February 20, 2023
By the time Carlene Davis leaves the Miramar Cultural Center on February 21 it will be two days before her 70th birthday. The milestone is a big achievement for the singer who fought cancer and successfully relaunched her career as a gospel artiste in the 1990s.
Davis is scheduled to perform at Gospel Spectacular in South Florida on Tuesday, as part of Reggae Month activities. Glacia Robinson, Jabez, Prodigal Son, and Omari are also billed for the show.
The Clarendon-born Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. And though she had recorded two gospel albums before that ominous diagnosis, her faith in Christ grew even more during treatment.
“When you accept the spirit of Christ you become a new person, knowing that God is spirit and we accept Him in spirit and in truth. The deepest knowledge about ourselves comes to us through our spirits. We can’t know anything deeper than our spirits reveal,” said Davis.
“We will never know who we are supposed to be until we accept Jesus as our Saviour and receive God’s gift of His spirit. The more I know about who I am and why I am here, the more my attitude towards my life changes,” she added.
“You can’t truly know yourself until you become spiritually alive. This experience has led me to my purpose, my assignment and as my knowledge grows my life changes for the better.”
Leaving Clarendon in her early teens, Davis migrated to the United Kingdom in 1969. They moved to Canada in the 1970s where her career as a reggae/rhythm and blues singer started.
It was not until she returned to Jamaica in 1981 that Davis’s career took off, thanks to a number of easy-listening songs such as Like Old Friends Do, Going Down to Paradise, It Must be Love, Winnie Mandela, and the seasonal, Santa Claus (Do You Ever Come to The Ghetto).
Most of those songs were produced by Tommy Cowan, her husband of over 30 years.
There have been significant changes in reggae since Davis made her name as a hit-maker 40 years ago, with the female presence in reggae growing substantially. Lady Saw, Patra and Diana King became pop stars in the 1990s, setting the pace for current acts like Lila Ike, Jada Kingdom and Koffee, the first woman to win a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
But Davis believes the greatest evolution has been technology.
“Coming from a time when you record a song with what would be considered in today’s industry as limitations, the days of four-, eight-, 16- and 24-track recording studios; now it’s almost limitless. When you consider vinyl-pressed records to cassette, eight-track, then came compact disc, otherwise called CD, and the rest of technology, virtual space goes on and on,” she said.
“Today, you can record and in a few moments the world can hear the recording. So, for me the most significant evolution in the industry is the advancement of technology.”
Carlene Davis was awarded the Order of Distinction by Jamaica’s Government in 2007 for her contribution to the country’s music.
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