In the history of reggae music, slick vocals have always been a big thing, as has the revolving door that has seen members come and go at will, but one band has steadfastly resisted the trend and has proven that diamonds are indeed forever. The Mighty Diamonds proudly carry the title of the longest reunited group in the history of reggae music.
âDid you know that diamonds are the hardest substance known on Earth? Asked Judge Diamond, a member of the trio that includes Lloyd Ferguson, also known as “Judge”; Fitzroy “Rabbit” Simpson; and Donald ‘Tabby’ Shaw. It should be noted that over the years a new surname, “Diamond”, has naturally been added to the nicknames of the three.
âWhat is the secret of our longevity? Now, all I can say is, it looks like it’s been ordained by the Father. Yeah, we really keep it together. Part of the thing is we love music, so when it’s time to sing, we put our differences aside and do what we’re here for, âcontinued Judge.
For this old reggae statesman, one of life’s greatest lessons has been learning when to let go and when to hang on a little longer. It was also about getting to work by entering all the talent shows and rehearsing for three years before releasing their first song.
âWe used to win a lot of talent shows, and I remember getting a bottle of Wray & Nephew overproof white rum as the top prize, and neither of us ever drank, so we gave it away. I was the lead singer in the band, but I take a step back and let Tabby lead because we wanted a particular sound for Diamonds. I’m the main songwriter, but nuff people don’t know that. When Bunny and I write a song together, we will then teach Tabby the song. If someone had played selfish, the band would have split up, âhe said.
By a twist of fate, it was just when the Diamonds – who incidentally got their name from Tabby Diamond’s mother – decided to throw in the towel that they made their breakthrough. And the song couldn’t have had a tidier title: The good moment. The influential reggae group will then release their first album, Good time, in 1976, on the Virgin Records imprint after the label signed them following a search for talent in Jamaica. Good time is honored as one of the classic roots reggae albums.
Their rich career has seen the Mighty Diamonds perform “everywhere on Earth where reggae music is played”, and Judge stressed, “out there we always hoist the Jamaican flag high.” Having had a stroke five years ago, Bunny Diamond hasn’t been active with the band on tour, but he stays in their hearts at every show.
âWe go to Japan at least a dozen times. We played in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc. Maybe the only places we don’t go are Alaska and China, âhe said.
The smiling judge, who ironically received his nickname as a child because his expression was always so serious, bursts into an almost hoarse laugh as he recounts how the Diamonds powerfully eclipsed many top performers on their tour. . They once decided to perform the song There is no me without you on a gig with a big R&B group and did it so well the group was enraged. âThey were so crazy. They said, ‘You sing reggae, why did you do that?’ The judge laughed.
Another incident, this time a concert on a boat, saw the main act “crush the place” and people cheer (the performer) at the top of their lungs. It seemed that there were no more “fawuds” for Diamonds. But when they hit the stage, it was a whole different story. âWhen we got out we heard the white girl complaining, ‘Dude, those damn Jamaicans! I said, ‘Yeah, man. A suh we do it â, recalled the judge.
Throughout their musical journey, the Mighty Diamonds have won numerous awards around the world. When the role is called up on National Heroes Day in October 2021, Judge, Bunny and Tabby Diamond will be among the elite who will receive national honors from the Government of Jamaica. They will be invested with the Officer Class of the Order of Distinction (OD) for their contribution to the development of Jamaican music.
Music industry players say the honor is long overdue, and the band’s first manager, Copeland Forbes, couldn’t be more thrilled.
âThese are my boys, and it couldn’t have happened to a more worthy trio. I am delighted that the government has seen fit to give this honor to the Diamonds. I have so many great stories about them, but you can read them all in my book, which is finally finished, âsaid Forbes. The Sunday Gleaner.
âIt feels good. It’s well deserved,â the judge said frankly. âA lot of people have had theirs before us. When they gave Ken Boothe, Ken asked, ‘What happened to the Diamonds? Government officials came over and asked us if we would accept the DO, and we said yes, man, because they have to get our approval before it’s announced. I don’t really know how the process goes. selection, but we thank everyone involved. Nothing happens until the right time, “said the judge wisely.