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Reggae legends team up.

MICHAEL WOOD OVER'S rock legend Beres Hammond doesn't make plans.

l The Jamaican singer, who admits to enjoying checkers and dominoes when not making sweet reggae music, says: "I go wherever my next song leads me. My music plans for me.

"My management makes plans," he adds by way of qualification. "They are the ones who tell me what my schedule is.

"As long as it's not in the middle of a checkers game."

And he certainly doesn't like to be rushed.

Asked if he enjoys touring, he says: "When I don't have to do too many shows behind each other.

"When you have a lot of shows behind each other, it's not good for the DNA," he insists. "I like a bit of space in between."

It's perhaps not surprising, then, that his career has followed a similarly laid-back and chilled-out trajectory.

Born Hugh Beresford Hammond, the ninth of 10 children growing up in Annotto Bay, Jamaica, in a family who "all loved music and played music", he was raised on a diet of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke soul and Alton Ellis rocksteady.

And by the age of 15, he had decided that playing music was how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

"I never thought of doing anything else," he says simply. "There was so much music inside me that I thought, 'That's what I should do.'" ."

He admits that he didn't exactly burst on to the music scene.

"It was a gradual thing. So gradual that at times you felt like giving up," he confesses. "Then you realised that at some spot you were last year, you had grown, so you said to yourself, 'Something's happening.'" ."

He released his first album, Soul Reggae, in 1976, started to enjoy international success in the mid to late 80s with songs like What One Dance Can Do and peaked with dancefloor smash Tempted To Touch in the early 90s. His career has jogged along nicely ever since, in much the same relaxed, rhythmic groove as hits like In My Arms, Rock Away and I Feel Good.

And as he approaches his 60th birthday, he is still writing, recording and performing.

Asked if he has a concert favourite, he says: "I'm still searching for that song."

Is that what keeps you going? "That's right. That and the people. They are the ones who give you the energy to carry on. As long as you can sing for them, it's worth it."

There have been dark times. He left Jamaica for New York in the late 80s after thieves tied him up as they ransacked his home, but he later returned.

"It's the place I was born and raised," he explains. "I would not give it up for anything. It's where your good friends and worst enemies are. You have to learn to live with them."

He asks me what yesterday was like for me.

Surprised, I say that I'm sure today will be better, and he replies: "You have to have yesterday to appreciate today."

He returns to Birmingham this month to perform at the O2 Academy on July 18, alongside fellow reggae legend Bunny Wailer who, with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, brought reggae to the rest of the world in the early 70s. The two have known each other for about 40 years.

"Bunny's not one of my sparring partners," insists Beres. "He's like one of the artists on the road. He's an advocate for reggae.

"We don't meet every week - we both have our work to do - but when we do get together it's beautiful. It's a joy."

Beres is in the middle of a busy period. Ahead of his five UK dates, he was due to fly out to perform in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Then, after Birmingham, he is heading out to the US for a 12-concert tour.

He is rather dismissive of his 60th birthday next month.

"I don't feel much different," he insists. "Every day is a wonderful day."

Landmark birthdays are a good opportunity to look back, I suggest. How does he view his career? "I don't want to sum it up yet," he insists. "I'm too young for that."

? Beres Hammond and Bunny Wailer are at the O2 Academy, Birmingham, on July 18.

www.o2academybirmingham.co.uk

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Reggae stars Beres Hammond (left) and Bunny Wailer are at O2 Academy next week
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 10, 2015
Words:735
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