Interview and multimedia by Stephen A. Cooper
Half Pint (né Lindon Andrew Roberts) is one of the most famous, gracious, and conscious of the cadre of iconic reggae singers in the world. His songs have been covered by superstars such as The Rolling Stones and Sublime and, whether publicly or privately, and in most cases both, true reggae lovers have on many occasions – at home, in the dancehall, at a party, or wherever – found themselves trying to imitate the inimitable, soulful sound of Half Pint.
On May 24, after he delivered an energetic, exciting, one-of-a-kind show, and thanks to the assistance of Booking Agent/Tour Manager Robert Oyugi, I was ecstatic and greatly privileged to interview Half Pint behind the Jade Lounge in Monterey, California.
Although it was late and he had to return home to Jamaica the next day, Half Pint and I spoke at length about problems with the stage management at the last Rebel Salute reggae festival in Jamaica; details about his childhood growing up in Jamaica; Rastafari; the sexual misconduct and abuse allegations against Michael Jackson and their effect on Jackson’s legacy; the backstory behind The Rolling Stones and Sublime covering his songs; the Jamaican government’s failure to properly honor some of Jamaica’s most talented and accomplished reggae musicians, and much, much more. What follows is a transcript of the interview, modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.
Q: So I’ve always wanted to say this: Greetings Half Pint!
Half Pint: (Laughing) Uh-huh.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Have you ever performed in Monterey before?
Half Pint: I think this might be the second time. But it’s a pleasure doing this interview with you right now because these things have to be recorded and set in time. Monterey is the place to be I would say. Monterey is a special place. There’s something about Monterey.
Q: Yes! Jimi Hendrix breaking his guitar here –
Half Pint: Right on!
Q: Now it was just a few months ago Half Pint, in January I believe, that the Jamaica Observer noted that you gave, in their words, “a strong performance at the 2019 Rebel Salute,” Jamaica’s largest annual reggae festival. Now I’m guessing that wasn’t your first time performing at Rebel Salute?
Half Pint: No, I think that was my third time.
Q: There appeared to be some stage management or other operational problems at this last Rebel Salute leading to some abbreviated performances by Jah Cure and Bushman, and the show’s closer, Kenyatta Hill, not getting to perform at all. Publicly, Bushman had some very heated and emotional words about what happened. Do you have any thoughts about [it]?
Half Pint: All I could say is the stage management, it does carry principles. And respect. And time. If each artist has a scheduled time [to perform], that’s how long they should stay on the stage for. But I think some artists overstay their time, and then [their] time runs into other artists’ time [to be onstage]. And then other artists do not get to perform.
Q: Who ultimately bears the responsibility for that? The artists or the persons running the festival?
Half Pint: I would say the persons running the stage – the stage manager.
Q: In your opinion, has Rebel Salute improved over time as far as you’ve seen?
Half Pint: In some aspects. But when it comes to the more technical part, like even the stage presentation, they’re kinda needing more professional service.
Q: Bushman said that he thinks the festival should be extended to three days. Do you also think that?
Half Pint: It could. It could. Because there are a lot of artists from Jamaica who could be performing from a musical standpoint. I hope Rebel Salute will continue to be a special event for Jamaica. And artists who are not publicly seen that often. Rebel Salute tends to find those artists and bring them some exposure. And fresh presentation too, yeah.
Q: Half Pint, I know you were born [in 1961] and grew up in central Kingston – in an area called Kingston 11 near Chancery Lane and near where Joe Gibbs’s and Randy’s Record stores were – but then you also would spend considerable time as a youth in the west Kingston area of Waterhouse. Is that accurate?
Half Pint: Waterhouse is like St. Andrew. West Kingston is more like Kingston, Kingston. Waterhouse is more like up – more like Kingston 11. I was more originated, born and growing up, it was like the central of Kingston itself. Where I was hearing Joe Gibbs’s record store. And Randy’s record store. Across Orange Street. Those two were distinct record stores in Jamaica. In Kingston.
Q: That’s where all the new releases would come, from the U.S. and the U.K.?
Half Pint: From the U.S. and the U.K., and even from in Jamaica at the time. New songs would always come there. And be released. And people could go there and buy them [there]. The freshest or the latest songs, you could get [them] at Joe Gibbs’s or Randy’s.
Q: In past interviews, you’ve always spoken fondly about being raised with very strong values by your mother, but also, particularly by your grandparents.
Half Pint: Right.
Q: In fact, I believe you’ve said that “Sally,” your very first hit single in Jamaica, was really a song where you [are] expressing admiration and yearning for a humble and steady love – like the kind [possessed] by your grandparents. Is that accurate?
Half Pint: Yes.