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Ronald Boo Hinkson

Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson OBE: The ace guitarist in London this week with his wife Donna.

In a recent post to ostensible friends Kingsley ‘Inch’ St Hill writes: “This afternoon, while reflecting on how Andre [Paul] and Russell [Lake] boasted that FM 100 alone withstood the hurricane [Matthew] and how we had no post-mortem, my thoughts were interrupted by a call from my buddy Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson, who asked: ‘What is it as a nation that we are passionate about, particularly our young people?’ Boo went on to tell me he could identify a few individuals who were passionate about writing, sports, music, the arts—and he named them. But as a collective he could not say what Saint Lucians are passionate about, compared to our brethren in Jamaica who are passionate about music and athletics; Barbadians who are passionate about Barbados; and Trinidadians who are passionate about calypso and carnival.”

Inch recalled his boyhood when he and his friends were passionate about “cricket, pitching marbles, flying kites, going to the beach and generally doing things together.” He noted that Boo and The Tru Tones, Quavers, Big Six, Vibratones, CYO Harmonites, Rebirth Seven, Southern Brothers Orchestra were big; they all had a following. “With the advent of Black Power we wore our Afros with dignity and pride; we were proud to be Black. We were once proud to be a Catholic nation. There was a time when a visitor would be correct to report back his or her observation of our coudemain/self-help culture.”

Inch admits: “I don’t know what we are passionate about as a people. But I must add that we like to bring down one another.” Finally, he writes what (keep in mind, dear reader, Boo’s original question) seems a non sequitur out of nowhere: “The truth is, save for cronyism, who gets the crumbs from the political cake?”

I have known Boo from way back in his late 60s-Rock Hall days, when his band was just starting to make musical waves here, and I in the UK. With his Tru Tones band, we played concerts at Clarke’s Cinema and at Gaiety Theater in William Peter Boulevard, alas both long gone with the wind. I dare to say how Boo became the musician he is today has as much to do with natural talent as with tunnel-visioned dedication and a skin absolutely resistant to every strain of discouragement. His compositions ought to be required reading, especially at our schools. But then, I choose to believe most Saint Lucians are familiar with Boo’s rise to musical fame; no need to detail it here. What is perhaps not quite as well known is Boo’s sense of fair play and his uncommon love for his fellowman, particularly the deprived.

I’ve long lost count of the times Boo got me out of bed to listen to another predictable sob story of sexual abuse of young girls and boys, some street urchins; hungry kids with nowhere to turn; women in distress—all of whom received his assistance in one form another. If memory serves, he may have taken one or more abandoned children into his home. I need add that not all of the calls after midnight were sleep chasers. Some were downright hilarious despite that they underscored Boo’s innocence (okay, naivete!). One comes to mind: heading home after a late-night hotel gig in the island’s north, he had stopped on a rain-soaked and dark Bois d’Orange Road to offer a mini-skirted and hatless young woman a lift. Alas, within seconds of settling into Boo’s passenger seat, she whipped off her designer tee shirt and offered her rescuer from the rain “a wash and polish,” which of course he gently declined. “Then drop me off right here,” said the braless young woman, nonchalantly getting back into her blouse. The had driven but a few yards from where Boo had offered her a ride.

“You picked up a hooker?” I teased. And Boo said: “I don’t think so, she couldn’t have been more than fifteen. Maybe she was hungry. Perhaps she imagined I wouldn’t help her if she didn’t offer something in return. I was going to give her some money but she jumped out before I could get out my wallet.” Boo sounded as if he had just driven his car over a family member.

“That’s what prostitutes do,” I said, cracking up. “They offer their special services, for which they expect to get paid.” To this day Boo continues to beat himself for missing the opportunity to help that certain lady of the night!

But to return to Inch. It is undeniable that young Saint Lucians seem no longer to be passionate about anything. If so, then the question must be asked: What killed the passion that was evidently everywhere when Inch was a boy? It seems to me that passion—in the sense of boundless enthusiasm—demands an object about which to be passionate. As a boy Boo was inspired by his guitar-playing mother, Iona. He soon discovered he had inherited her love for the instrument and determined he, too, would one day play it as well as she did. Most important, his mother encouraged him, taught him, convinced him that few worthwhile goals were accomplished without persistence and hard work. It was that belief that begat Boo’s passion for perfection. As for his altruism, it was all part of wanting to be the best he could possibly be as human being. A truly good person had to be as concerned about the well being of others as of own, at the very least. The Hinksons had taken to live with them a young boy known to everyone as “Gorgor,” for reasons that’ll be obvious to Creole-speaking Saint Lucians.

Undeniably, what we see in our young today is a reflection of ourselves; of what we consider important. Our kids, after all, are us. If they are without beliefs, it is because most of us continue to demonstrate our own belief in nothing; least of all ourselves. Those who once believed man was innately good have been given good cause to change their minds and now we seem self-convinced that human beings are born evil, hypocritical, selfish. Sadly our church shepherds now appear no better than their flock, including our two-faced politicians who say one thing (especially at election time) then proceed to do the very opposite with impunity. On reflection, Inch’s last line about “cronyism” and “crumbs from the political cake” says more about what he meant to say than he actually said!

But all is not lost. Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson this week received the OBE for his contributions to music. It proves the value of persistence in the face of adversity—regardless of the possible motives of the bestowers of the special honor. Perhaps in the near future his efforts on behalf of the particularly deprived and misguided will similarly be recognized—if only to prove to the young that despite the overwhelming contrary evidence personal values matter!

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