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Gil Bailey, veteran broadcaster victim of COVID-19

NEW YORK, United States — Gil Bailey, the veteran broadcaster and pioneering radio personality who for more than 50 years was the voice of Jamaica and Caribbean radio here, died Monday morning — a victim of COVID-19. He was 84 years old.

Sources said Bailey had underlying health issues which caused him to be on dialysis treatment.

Along with his wife Pat, who died in December of 2016, Bailey hosted the Gil and Pat Bailey show featuring Jamaican and Caribbean music, news entertainment and interview features.

For many people, his radio shows with Pat was a “must listen”, especially on Saturdays, as it was where Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals would get their information about what was taking place back home.

Known as the ‘godfather’ within radio circles here, the St Thomas-born Bailey was widely credited for “paving the way for many in radio here at this point,” said fellow radio personality and Jamaica Diaspora advocate Irwine Clare.

Clare described Bailey as one who “gave his all to inform and entertain the Jamaican and wider Caribbean community here”.

Sharon Gordon, a broadcaster who worked closely with Bailey, described him as the one who “broke down the barriers that allowed people like myself to advance”.

She added: “He taught me how to host programmes on radio and how to go out, gather and produce the news.” She also praised Bailey’s wife Pat for her “inspiration and assistance”.

Last year Bailey celebrated 50 years on tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) radio stations, including WHBI, where he started in 1970, WNWK, WPAT, and WNSR 620 AM, which he joined in 2018 after a one-year break, and his own Internet network,

Along with two other pioneers, Karl Anthony and Ken Williams, Bailey was credited for helping to put Caribbean radio on the map in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. This was during the 1970s when Caribbean music and culture was largely ignored by the mainstream radio in the area. Bailey was eventually be recognised for his work in radio when he was conferred with the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government.

A number of people yesterday took to social media to pay tribute to Bailey after news of his passing became public.

Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Olivia “Babsy” Grange yesterday expressed sadness with the death of Bailey, and sent condolences to his family and friends.

“I am truly saddened by his passing and remain grateful for the role he played in the development of Reggae music,” said Grange, a close friend of the Jamaican radio host over the year.

“Gil Bailey was a personal friend, and we worked together for several years to promote Jamaica and our music in North America,” she noted.

He was among an elite cast of ground breaking Jamaican broadcasters who were honoured by the Merritone Family last August in Long Island, New York. Bailey was presented with a Golden Mic to mark his 50th year on radio.