The Charlie Chaplin of international repute died in 1977 at 88 years old, having dominated the film industry for the better part of his life.
There is another Charlie Chaplin, born Richard Bennet, who has made his mark. Not the same kind of mark, mind you, but one for which the Jamaican Government found important enough to honor him with the Order of Distinction (Officer rank).
While the honor is undoubtedly well earned, there are many, especially of a younger generation, who do not know who Charlie Chaplin is.
Bennet’s career began 33 years ago when he began working with U-Roy’s Stur-Gav Hi-Fi Collective. Interestingly, his popularity climbed in Jamaica because he avoided the classic dancehall route of glorifying the more debauched elements of the environment.
His cultural bent made him an enigma, and by the time he released his first album, Presenting Charlie Chaplin, in 1982, he was already a household name.
So unique, yet popular were his culturally rich lyrics that in 1984, he produced an album in collaboration with Yellowman, who was dancehall’s king.
The album was aptly titled Slackness vs Pure Culture.
By 1985 when he released Que Dem, Chaplin had shown himself to be a prolific writer and singer, with six albums between it and his first.
From 1982 until 2001, Charlie Chaplin created a mammoth 20 albums and had eight other compilations to boot.
Other persons who have contributed to arts and entertainment to join Chaplin during yesterday’s National Honours and Awards Ceremony are: Dr Olive Lewin (OM), Beres Hammond (OJ), Professor Lorna Goodison (CD), Professor Carolyn Joy Cooper (CD), Filberto Osario Callender (OD), Volier Johnson (OD), Orrett Dexter Anthony Rhoden (CD), and Mercedes Kirkwood (CD).
While Dr Lewin earned the highest award, the Order of Merit, Hammond’s honour must be specially noted.