A heart-breaking story of a childhood stolen
April 8, 2005
A heart-breaking story of a childhood stolen

Under the bright lights of Germany, Grub Cooper remembered his vow to be bigger than any of the teachers who had conspired to get him expelled from the School of Agriculture. He could hardly believe it that he had achieved his pledge already so soon. They spent a month in Germany and returned to the stage at Hotel Kingston. He recalls the band being “pushed off stage” on New Year’s night 1970 by the temporary band that had sat in for them while they toured. But when the patronage dropped dramatically, the hotel sent back for Fab Five in March and had the satisfaction of seeing the numbers climb rapidly again. {{more}}

To Germany with love…again

A month later, Huber invited them back to Germany and the band resigned again, this time for good. The same group, minus the dancers and Marcia Griffiths, went on that tour. Following that successful tour, during which they acquired their own musical equipment, the band returned to Jamaica in June and immediately began preparations for a three-nation tour of the Caribbean with Sing-Out Jamaica which had swelled by then to some 5,000 young people islandwide. During that time they met Dwight Pinkney who was with the Sing-Out St Ann’s Bay group. For the trip they raised funds by staging activities such as car wash, walk-a-thon, tag drive and the like. They built their own stage and handled the lighting and sound. The tour went to Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana.

The night the girls went wild

With its popularity growing, the band decided to become a road band, giving up its previous status as a resident band. Stevie Golding was brought in on guitar. Importantly too, the name Fabulous Five Incorporated was formalised with Conroy, Grub, Frankie, Peter and Stevie. Their first concert as Fabulous Five Inc was at the Holy Childhood auditorium near Half-Way-Tree in November that same year. It was the concert for Holy Childhood High and they rehearsed for months. The Inner Circle Band with Jacob “Killer” Miller was on the show and U-Roy was the opening act. Fab Five performed a half-hour stint that the auditorium had rarely seen. “Two hundred chairs were wrecked by the way the girls carried on,” Grub recalls. “After that, all the girls schools in the Corporate Area were calling for us to do their end-of-year concert.” By December, everybody wanted Five Fab to back them.

Jamaican Woman

In 1971, Fab Five recorded its first single Come Back and Stay, on the Harry J label. It sailed to number one. Radio Jamaica and Swing Magazine voted them the band of the year for 1971. They remained ahead of all other bans, with some help from Merritone who used to bring them newly records from the US. Many hit songs were to follow, including 16 which went number one on the top ten charts. Their biggest hit, Grub estimates, is Jamaican Woman. On tour of Cuba in 1977, they were mobbed everywhere they went. In 1981 they toured with Rita Marley, doing US, Canada, France and the Caribbean. Fab Five also wrote and produced Rita’s big hit One Draw. They worked with Bob Marley arranging vocals for the I-Threes on Marley’s Uprising album.

Nothing could stop them now. Special gigs also included an anti-nuclear rally in New York’s Central Park, with artistes like Peter Paul and Mary, Yoko Ono and Linda Ronstadt. They went on to arrange the 16 albums for the Grace Thrillers, countless jingles for public and private sector companies and organisations, some at no cost to them, including the Jamaica AIDS Support. Grub is especially proud to declare he has done 20 pantomimes and written more theatre music “than any other three persons combined in Jamaica”. He has written and co-wrote over 600 songs and more than 1,000 jingles. In recognition of this musical genius, the Jamaican government conferred on him the Order of Distinction (OD) in 1992. “It is one of the achievements I am most proud of because I am being recognised by my country,” he says.

Through the many dramatic changes over the years, the current band members of Fab Five comprise: Frankie Campbell, OD, manager and base guitarist; Sidney Thorpe, keyboards; Donovan Palmer, keyboards; Glenroy Samuels, guitar; Romeo Gray, trombone; Vivia Scott, interim trumpet and Grub Cooper, musical arranger, drummer, lead vocals and emcee.

Joy comes in the morning

In the year 2000, Grub Cooper found the love he had sung about in so many of his songs. Joy DaCosta, a divorcee said “I do” to him and put a new song in his heart. She had seen a newspaper article in which he was quoted as saying he would never get married. That same article had devastated his previous girl friend, Arlene Smith and mother of his son, Kristoffer Cooper. She left to live in Miami where Kristoffer is now doing computer graphics. Grub and Joy met by chance at a supermarket and she confronted him about the article, advising him not to rule out marriage. Their relationship grew out of that chance meeting but almost ended because of Grub’s love for wine, women and song. When he saw he was hurting her, he gave up his old ways and found peace in her embrace. Theirs is a story of acceptance and willingness to leave space for each other.

And alas, we have run out of space. The Grub Cooper story will remain an enduring tale of inspiration to those who struggle against overwhelming odds but still have the will to survive. There are new chapters still to be written and for this we will wait…