October 6-15, 2005; St. Thomas, V.I.: I did not know him personally. He did not own a web site, yet he’s blowing up cyberspace. Unfortunately, it was not until after his death that Nicholas “Nick” Friday compelled the press to finally give him the respect he’s deserved all along. Through his fans.
On October 4th, word reached us all that Nick’s long battle with diabetes had taken an excruciating toll, denying the world of one more lyric, one more kaiso, from that incredible brain of his. Nicholas Friday was the front man for the Jam Band, perennial Road March champions. Often mired in controversy, Nick stayed true to his heart, it was the only way he could be. He was a true artist, telling the stories that are our own lives.
If you lived through Hurricane Hugo, “Horse Chip” is more than a danceable tune, it actually brings you back to those long, fitful nights spent in silent frustration, with no electricity, no telephones, destruction’s remnants everywhere… and a curfew: “Daddy Farrelly, listen to me… call off this curfew so I can jam ’til morning…”. The frenetic pace of the “Jam Band Style” (which marked the early ’80s metamorphosis for the band from Eddie and the Movements, to the Jam Band) kept revelers in close contact with each other, absorbed in the pounding rhythms, much like “slam dancing”: “Jump high, jump low, mash dem on dey big toe – in dey, out dey, up in dey, go all deh way… Jam Band Style, we nah copy – Movements Style, we nah copy…”
Kill the Wabbit?
In particular, note “Legal”, which is actually about rivalry among bands such as top competitors Mandingo Brass, Imaginations Brass and Seventeen Plus – as well as the castigation of government officials who did not take care of the public with a living wage and kept cutting benefits while expecting smiles in return, all the while labeling the band: “Who say we wild, it’s just Jam Band Style!” In fact, many people still refer to this song as “Kill the Rabbit”, which is actually from the chorus, a comic reference to a Warner Brothers cartoon in which Elmer J. Fudd, to Wagner’s music, seeks to do just that, and regrets it when he finally appears to have accomplished his goal.
How unfortunate that a group of people bent on destruction decided to use this and other Jam Band songs as anthems for their untoward activities. Even worse, some of them seemed to know where their enemies liked to hang out: at parties hosted by the outrageously popular Jam Band. News outlets were quick to paint the band by the actions of a handful of its followers. No one would hold Carlos Santana responsible for the 1969 Altamont tragedy, where violent activities began during his set. The Jam Band often stopped or slowed down their music when such things began, and as time went on, they employed their own security outfits, as it was impossible for the police force to monitor such private functions. The band became more notorious as those who were frustrated by the tight security, began to work out their issues after the dances, plaguing the band with their behavior.
Without listening to a single lyric, the press promulgated the tie between the Jam Band and violence. They never actually listened to “Cool Um Down” or “Rise Up”; a close enough examination would reveal that the Jam Band’s lyrics always contained a story or commentary, featured call-and-response, plus catchy lyrics laced through an infectious melody: some basic elements of Calypso/Kaiso, only in a more youthful aspect. One story that appeared in print (or you’d certainly see the link to it here) about an unrelated incident, a shooting at a popular hotel complex, reminded readers that such things happen when the Jam Band plays, and the group was not even on the bill! If anything, the item should have been able to observe the fact that it does not matter which band is playing, if people are intent on hurting each other, they will hunt in the crowds where their foes are most likely to be!
A true storyteller takes you back, so it’s like you’re there. A talent so grand it could not be contained in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nick traveled all over as a member of Eddie & the Movements (which emerged as from a chrysalis as the Jam Band without skipping a season). Where his foot did not touch soil, his music seemingly did.
Calypso legends and audiences marvelled at his easy skill with “Extempo”, a form of Kaiso competition that pits singers against one another, making up lyrics on the spot. It seemed so easy for him to do, to maintain the elements of traditional Calypso while reducing the crowd to knowing laughter and applause. All in good fun, for sure; any opponents wiped from the roster with aplomb.
Word Spread Quickly
Minutes after he died, the phone lines to radio stations in New York, Miami, Canada, the Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Antigua – you name the place – blazed to red hot: “Is it true Friday gone?” Talk and music shows filled with condolences, musical retrospects and tears. Now the internet is screaming his name. Read and know. We’ll always remember.
More and more sites are linking directly to the story found in the St. Thomas Source by Jean P. Greaux, without an accompanying article, and as I Google “Nick Friday”, “Nicholas Friday”, and “Nick Friday Jam Band” (use quotes for better searches), the list grows and grows, of mentions from around the world.
The funeral was held at the Bertha C. Boschulte auditorium, in anticipation of a large turnout; family, friends, colleagues, and former bandmates, plus the influx of people from the states and other islands, came to commemorate the event. The funeral service was larger than any recalled ever taking place in the territory, with literally thousands paying their respects. It was standing room only, with many left to participate outside the venue gathered together sharing music and memories. The services were broadcast on the Knight Quality Stations 105 Jamz (WVJZ)and WVWI, and online at www.wvwi.net, which shared a simulcast with across-town WSTA (Lucky 13) and via www.wsta.com. Following the day’s activities, the airwaves were awash in calls from all around the world, remembering Trevor Nicholas Friday’s contributions to the lives of so many. He made us think, he made us “throw back” if we were in the mood, and he made us smile.
An acquaintance mentioned to this writer that he felt that the 2005 V.I. Carnival Road March, “How to Take the Road”, was hauntingly poignant, as it now passes the magic on to other bands. According to the tune, the seemingly unbeatable Road March champs have a secret formula, which has been right there all along: “Melody… harmony…” key elements of Kaiso, the music of the people.