Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | March 1, 2009
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STORY OF THE SONG: 'Ram Goat Liver' makes mannish water ...And Pluto Shervington's first hit
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Pluto Shervington entertains an audience at Immaculate Conception High School in 1975. - File

In 1974, while Ernie Smith was on his way to the Federal Records (now Tuff Gong) on Marcus Garvey Drive, Kingston, he saw an accident. When he got to the studio he told Pluto Shervington about it. By the end of the week, Shervington had recorded a song based on the story. That song took off immediately and, 35 years later, is one of the enduring classics of Jamaican music.

Pluto Shervington puts his Ram Goat Liver into the canons of folk music.

"I think that song has got into the category of songs like Evening Time and Linstead Market. I think Ram Goat Liver is past a hit," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

And he will never forget writing Ram Goat Liver, not only because it was his breakout hit, but also "I wrote it on the day that my first child walked. He walked that day from the ground to the bed. He was 10 months old."

Shervington had been searching for that elusive hit that would establish him on the Jamaica music landscape, something that his friend, Ernie Smith, had already done. "Ernie had had two major hits, Pitta Patta and Life is Just for Living. I had two or three maybe almost hits," he said. Those 'maybe almosts' included I Man Bitter, I Man Dread, which was banned from radio.

Recorded and released

When Ernie Smith got to the studio that day, he said, "You would not believe what I saw a while ago. I saw a minibus kill a goat in the street. There was a guy standing beside me on the sidewalk. He said all we need now is a pound of rice and we have lunch!"

With that flying start (the overheard line was included in Ram Goat Liver at the end of the first verse as "him shoulda dead mek we buy a poun' a rice"), Ram Goat Liver was recorded and released. It was an immediate hit and all were singing:

"Ram goat liver good fe mek mannish water

Billy goat teet' mek earring fey yu daughter

Curry goat lunch put the bite to you bark

It mek you daughter walk an' talk"

In the song, though, unlike the real incident, the cooking happens:

"Well the news spread fast like a telegram

Nobody know whey de goat come from

We raise a pot and a pan from a Niah man

Who sit down dey all along

Two twos and the pot a boil"

Shervington's favourite part of Ram Goat Liver is when the repercussions of the meal hit below the belt:

"Well I pop two belch an a mek a sigh

I tek a walk go outta street

But while I a wait down de road fi bum a ride

I feel a gripe and I start feel very weak

Before too long you no hafi ask

A runny belly like a judgement day

Everybody in de road a dead wid laugh

Is then I know that crime will never pay."

Outstanding performances

The musicians for Ram Goat Liver were Paul Douglas on drums, Val Douglas on bass, Robbie Lyn on keyboards and Willie Lindo on guitar. At the end of the recording session, they knew they had a hit on their hands and Shervington said when the song took off "they (the pressing plant) had to stop everything and press that".

Naturally, he has performed Ram Goat Liver countless times over the years. One of the outstanding performances "was 1976, Labour Day. Michael Manley had a free concert on the lawns of Jamaica House. It was about a month after I Man Born Ya came out. That was a huge hit at the time. I remember I closed the show with I Man Born Ya, but before that Ram Goat Liver, now three years old, brought the house down".

And Shervington will continue bringing the house down with it.

"I plan to do it until the good Lord cries cree. Until then I am going to keep on doing it," Shervington said.

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