His song, "To Be Lonely", still gives me goose bumps every time I listen to it. In the 70s I listened to Santana and other Rock musicians of that era, and I also listened to Sammy Baksh. I recall when his iconic song was first released how it sent shockwaves among Guyana's young people and how Pancho Carew would often play it on his radio show, "Best by Request". I thought that the singer was someone from Europe or the US, and then I found out that he was Guyanese and living in Guyana. Imagine my pride. Thinking about it now as I write these few lines is making my hair stand on end.
I had the opportunity to meet my Guyanese Idol a few days ago after I had found out from my friend, Carol, that he was often in the Queenstown neighborhood. She had gotten his phone number and had told him that I was desirous of meeting him. I called him and he graciously agreed to meet with me. The next day I was told that I had a visitor, and when I went to the door, there he was. It was a rather delightful moment for me. I told him that I became a fan of his when I first heard his song at age 17 and told him that he was truly a Guyanese Legend and in the same category as Johnny Braff, with whom (I later found out) he had done a concert).
Mr. Baksh talked mostly about the thrill he experienced playing several years ago at a concert in Suriname and the surprise he felt at how well he was received in that country. He also talked about his early struggle to get his music recorded and about the predatory nature of those involved in the business. He also talked about his sister, Dolly, whose death was a turning point in his life. Two severe beatings he experienced by thugs in Florida after 9/11 and also in New York City following a concert certainly affected him physically and emotionally.
These days Mr. Baksh appears to be on a different path - a spiritual path. He continues to be involved in music and still plays the guitar as evidenced by his calloused fingertips which he showed me in response to my question as to whether he were still into music. But he is no longer in the limelight as he was in the 70s. In fact, when I mentioned his name to some people in Georgetown their response was usually how they heard that he was "crazy". Crazy? Certainly not. Eccentric? Perhaps. Just before he left, I decided to play "To Be Lonely" out loud on the house's breezy verandah. Hearing the song definitely had a nostalgic effect on Mr. Baksh, for as the song played he began talking about ultimate issues, matching the intensity of the song. For me it was a memorable meeting, one left an indelible impression on me and one that elicited in me feelings of euphoria and sadness. In homage to his great artistry, I created a photographic collage to complement his song, "To Be Lonely". Enjoy.
[photo and videographic art by Ric Couchman]