When Clinton Fearon first started performing as a professional musician in 1969, he didn’t think he’d still be at it 50 years later.
“I’ve just wanted to do music and wanted to put my energy in it as much as possible,” said the Seattle-based reggae artist, who this year marks a half-century of music.
Fearon got his start in his native Jamaica as a member of the reggae group the Gladiators. He recorded 11 albums with the band from 1976 to 1987, when he left the Gladiators and relocated to Seattle. He’s currently at work on his 13th solo record and has an EP on the way to celebrate his 50-year milestone.
He said he’s been driven to keep recording and performing all his life by the fans his music has touched and because he doesn’t know what else he would be doing.
“Fans and friends keep reminding me by sending me mail, calling me on the phone about what the music’s done for them and those are huge encouragements,” he said. “So even if I wanted to stop, I couldn’t stop. Plus that’s what I know how to do. I don’t know how to do something else.”
Fearon will be drawing from his decades-deep well of music when he performs at the Queen’s in Nanaimo on Feb. 8. The concert will also feature South Korean-born Australian roots singer Saritah and Plains Cree rapper Yellowsky. All three musicians bring a social awareness to their work, but Fearon said it’s also important to have fun.
He said his music continues to be relevant because the issues he sings about are still relevant. He said lessons still need to be learned.
“We’re still not paying attention to some of the encouragement that we put out there as artists. Not just me, but artists do have a lot to say, poets, people who really look into the situation…” Fearon said. “So there is room for the songs I do. And so the more people get with it and the more the audience grows, the more it gives me the encouragement to say, ‘I need to continue to do this, it’s catching on.’”
Fearon said it’s hard to believe 50 years have passed since he first set off on his reggae journey, but he said that journey is still continuing.
“To see that I’ve been in the business for 50 years, it’s a ‘wow’ but in the same breath it also is a blessing,” Fearon said. “Like I say, I count my blessing and looking forward to another long stretch.”
WHAT’S ON … Clinton Fearon and guests Saritah and Yellowsky perform at the Queen’s on Friday, Feb. 8. Doors at 9:30 p.m., show at 10. Tickets are $20 in advance from the venue and Fascinating Rhythm.