gall and gumption

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Neville Willoughby, 1937-2006

Another voice out of childhood. A smart, creative, professional radio journalist whose voice and name were known to every Jamaican, man, woman, child. Genial, tactful, always good-natured, with perfect diction and appropriateness of tone. Gosh, there were some good broadcasters on the air then. We were a little dinky country, but we trusted these people who brought us the news every night, or hosted the programs on the radio, they were as good as we could have wanted: Neville Willoughby, Roy Lawrence (big, sentimental sportscaster), Dennis Hall, Don Topping, Erica Allen, Barry Davis, and Cynthia Wilmot. And, of course, Motty P. I'm sure I'm leaving some out. If anybody from Jamaica stops by and sees that I've missed anyone, post his or her name.

Neville also sang and wrote songs; his voice was often heard singing in radio and TV commercials, too. The one I remember best was the Wincarnis Tonic Wine jingle, I still can't get that wretched thing out of my head.

In Jamaica the radio plays just constantly almost everywhere. You are listening and then not listening, it's just the background to everything, this loose and variously textured weave of voices. Neville's voice was one of the constants. He had a relationship with his public that had been built up over a 45-year career of being heard every day.

He was also a close family friend, as truly nice in person as his on-air persona seemed. He and his sister were among that cohort of lifetime friends of my Aunt J., friendships not cooled by distance or bad luck or good luck or marriage, that somehow still kept their adolescent intensity and effusiveness. These were giggly and snuggly friendships, deeply affectionate, deeply loyal. So he was part of our life in that way as well, a friend to my father and his brothers, almost family. This makes them sad.

Update: I did think of another one: Lindy Delapenha. All of them public-spirited, conscientious, good journalists, trusted by their audience. It happens sometimes.

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