Words, photos and video by Martei Korley
I first met Noddy Virtue in Vineyard Town at Mikey Bennett’s Grafton Studio, but had heard of him long before on various compilations and Alborosie productions…
Call him Mr. Country-come-a-town. The farmer turned rising star. The man who used to travel the island as a singer on the legendary Bass Odyssey sound. And finally, Noddy Virtue, the artist. His transformation is evident in his recent output. No longer content to cover classic tunes, Noddy has penned plenty of his own. His style has progressed to a more rooted sound replete with the occasional singjay tune like “Eat What You Grow.” Which makes you want to know just who the singer really is and where he comes from. So instead of meeting up on neutral ground in Kingston, LargeUp decided to mix it up a bit and let Noddy show us around his native St. Elizabeth — a largely rural parish in South-central Jamaica.
Standing in his yard under a giant mango tree, I realize why Noddy can pull off covering a Bon Jovi song like “Bed of Roses” or even The Boss, Bruce Springsteen’s “Trapped.” Being deeply rooted in the red soil of his home parish, Noddy has not fallen victim to big city notions of cool.Rather he sings for the common man and would, given the opportunity, probably rock a South Jersey crowd just as hard as he would the square in Junction, St. Elizabeth. And the man rocks hard. Something which may be surprising to those abroad who are only tuned in to the latest from Gaza and Russian.
Anyone who spends a significant amount of time in Jamaica, being familiar with the “Souls” segment of the dancehall, knows otherwise. If you are not privy to such information, you are probably unaware that Celine Dion is one of Jamaica’s most popular singers. Or that “Footloose” is likely to play during an oldies vinyl session, sure to be followed by Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
A gracious host, Noddy gives us farming tips, and shares some of South St. Elizabeth’s treasures. From his family burial plot in the backyard (a rural Jamaican tradition), to lovers leap and more. All in a days work. And just for good measure, we added a couple of Noddy’s music videos below.
Holding a vibes with his ancestors yard in the backyard
Back home in Comma Pen