Friday, May 3, 2013

In Loving Memory of O'neil Edwards

O'Neil Jason Charles Edwards
    May 08, 1974 - May 26, 2010

Wednesday, May 8 2013 will be recognized in memorial of
O'Neil Jason Charles Edwards
Father, Son, Brother and Friend .


Higher and Higher


When he sang the words “Mr. Wacky is gone but his dancing lives on…”, ONeil Edwards could never have known that his end would be equally tragic.  He was named ONeil Jason Charles Edwards at birth, an event that took place on May 8, 1974. One of ten siblings, ONeil’s five sisters and four brothers knew that music would be the road he would take from early in their lives.

He was destined to be in the music business, following in the footsteps of his father, well-known Jamaican recording artiste and producer Rupee Edwards.  The performance and production of music was a part of ONeil’s early life as he watched his father, heard the sounds, felt the excitement of the music business and decided this was what he wanted to do.

Even as he was making a decent living as an entrepreneur, the music business called out to ONeil.  Confident of his ability and determined to succeed, he joined with his neighbourhood friends, Jerome "Craig "Jackson, Kevin Blaire, Robert Manning and Leonardo Grant to form a multi-talented group of singers.   It was 1999, and the new century was to bring a round of success for the brand new group Voicemail.

One hit after the other, with popularity rising, Voicemail became highly sought after on the dancehall scene.  The group became a trio - Craig, Kevin and ONeil.  Although ONeil’s deep and distinct baritone was sure to provoke loud screams, the trio was known for their seamlessly interlaced voices.  Their mantra was one sound, one distinctive look, a group that moved in unison and sang in harmony.

This complete image, professional demeanour and focused outlook did not happen by accident.  The standards were maintained through ONeil’s management style.  It was he who administered the group’s business.  While the other’s trained, ONeil toiled.  He made the deals and confirmed the bookings, planned the tours, coordinated the recordings and thought through the promotions.  He was the foundation upon which Voicemail was built.

The life of a performing artiste is a challenging one.  No one knows this more than ONeil’s life partner, Ingrid Smalling.  With every late night, early morning and long, gruelling hours, Ingrid provided the strength and support that ONeil needed to make it through the labyrinth that the music industry can be.  Their daughter, Nehalis Nastacia Edwards provided her father with a month of joy, born five weeks before he passed. ‘Fun and gregarious’, a man of style, that is how ONeil Edwards’ friends and neighbours from the Duhaney Park community describe him. Always “Ready to Party”, always ready to dance.

ONeil Jason Charles Edwards left Jamaica a message, one last voicemail.  The circumstances of his death and the time at which he passed are both significant. ONeil’s last voicemail serves to point Jamaica and the Jamaican recording industry in a new direction.  A direction that seeks to help to build a nation, take a nation ‘Higher’. His wish would be that everyone in the fraternity would hold up their hands higher, clasp them together in his memory, and move as one to help to heal nation in distress.

Out and Bad…Rest in Peace ONeil Edwards.

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