Our correspondent pays homage to the late Count Prince Miller, who first put African and Caribbean music on the UK mainstream stage, and whose work led to the flowering of so much musical talent thereafter. His legacy lives on in the UK's troubled racial climes.
Almost exactly a year ago Count Prince Miller was laid to rest. We had been friends since the day he had arrived in London in 1964, often sharing a meal in his favourite Chinese restaurant on Fulham Broadway, almost until the month he died--and now one of the last links with that Golden Age has gone.
Count was a giant--physically as well as figuratively--of Jamaican entertainment and a pioneer of Black music promotion in the UK. He was the man trusted by the promoters to put together, publicise and compere the first Wembley Festival of Caribbean Music, the 50th anniversary of which will be celebrated in September. His was the face of the show. It was a landmark occasion, so powerful that it was repeated with almost all the same performers seven months later and recorded by Horace Ove in his film, Reggae.
Miller was an extrovert, wide-eyed, with a large, expressive mouth (which he put to good use in his trademark song 'Mule Train'), whose stage performances had to be seen to be believed.
Off-stage, however, he was thoughtful, dignified and generous of spirit. Many a time did I go to interview him about his own latest performance or concert only for him to spend the entire meeting updating on, and praising, the activities of other artists.
Count's immediate loyalty may have been to Jamaica; however, as a supporter of the teachings of Marcus Garvey (whom he had portrayed on stage), he was well aware of the African cultural context of the diaspora--and the Wembley festivals were the gateway through which Caribbean and African music here broke out of the earlier limitations.
This was the first time that all (with very few exceptions) of the top Caribbean musicians and singers, and beyond, were on the same stage on the same evening.
Yes, the event was promoted by a White agency, and films show that the audience contained a large number of White teenagers. The former may have acted primarily from commercial motives, to take advantage of the demand for Black music, but with considerable individual sympathy for the genre and its performers, and the latter may have attended out of curiosity. That is the point. The music had built up such an interest, such a momentum, that it demanded to be...