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Watch Peetah Morgan’s Last Major Performance With Morgan Heritage In Jamaica

February 27th, 2024

Last July, Morgan Heritage’s lead singer, Peter ‘Peetah’ Morgan, paid tribute to late reggae legends at Reggae Sumfest. No one could have predicted that less than a year later, tributes would be pouring in as news that the 46-year-old had died.

Ironically, it was in the wee hours of a Sunday morning (July 22) that the reggae royalty graced the Sumfest stage for the first time in over a decade. Alongside siblings Gramps, Una, Mojo and Lukes, Peetah led the group’s near-hour set of musical excellence, ranking among the top performances of the 2023 staging

They made a symbolic entry with Tell Me How Come, a 2005 take on an unjust society that also demonizes Rastafarians. The message rang true 18 years later, ahead of the national grooming policy that was inspired by instances of dreadlocked students facing discrimination in schools. 

Peetah’s voice was just as evocative and sweet-sounding as it reverberated on classics that have helped to sculpt the Morgan Heritage sonic. Iconic producer Bobby Digital, who died in 2020, was also instrumental in the shaping of that sound, and rightfully honoured through flawless performances of the magic they made. 

“Right now, we’re gonna ‘livicate’ to a man, our brother who we lost a few years ago…” Peetah opened. “He’s been very instrumental in the career of Morgan Heritage through so many years… He goes by the name of Bobby ‘Digital’ Dixon.”

Then rained sweet nostalgia in the form of New Time, New Sign and What We Need Is Love, and Peetah didn’t miss a beat. The band threw it back to their St. Thomas roots with Down By the River, a moment which saw Peetah smiling ear-to-ear as the audience choired the chorus on his behalf. 

There were different points where Peetah’s personality peaked through. Though championed as the group’s usher from infancy, it was evident that he knew it wasn’t ‘The Peetah Show’. From Mojo’s raps and Una’s supporting vocals, to Gramps’ multifaceted contributions, Peetah was graciously eager to shout-out his siblings and share the spotlight. His courtesy extended to other band presenters, whom he occasionally flashed a smile and thumbs up as the set unfolded. 

Perhaps the most human moment of the night was Peetah’s faux pas in mistaking Tessanne Chin for Wayne Marshall’s wife. 

“I wanna say big up to the Mitchells: Wayne Marshall and Tessanne Chin, well, Tessanne Mitchell,” Peetah said during the performance of Down By the River. “We saw you singing this song on the internet and it let us feel really good, so we’re gonna sing it a cappella like you did in the car.”

The actual Mitchells, Wayne Marshall and Tami Chin, were backstage hosts at Sumfest, so Peetah was soon made aware of the blunder. 

“I gotta admit, I made the biggest mistake here on the stage tonight,” he started. “Wayne, I’m sorry brother. Mr. Marshall, he’s not married to Tessanne Chin, he’s married to Tami Chin, so Wayne, forgive me. Tami, forgive me please. You see how you haffi careful inna life?… Give it up for The Mitchells y’all.”

Then there were the dramatic, theatrical pauses during his performance of Best Friend, with soulful vocals that made his staggering confessions sound like the sweetest vow. The band’s timing and storytelling were masterful, with Peetah as the quintessential conduit, because despite his indiscretions, “she’s still loving me” – a dream of a transition. Suave – that’s what they call it. 

Flags waved and bodies swayed even when they introduced new music from their latest album The Homeland, of note, the afrobeat-flavoured Who Dey Like U for which they had vibrant dancers. It can be tricky terrain for a legacy act to win over fans with new material, but with appropriate preludes, pin-drop clarity and decades-long stage mastery, Peetah made it look easy – twice. 

The pinnacle of their homage was Gramp’s tear-jerking performance of People Like You in honour of their father, reggae pioneer Denroy Morgan

“Without our father, there would be no Morgan Heritage,” Peetah said.

“Without our mothers, there would be no Morgan Heritage, so please, I’mma have my brother, Gramps, sing you this song in honour of our father, Ras Denroy Morgan, and for all of you who have lost a loved one over the years.”

The eeriness of the statement, in retrospect, is that Gramps also sang the song at his father’s funeral service in 2022. At that ceremony, Gramps’ voice cracked with so much emotion that he couldn’t finish the lyrics, so Peetah came and rested his chin on his brother’s shoulder for moral support. With that (and a standing ovation from attendees), Gramps was able to power through.

To think, Gramps may have to sing that very song at his brother’s funeral. 

Born in New York, Peetah’s recording career started in the 1990s under Morgan Heritage, made possible by their patriarch who’d scored the crossover smash I’ll Do Anything For You in 1981. The latter had grown tired of The States and longed to return to Jamaica, so after the group recorded an album for MCA Records, they followed their dad home in 1994. 

Peetah shared the story at Ras Morgan’s funeral.

“We nuh know nothing bout Jamaica but wah we learn at home, but we seh, ‘Daddy, anywhere you a go, we a go with you’, so we came to Jamaica and that’s where Morgan Heritage got our start. Jamaica accepted us and then the world accepted us, so we want to say thank you to Jamaica for loving and accepting the Morgan family.”

Among their accolades are the Grammy for Best Reggae Album for Strictly Roots in 2016, and the Jamaica Reggae Icon Award for their overall contribution to Jamaican music.

Peetah also released solo projects, including the tracks Better World, A Nuh We Dat and Can’t Break Our Souls. 

This content was originally sourced and posted at DancehallMag »
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