Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World 1976 fell in love with Bob Marley and produced a son Damien. Cindy is now speaking about how she met Bob and how it changed her life for years after. Here is part 1 taken from the Jamaica Gleaner reporter Janet Silvera.
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
In an hour-long lecture organised by the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona, former Miss World, Cindy Breakspeare, tells all.
The Gleaner’s entertainment pages will carry a five-part series to this no-holds-barred presentation unveiled at the 17th Annual Bob Marley lecture.
CINDY & BOB.
Born in Canada in 1954 to a Canadian mother and a white Jamaican father, Cindy Breakspeare moved to Jamaica with her parents in 1959, along with her older brother, Stephen, whom she tagged her constant companion and playmate.
“As children, you often fail to notice that there is trouble in paradise, and when my parents went their separate ways a couple of years later, we were devastated.
Stephen was sent to St Mary’s College, Above Rocks, and I was sent to Immaculate Conception Convent.”
To be sent to a Roman Catholic Convent at the age of seven, she said was a shock to the system.
“The nuns were remote, very strict and certainly provided no substitute for the love one’s own parents offered.”
During her four years there, Cindy said she often felt lost, lonely and abandoned and lived for the holidays when she would be reunited with her brother.
Visits from her parents were infrequent, compared to the other students.
“And my sense of family began to dissipate, replaced by the understanding that friends would have to suffice.”
Last Thursday night, some of those same friends sat in the lecture.
Immaculate, she called the finest girl’s school in Jamaica and said she would eternally be grateful for the foundation she received there. The emphasis, she said, was on religion.
“We were up very early for mass, very early every morning. We prayed before and after every class, every meal, there was rosary in the chapel every afternoon, and mass, rosary and benediction every Sunday.”
All these religious activities did little for Breakspeare. Instead, she grew into a rebellious teenager fascinated with the opposite sex, oblivious with the benefits of education and eager to be out of there and in the world commandeering her own life.
“In and out of trouble, it was actually a relief to both me and the school when I finally graduated.”
After nine years of schooling, she said she left Immaculate with the feeling that religion was rigid, judgemental, divisive and lacking in compassion.
A brief stint at Duff’s Business College proved too much of a struggle between her fingernails and the typewriter keys, so she moved on. With no money for higher education, the best job was the one that looked best.
“One day, while working at Gem Craft, a jewellery store in Tropical Plaza, a couple of English guys came sauntering in. One of them, a well-known deejay based in London by the name of Dave Cash, he took one look at me and, as we say in Jamaica, him skin ketch fire.”
The two started hanging out, along with Breakspeare’s brother and girlfriend, Regina Burke, and ended up at a house in Russell Heights occupied by Danny Simms.
“We partied hearty and were still at it in the wee hours of the morning when there came a knock at the front door. Danny disappeared for a short while and on his return declared, ‘You know who that was? That was Bob Marley. He is gonna be a big star one day’.”
She said they nodded in dutiful agreement and went back to their party.
Not aware of Bob
“I don’t believe any of us at the time were even aware of Bob. And probably didn’t realise that we danced to his music frequently at parties. I first became aware of Bob when Catch A Fire was released in 1973.
Breakspeare began to embrace the different genres of music. In Bob’s music, the message of being your brother’s keeper, drugs are not the way to go, and standing up for the poor and oppressed, crept into her subconscious and the notion that spirituality was so much more rewarding than religion started to take root.
“The years spent in a Roman Catholic institution had not left me with much,” she declared.
Her father had migrated some years back. Her mother, in need of an anchor, had set her two children free from her nest.
“So my brother and I, as close as two peas in a pod, found our way, and through a mutual friend, rented a two-bedroom flat at 56 Hope Road.”
Other tenants on the compound included, Jody-Ann McNeill and Rasta attorney, Dianne Jobson.
The compound buzzed with activity she reminisced.
Breakspeare and her brother, raised in an echelon of society which believed Rastas to be a population of machete-wielding, religious fanatics crazed on ganja consumption to be avoided at all cost, settled right in, completely at home, and free at last of social mores and parents.
“Our friends frequented our place, an eclectic mix of beautiful people, Errol Thompson, Tony Johnson. Nancy and Regina Burke, Patsy Yuen, Ronnie and Suzie Burke.”
They smoked their fair share of ganja and revelled in the understanding that, as young adults, the world was their oyster.
“Somehow, we sensed that we were positioned at the heart of something great, something special. The atmosphere at 56 was always charged with electricity, excitement, rebelliousness of a deliberate nature.”
Bob Marley and the Wailers rehearsed there. It was the time when Bob and the music were about to overtake the world with an irreversible resonance that was being created rehearsed and celebrated right there in the same yard where she lived.
“How could we resist the call? Why would we resist the call? To honour some childhood indoctrination from institutions we had grown to resent? We were wide open, totally receptive to what else was out there in the way of a moral compass.”
The rest of the world was waking up to a message and the power of Bob’s music, she said.
And although Jamaica was running a tad behind, held back by prejudices and fear of the unknown, there was a nucleus of devotees in Kingston.
Rastafari, she said, was the foundation, “and we were like moths to a flame”.
To listen to the music and feel the pulse, the rhythm move your body was one thing, but to really hear the lyrics and absorb the message was to be totally hooked, stated Breakspeare.
Privy to the creative process, witness to the evolution of the 20th century prophet, she said she never understood then how amazing what was unfolding before her very eyes truly was.
“We were there stoned, drunk on the potency of single-mindedness of purpose of one man who now has 44 million Facebook followers, second only posthumously to Michael Jackson. We didn’t know.”
“When Bob first started approaching me on a personal level I was petrified.”