Mighty Diamonds in Babylon
Written by lightning on April 4, 2022
DURING the 1970s a wind of social change swept Jamaica and film-maker Lennie Little-White wanted to capture that transformation for a global audience with his movie Children of Babylon.
“In the 70s Jamaica went through a social revolution when uptown ‘brownings’ were attracted to the downtown dreadlocks inner-city yuteman. This reached its pinnacle when Miss World Cindy Breakspeare became a babymother for reggae king Bob Marley,” Little-White told the Jamaica Observer.
“This was the nucleus of the storyline for Children of Babylon and the inspiration for the lyrics,” he continued.
For the movie’s soundtrack, harmony trio The Mighty Diamonds was tasked with singing the title song.
After penning the song’s lyrics, Little-White hired musician Harold Butler to write its music plus incidental music for the 120-minute film.
“The Mighty Diamonds were riding the charts at the time and they became the first recruits,” said Little-White.
“Tabby Diamond, the lead singer of the Mighty Diamonds, came to the Tuff Gong studio on Hope Road with no superstar airs. Tabby did the lead vocals and the other two members of The Mighty Diamonds did the chorus and the overdubs — all in one 12-hour session,” he recalled.
Tabby Diamond, whose given name is Donald Shaw, was shot and killed outside his home in Olympic Gardens, St Andrew, last Tuesday. Another man, Owen Beckford, was also killed in the incident.
According to police reports, a car drove up to the home and gunmen opened fire, hitting five men. They were rushed to hospital where Tabby Diamond, 66, and Beckford were pronounced dead, while three other men were treated and sent home.
The police has established no motive for the shooting and their investigations are ongoing.
Two days after, another member of The Mighty Diamonds, Fitzroy “Bunny Diamond” Simpson, died at the National Chest Hospital in St Andrew. No cause of death was given. He was 70 years old.
Little-White remembers the recording sessions vividly.
“We shared Tuff Gong studios in 12-hour shifts with Bob Marley, who was recording the Survival album simultaneously. Harold Butler was the ringmaster, who ruled the sessions like an orchestra with some of Jamaica’s best studio musicians. I was privileged to sit beside Butler and Errol Brown, who recorded all the tracks. Mixing was the responsibility of Geoffrey Chung,” he said.
Other notable singers on Children of Babylon’s soundtrack were Delroy Wilson ( I Want Your Love), Beres Hammond ( Life’s A Rainbow), Cynthia Schloss ( Can’t Stand The Pain), and Pam Hall ( I Was Born A Woman).
Butler and Little-White are credited on Slave Lament, while Butler contributed Pass The Fire. The album was released in 1979 via Tuff Gong Distribution, but did not do well commercially.
Released in 1980, Children of Babylon starred Bob Andy, Leonie Forbes, Tobi Phillips, Don Parchment, and Elizabeth DeLisser. It fared much better than the soundtrack, being shown in North America, France, Spain, England, and the Caribbean.
Formed in 1969, The Mighty Diamonds are one of reggae’s prolific groups. Their songs include I Need A Roof, Pass the Kutchie, and Right Time.
Last year, the group was recognised by the Jamaica Government with an Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer for their contribution to the island’s music and culture.