Born in 1950 Jamaica, a talented bass player and songwriter, Pluto Shervington, had this really big hit song, Ram Goat Liver, in the mid 1970’s. It is one of my favourite Jamaican songs and I occasionally do it for some of the people I sing for in the local hospital. It gets anyone within earshot moving and, if they know it and some do, singing and smiling along.
The song’s “singability” (making its composition seem deceptively effortless) and Shervington’s gift for telling a superb, hilarious, naturally colloquial story, set it apart for me.
It took him a week to write, after getting the idea from a fellow Kingston songwriter, Ernie Smith, who had already had a couple of hit songs of his own. On his way to the old Federal Records studio Ernie had watched a minibus hit and kill a goat on the road. A fellow observer said, casually “All we need now is a pound of rice…”
Verse one really pulls me in:
Sunday gone I jump on a minibus; I really late but it’s not my fault
An as we nearly reach by de terminus, I feel the bus come to a halt…
‘Ee lick a ram goat down by de roundabout, an’ just as if dat would not, suffice
A bredda run through de bus an’ start to shout
You shoulda dead mek we buy a poun’ of rice!
Then the chorus:
Ram goat liver good fi mek mannish water.
Billy goat teet’ mek de earring for your daughter.
Curry goat lunch put de bite in your bark;
It mek your daughter… it mek your daughter walk and talk.
Like many songs from the West Indies, there’s some double entente in the chorus. For example, mannish water is considered a male aphrodisiac.
Anyway, in the song a cook-up actually occurs, and the storyteller ends up suffering some discomforting embarrassment after consuming some of the pot’s contents:
Before too long you no ha fi ask – a runny belly like a Judgement Day…
You can find the YouTube version with lyrics here.
Another hilarious song from Pluto: Your Honour. In it he is in court for “fooling around” in the wrong bedroom. His defence:
Me two hands dey was occupied: me shirt in me lef’ an’ me pants in me right!
And why not check out his 1974 hit, Dat, about a poor Rasta who could only afford to buy pork at the butcher shop but has communication problems because he will not let the forbidden word pass his lips…