar sound and fleshed out with an insistent piano body and given life by a nice sunny, almost Hawaiian guitar. Wilson's voice is akin to Marley's and adds warmth to the track while the mid-tempo beat would have patrons doing that half dancing, half shuffling dance around the dancehall.

John Samson, SA Rock Digest, 8th July 2002

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