Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Liberty Silver


It was Thanksgiving long weekend and the Afro Canada Views team was at it again, this time with the indomitable songstress Liberty Silver. A true giant, but humble, warm and just real, she was the first black female to win multiple Juno awards in 1985. Liberty’s upbringing was not quite so illustrious. Adopted by a white British family in Peterborough, Liberty remembers what a traumatic childhood it was.
 Liberty Silver (2012)                                                 Photo: C. Ferguson
Bullied and ridiculed because she was black and adopted, Liberty used music as a means to escape her tormentors, learning to play seven (7) musical instruments in the process. She was surrounded by music during her growing years, her adopted father, whom she credits for her work ethic, was a violinist and taught the neighborhood kids. He was also the owner of an extensive array of music from every genre.  Liberty would escape to the basement and belt her sorrows out to the sound of the Supremes, Billy Holliday, Stevie Wonder and later her own compositions. To this day Liberty lists Stevie Wonder as one of her musical inspirations.

Liberty may not have grown up on the streets, but she definitely learned from the school of hard knocks. She learned that people did not have to like you to love or be touched by your music. She also learned that there is a divine power that comes from a gift such as music, that for those moments that you hold that audience captive, you have the power to convey a message that might otherwise be lost. Liberty remembers, fondly now, the scores of kids who on the school playgrounds would ostracize her, yet be beating down her door for her after school concerts. It was through them that Liberty learned the business of music, for upon realizing that she had the power to repeatedly capture their attention, began to charge an admission fee that in the innocence of youth consisted of loose change, candy and homework answers.

When Liberty was thirteen (13) an incident occurred that would forever change the course of her destiny. Liberty had always been athletic, competing in various sports like Javelin, track & field and Short-putt at which she excelled but was never allowed to represent her school in the nationals. 

When the frustrated Liberty demanded answers; the response rocked her world. The officials did not want her representing the school because she was black and adopted. This news shattered a young Liberty who after confronting her parents, packed her bags and left Peterborough for the city lights of Toronto where her sister resided.
Here the story gets surreal, for nary 2 hours after her arrival, taking a swim and singing her pain away, Liberty was overheard by a producer who convinced her to audition for a band called ‘The Wild Bunch’. And the rest, we say is history, for nary 12 hours later a young, inexperienced but inwardly mature Liberty would open for none other than the renowned Bob Marley at Madison Square Gardens. Her first official gig.
 “Everyone asked me how I felt, she remembers, but all I could think off was wow they paid me $100 to sing!”    

After that gig, Liberty would go on to find her niche within the Jamaican/Caribbean community here in Toronto, serving as the lead singer of several different bands and working with talented musicians like Eddie Bullen among others.  She took the Canadian music scene by storm when in the mid 1980’s she received 3 coveted Juno Awards for best R & B Single and Best Reggae/Calypso Recording. That same year she was nominated for Most Promising Female Vocalist and collaborated on a Jazz Album nominated for a Juno Award, making history as the only multiple Juno Award Winner and Nominee besides Bryan Adams.

Asked about changes she’s seen in the industry during of her career, Liberty expresses deep disappointment that there hasn’t been much changes and not for lack of talent. “There is an embarrassing wealth of talent in Canada, but it’s not being nurtured,” the singer claims. Why do you think that is I ask? .  “Our mindset is not right, she says, “We have not built our own, we are not economically stimulating ourselves”. (2012)

But Liberty has committed to doing her part, for despite her exciting journey to fame, she has never forgotten her roots, donating her musical expertise and time through her foundation (The Liberty Silver Foundation) to giving our youths a chance to succeed. The foundation provides a space for positive self-expression by encouraging youths to utilize music, art and poetry to empower themselves. Ultimately giving voice to her belief that if you teach a child his heritage then you empower him to find the spirit of his divinity, rooted in the knowledge that we are the descendants of kings and queens.

Liberty’s story is a true testimony of triumph over adversity through determination and positive thinking. For her trail blazing career that has paved the way for a generation of black female song-stars and her dedication to service of the community Liberty Silver is a GIANT on whose shoulders we STAND.

No comments:

Post a Comment