Home / Arts & Entertainment / Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson: “I’m a Nine-Star General Now” (The Interview)
Duckie Simpson and keyboardist/producer King Hopeton perform in Solana Beach, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson: “I’m a Nine-Star General Now” (The Interview)

Q: Now that there are less restrictions on marijuana in Jamaica and you see medical marijuana shops are opening for business, is there a chance that this marijuana boon will pass down to the Rasta farmers, so that they [too] will also realize [a] financial benefit? Or will [the boon belong only] to the wealthy, corporations, and foreigners?
Duckie Simpson:  It won’t pass down to no Rastas. This is a billionaire business. In Jamaica, small man is not gonna get a play. He’s just gonna be a laborer. See the Jamaican government, the politicians, [they are] run by the American government.

Q: You were talking about [the song] Ganja Baby [a moment ago]. It’s a very joyful and creative tune. There’s a part of the song where you sing: “Take a little trip and me reach to Aruba. Who me sight? The one, Baruka. Say him naw burn naw sense . . . .” And I was curious about this lyric [which] alludes to the famous Rastafarian dub poet, Mutaburuka.
Duckie Simpson: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Bees performs with Black Uhuru in Solana Beach, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Q: In a book called “Rastafari: A Very Short Introduction” by professor of sociology Ennis Edmonds, who was born and raised in Jamaica, Edmonds writes: “Rastas, Mutaburuka being the most prominent of these[,] claim that they do not partake in smoking ganja.” According to Edmonds, these Rastas say “they have already achieved such a high level of consciousness that smoking the holy herb is no longer necessary.”
Duckie Simpson: I don’t think Muta said that what he wrote. These professor guys they all think they know about Rasta. They don’t know sh*t about Rasta (Laughing). They just prophesize. They’re all imposters. But they write the most things about Rasta. Muta just don’t smoke. Some people don’t smoke. Whether it’s ganja or cigarettes or whatever it is. The guy’s just not a smoker. Has nothing to do with Rasta.

Q: In April 2017 I interviewed Don Carlos here at the Belly Up [Tavern]. And I specifically asked Don if, despite any negative history that exists, whether he and you could ever get back together, and be like the original Black Uhuru. And Don said: “I don’t carry any grievance. I don’t say we can’t get together again. We can.” What is your reaction and would you ever be willing to sing again with Don Carlos in any capacity?
Duckie Simpson: Well at this age now that don’t seem possible. We’re old guys now, man. When is that time? When is that opportunity going to arrive? I don’t see that opportunity arriving.

Q: If the fans clamored for it like once before when you guys reunited. I know that that happened at a very famous reggae festival –
Duckie Simpson: And it almost cost me my name. That reuniting with Don and Garthie was a big, big, big mistake. It almost cost me. Because we end up in court fighting for the name. Me and Don and Garthie were together. Me and Garthie were together, formed Black Uhuru, and we recruited Don.

Q: Don lived in a place called Balmagie?
Duckie Simpson: Yeah, same place. Don is from Balmagie. I am from Waterhouse. Garthie is from Trenchtown, and he came to Waterhouse.

Q: Balmagie is in Waterhouse?
Duckie Simpson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we did two or three songs [together as Black Uhuru]. Don went solo. Garth went with Wailing Souls. And after eighteen years, I even won the Grammy, won a lot of things. And [after] eighteen years, I invited Don and Garthie back into the group. To work. And they tried to overthrow me for the name. They said they “owned” the name [“Black Uhuru”].

Q: So let me put this on the table, too. Because I have to ask you, I feel it’s important to ask you. [You see] I also interviewed Garth Dennis.
Duckie Simpson: Oh? He’s like a little wimp.

Q: I interviewed him last summer. And I know that what I am about to tell you is likely to upset you.
Duckie Simpson: It cyan’t upset me. ‘Cause I hear all kinda sh*t.

Q: [Garth Dennis] said that you and he were “very close” when you first started out. He said: “Duckie used to stay with me at my house when the group was formed at 14 Balcombe Drive. That’s where he used to stay when I first put the group together.”
Duckie Simpson: When he put the group together? Garthie was a guy working 9 to 5. He didn’t put sh*t together. Garthie come from a musical background. Garthie’s sister, Beverley Kelso, sang with Bob Marley. Bob Marley rehearsed in Garthie’s yard.

Duckie Simpson performs in Solana Beach, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Q: Joe Higgs is Garth’s brother-in-law.
Duckie Simpson: Joe Higgs rehearsed in Garthie’s yard. Wailing Souls. All dem guys. That’s where Garthie comes from. When I met Garthie in Waterhouse, Garthie was a customs broker. He was a 9 to 5 baldhead. He’d never sang a f*cking song in his life until he met me. He was from a singing background, but he wasn’t a singer. I was the one who enlightened him into singing. When he met me, I [was] a young singer.

Q: Garth also said: “The name [Black Uhuru] was given to I-man, Garth Dennis.” Garth said the person who gave him the name is still alive, and his name is Roy Palmer.
Duckie Simpson: So you believe that? If the name was given to Garth Dennis, why is he out in the cold? Listen this: I and Garth was sitting on a wall when that guy – we know the guy – he comes from Waterhouse. The guy was passing us. I had my guitar. And he said, “Hey, you guys have a name?” And we said, “No, not really.” And he said, “I have a name for you guys.” And he says, “Uhuru.” If it was Garth’s name, where is Garth now? That was mentioned in the court. In Los Angeles Supreme Court. That argument [about the] guy. The guy even came to court and gave evidence for [Garth]. And told the judge that he was the one who gave Garthie the name. And the judge said “bullsh*t.”  Whether the guy give Garthie the name or not – which he didn’t, he asked us if we had a name – if the name was Garth-owned, he abandoned it. Where is he? Where was he? He [also] says he was the one that formed Wailing Souls. And he formed Black Uhuru. And he’s f*cking out in the cold. So I can’t put a picture on that. If the name was his, why isn’t he singing, [and] why doesn’t he have it? We went to the Los Angeles Supreme Court – for thirteen days the trial took.

Q: Do you want me to tell you what [Garth] said about that?
Duckie Simpson: (Nodding)

Continued on Page Five–>>

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