Saturday Single No. 107

Originally posted January 3, 2009

Back in my early newspapering days, one of the first things I learned was to look carefully at the obituary pages in the daily newspapers that served our area: the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Cloud Times. (There were two other major dailies in the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Star and the St. Paul Dispatch, but they were afternoon papers and new obituaries in them were generally echoed the next morning in their sister newspapers. Both of those afternoon dailies are long gone now, having met the fate of so many afternoon daily newspapers in the U.S.)

The point of scanning the obituary page, as I learned, was to see if anyone with a Monticello connection had passed on elsewhere. We were generally notified when local folks died; one of the local funeral homes – there were two in town – would contact us, or the family would bring in an obituary. But sometimes, for people who had moved away, well, it was up to us and to our luck in spotting a notice in one of those three dailies.

And that daily chore has become a routine for me. The point has changed, however. I no longer have a job that includes writing obituaries. But I am of an age when more and more often the names of people I know show up in the obituary pages. The most recent was a bit more than a month ago. One of the guys I went to Denmark with in college crossed over after a lengthy illness. By my count, he’s the ninth of us to die. (There were about a hundred and ten of us in Fredericia that year; I don’t know for sure, but I think we’ve beaten the odds at least a little, losing only nine in thirty-five years. Of course, there are a few people we’ve lost track of, maybe seven, so our losses may be higher.)

And beyond the Denmark group, there are names I recognize sadly in the obituary pages. The names of friends, their parents and siblings show up all too often. So, too, as in the case of Delaney Bramlett last weekend, do the names of musicians and entertainers whose efforts I’ve enjoyed over the years.

And sometimes, among the obituaries that are treated as news stories, there’s an interesting tale. Yesterday’s Minneapolis paper, in the “Also Noted” section of its obituary page, had a death notice that read:

“Vincent Ford, a songwriter credited with composing the Bob Marley reggae classic ‘No Woman No Cry’ died Sunday. He was 68. The song, which appeared on Marley’s 1974 ‘Natty Dread’ album, was inspired by the Kingston ghetto of Trench Town where Marley and Ford lived in the 1960s.”

I read it once, then again. Something about that short item seemed askew, but I wasn’t sure what. Then I noticed that the report said Ford was credited with composing the song, which meant there is some question. Had he composed the song, the account would have said simply, “Vincent Ford, a songwriter who wrote the Bob Marley reggae classic . . .”

So I went digging. And at www.musicradar.com, I found this account by Michael Leonard, dated January 2, 2009:

Bob Marley collaborator Vincent Ford dies
 No Woman, No Cry was credited to him

The man credited with co-writing Bob Marley And The Wailers’ “No Woman, No Cry” has died. Vincent Ford passed away aged 68 in Jamaica on 28 December 2008, after complications from diabetes.

It’s thought that the song was actually written by Marley, but he donated co-writing credit to his childhood friend Ford. The royalties allowed Ford to continue to run a soup kitchen in Trenchtown, the ghetto of Kingston, where Marley grew up.

“No Woman, No Cry” originally appeared on Marley’s 1974 album Natty Dread, but it’s the live performance from 1975 (on the album Live!) that has become known as the definitive performance.

Whoever wrote it, it remains one of reggae’s greatest songs.

So, for Bob Marley, for his act of generosity, and for his friend Vincent Ford, here is the live 1975 version of “No Woman, No Cry,” today’s Saturday Single:

“No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley & The Wailers [London, 1975]

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One Response to “Saturday Single No. 107”

  1. ‘Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears . . .’ « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] wrote the other day about scanning the daily obituaries and on occasion seeing a name that spurs a memory or a thought. […]

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