Prime Minister Mia Mottley joined hundreds who gathered at the Sir Garfield Sobers Wildey Gymnasium on Saturday morning for a fittingly beautiful service to celebrate the life of Barbados’ First Lady of Song Carlyn Leacock.
Before the 10 a.m. official start of the service, those who entered the gymnasium to view Leacock’s body draped in a green dress laying in a green, white and bronze casket, were greeted by the sweet sounds of local entertainers who rendered some of her hits.
Leacock’s family and friends who graced the stage, described her as a beautiful person inside and out who has blessed generations with her vocal and musical talent.
The renowned songstress who passed away on January 12, was remembered as a versatile entertainer who played a significant role in shaping Barbados’ landscape through not only training artistes and producing dynamic concerts throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
She delivered memorable hits including Hello There Baby, The Clock, Love And Song, Musical Matrimony, and Take A Chance On Me.
In 1994, Leacock joined her voice with her brother James, who sang with the gospel band Promise, and they won the Barbados Song Festival with Musical Matrimony. The brother and sister duo also won the Caribbean Song Festival with the song written by The Most Honourable Stedson “Red Plastic Bag” Wiltshire that same year.
Obeying Leacock’s request, soca artiste Nikita, delivered an enchanting performance of Yolanda Adams’ Still I Rise, a delivery which brought members of the congregation to their feet before she was even finished, and brought tears to many eyes.
“My aunty Carlyn taught me everything. She was my dream. She is what as a little girl watching from backstage, because I couldn’t watch in the audience, she exudes so much class, sophistication, I wanted to be her.
“This next song, she told me to sing. I didn’t know it, but she told me to sing it. And so on this your final curtain call this song is for you,” Nikita said.
It was truly a special moment when members of the large leacock family and band took to the stage and sang It’s Not Raining Anymore, captivating members of the audience who erupted into applause.
Daughters Jan Keizer and Debbie Gibson could not stop the tears from falling as they reflected on their mother’s life, and shared several stories that spoke to the close bond they shared with their matriarch.
The sisters recalled that from a very young age they accompanied their prominent mother almost everywhere she went, and witnessed countless performances, as she dominated the music industry.
And even though she had a hectic schedule while they were growing up, Keizer and Gibson stressed that Leacock taught them how to be ladies, behave publicly, and how to embrace their dreams and pursue successful paths in life.
The sisters also lightened the moment with a few jokes from their childhood, noting that they admired their mom’s patience and professionalism when she was approached by fans in public, even if it meant spending extra time in a supermarket aisle.
“After an extensive singing career, Carlyn used her creative talents in a wider cultural Barbadian arena. An unsung hero, Carlyn worked with the secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Office where she initiated the Parish Ambassador Competition, and worked for several years to see its establishment. It continues to be a significant part of the national independence celebrations until this day.
“Carlyn was a columnist for the Nation Newspaper. She was one of its main advertising agents working on the launching of the visitor magazine which was printed by the publication. Mom was also an entrepreneur bursting with ideas which at times made her a pioneer in untravelled territory. She was among the very first to commercially manufacture, bottle and sell wet seasoning with many hotels, supermarkets, and the Barbados flight kitchen, as clients,” Gibson said.
Gibson said Leacock rededicated her life to the Lord in her 50s and a new spark was ignited in her, as she took her passion on her Christian walk and took pleasure in using her wealth of experience and talent for the Kingdom of God.
Gibson said: “She absolutely loved working with churches on productions, training workshops and worship teams and choirs and building wonderful relationships with the young and the young at heart, in Barbados abroad. She wasn’t slowing down, not at all.
“She continued to pour and share her skills with streams of young students who she lovingly called her babies, and they reciprocated their love to their aunty Carlyn as she faithfully tutored them at her home, many, many evenings”.
Meanwhile, Keizer noted that her mother’s life was not a bed of roses, but with her faith in God helped her to overcome adversities.
Keizer said Leacock loved a good laugh and held court over her extensive family whom she hovered over and pulled together for gatherings, often reminding her loved ones that she was the big sister and matriarch.
“So, what does mummy’s final curtain call look like? Our mother, big sister, aunty, Barbados’ beloved, first lady of song. She has left an unfillable void in this world and in our family … Her life was not a dress rehearsal and that’s what she said to us, and she lived it as best as she could and as full as she could,” Keizer said.
Gibson and Keizer showcased the singing ability their mother passed on to them through their touching rendition of IL Divo’s song Mama.
Delivering the sermon, Leacock’s younger brother, Paul Leacock, asked the congregation to think about their life song that is currently playing and can be heard by others and God.
“Listen to your words and to your deeds. Who is your real audience? Who are you singing to please? You can sing a new song today. You can cancel that old contract, we can give you a good one, we can give you a covenant with God. Are we singing to please God?
“You can change your tune if you are not. You can change your genre of music. You don’t have to please the crowd at the expense of your soul, you might only end up like so many, empty, forgotten, faded into history. You can come and join this hallelujah chorus, you can join the people of God that sing Unto the Lord a new song for he has done marvellous things,” Pastor Leacock preached.
Thousands also viewed the service which was streamed online. Leacock was buried at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens. (AH)