ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY BY KARYL WALKER firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sonny Bradshaw is dead – Fourth cultural icon to pass in a month
Master trumpeter and keyboard player Sonny Bradshaw passed away in a London hospital Saturday night, plunging Jamaica’s artistic fraternity into mourning for the fourth time in just over a month.
Bradshaw had been ill for months after suffering a debilitating stroke while visiting the United Kingdom in August and was hospitalised in that country since then.
In mourning Bradshaw’s passing, Prime Minister Bruce Golding hailed him as a pioneer whose contribution to Jamaica’s music industry could not be quantified.
“We are losing the creators and promoters of our music, arts and culture all at once,” said Golding. “It has indeed been a very sad period for Jamaica these past few weeks as we receive news of so many of our cultural icons departing this life, one by one.”
Bradshaw’s passing comes on the heels of the deaths of cultural icons, Wycliffe ‘Steely’ Johnson on September 1, Trevor Rhone on September 15, and Wycliffe Bennett on October 5.
Yesterday, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to London Burchell Whiteman said Bradshaw’s death has left a gaping hole in the country’s cultural landscape.
“It is almost impossible to imagine modern Jamaican music without the presence of Sonny Bradshaw. He was a true musical pioneer who dedicated more than six decades of his life to ensuring that Jamaican music and especially jazz was always kept in the forefront and accessible to all,” Whiteman said in a press release.
Bradshaw was 83 at the time of his passing. He is responsible for the formation of the big band, which included stalwart musicians like Dwight Pinkney.
Yesterday, Pinkney was crestfallen by the news of Bradshaw’s passing and reflected on his life and contribution to Jamaica’s popular culture.
“We have suffered a great loss. His contribution to music and media is insurmountable. We shall miss him and we love him,” Pinkney said.
Boris Gardner was also hard hit by news of Bradshaw’s death.
“He inspired me with his music. He moulded some young musicians and made them into real professionals,” Gardner said.
Bradshaw was for many years president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, and according to veteran guitarist Glen Browne, he stood up for the rights of musicians who plied their trade on the cabaret circuit.
“He lived a full and cheerful life,” Browne told the Observer. “Sonny Bradshaw was a man who stood up for principle. That man taught me a lot of things. I was a young musician playing on the North Coast and he always tried to ensure that we got what was due to us.”
Observer columnist Charles Campbell was also full of praise for what he dubbed Bradshaw’s sterling contribution to the country’s global music appeal.
“People, all with valid credentials, have at various times been given the credit of being the dean of Jamaica’s music industry,” said Campbell. “Truth be told, this master trumpeter, band leader, composer, arranger, the conductor and proprietor of the big band, is in truth the quintessential musician. He is the musician’s musician.”
In the 1950s, Bradshaw formed the Sonny Bradshaw Seven, which became the training ground for many of Jamaica’s prominent musicians. Besides the trumpet and piano, he was also skilled at playing the clarinet, trombone and saxophone.
Stellar present-day musicians like saxophonist Dean Fraser and drummer Desi Jones benefited from his tutelage.
Bradshaw was the driving force behind the world-acclaimed Ocho Rios Jazz Festival and also hosted the radio programme, Teenage Dance Party, in the 1970s, which was aired on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation radio and has been hailed as one the first local programmes to popularise indigenous Jamaican music.