Perfect Sound Forever


Reggae UK hit maker & Florida transplant
by Eric Doumerc

Pluto Shervington was born in Jamaica on August 13th, 1950, and died in Miami on January 19th, 2024. He was quite well-known as a humorist and a satirist and his songs had made him very popular with the Jamaican diaspora in Miami, where he had been residing for many years.

Shervington had started his career in the 1960's, playing with a few bands like Tomorrow's Children and had later gone on to have a successful career as a solo artist performing amusing and funny songs in Jamaican Creole. It is often said that he was influenced by his friend Ernie Smith's popular tune "Duppy Gunman" which had enjoyed huge popularity thanks to its lyrics in Creole.

One of his biggest hits was probably "Ramgoat Liver," which relates how one day he was on a minibus which knocked down an unfortunate goat, which led many passers-by to gather round the bus out of curiosity. One of them suggested that all they needed now was a few pounds of rice and they could have quite a good lunch. A pot was borrowed from a local Rastaman and the ram goat ended up as goat's heap soup, a much-appreciated delicacy known in Jamaica as "mannish water" which is supposed to have aphodisiac virtues ("ramgoat liver good fi mek mannish water"). After having such a good lunch, the narrator tries to catch another bus home, but while waiting at a bus stop, he realizes that he has a bad case of diarrhea and has to relieve himself on the street, much to the amusement of the laughing passers-by ("Before too long, you no haffi ask, A running belly like a judgement day!"). The moral of that story? Well, as the singers admits "crime doesn't pay." In other words, ill-gotten goods seldom prosper.

In Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora abroad, Shervington's name remains associated with his biggest hit there, "I Man Born Yah," which came out in 1975 when Michael Manley's first government had been in power for three years, and had been trying to cope with the international pressures bearing upon Jamaica following its adoption of socialist policies. At the time, more and more wealthy and middle-class Jamaicans were leaving the country in droves in order to protect their assets, which had led to Manley's famous speech in which he had said that for those who did not like his government's socialist leanings, there were "five flights a day to Miami." Shervington's song castigated those who left the country in its hour of need, insisting that he was "born yah" and that he would never leave for "Canada" or "America." The song became hugely popular in Jamaica and of course became one of the People National Party's anthems or rallying songs.

Shervington's songs often satirized people's foibles and made fun of social pretensions. His hit record "Dat" (1976) was about a Rasta who had to save some money in order to be able to buy marijuana, and as a consequence could only afford to buy the cheapest type of meat available, which is pork. The problem is that Rastafarians are supposed to be vegetarians and pork is considered to be the vilest meat. The whole comedy of the situation relied on the fact that the poor Rasta had to indicate to the butcher at market that he wanted to buy some pork, but could not bring himself to mentioning it by name, hence the title of the song. According to the Jamaican dub poet Malachi D. Smith, "The sarcasm with "Dat," to me, is that because of the economic plight at the time due to the pressures of the economic decline, people were being forced to bow or do things or eat things that in times of abundance they wouldn't".The song became a hit in the UK and Shervington even made an appearance on Top of the Pops, the weekly BBC music programme.

Social comedy was also at the heart of "Your Honour," Shervington's second hit in Britain, which led to his second appearance on Top of the Pops. This time, the main character is a man who was beaten up by an angry husband accusing him of having slept with his wife. The poor devil finds himself in court, having to explain why the angry husband beat him up. He tries to justify himself by saying that he could never have slept with that man's wife as at the time of the supposed adultery, he was hiding in the closet, with his hands "well occupied": one of them was holding his pants, and the other was holding his shirt! "Your Honour" was recorded in 1975 but was released only in 1981 on Ken Khouri's label.

Shervington released several albums, with Pluto (1975) and Again (1982) being the most popular. He had moved to Miami in 1977 and was a well-known local fixture there, regularly appaearing at the Bahama Breeze restaurant where he would regale diners with a set including his own compositions, a few Bob Marley songs, and a version of The Eagles' "Hotel California." He was also frequently on the road, touring the USA and Canada. He also regularly performed in Jamaica, along with his friend Ernie Smith.

Shervington's last public appearance took place on December 19th, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he gave a concert in support of a charity ("Just Start Now"). He sang many hits on that night, including "I Man Born Yah," a real crowd pleaser. Ironically that song had been his greatest hit in Florida, probably on account of its strong nostalgic pull.

Many thanks to Malachi D. Smith and Geoffrey Philp for their help with the writing of this article.

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