Remembering Aubrey Cummings

By Stanley Greaves
My first impression was of a cautious person, perhaps because of it being a first meeting.  I did not see him again until years later in Barbados listening to him sing and play his ‘box’ guitar and later his amplified guitar and rhythm set.  My attention was struck by the intensity of the performance as if his life depended on it – which in a sense it did.  Subsequent listening proved this as well as his dedicated professionalism.  Life as a musician was hard but he went about business dutifully in a somewhat stoic manner. He sang totally whether to large groups or small – once to four individuals including myself.  Whenever friends of mine visited I always took them to the Round House in Bathsheba to listen to him.

Aubrey Cummings

As one who messed about with the guitar myself his fluency on the instrument was a lesson to me.  Visits to my home were most welcome.  He did magical things on my instruments as a soloist. I often expressed the wish of hearing such essays recorded.  We spent many hours in conversation over all kinds of issues – mainly art and music debating personal preferences.

The lyrics of his love songs revealed a humanity that transcended the banalities of what was fashionable in such songs.  The words indeed could stand as poems in their own right.  His A Girl Named June was my first experience of this. His humanity was fundamental to his being, his compassionate response to close friends was notable.  Doing the right thing was important in his eyes.  Most memorable to me was his total dedication to looking after his ailing mother for over a decade.

Aubrey was also a painter, and  his portrait of her was also an expression of his concern.  In similar vein were his portraits of Barbadian musicians who had died – the collection a veritable portrait gallery which I hope is acquired by the Barbados National Collection where they really belong.

Apart from his public performances as a musician, Aubrey lived a quiet life. His one regret was not being recognized as an artist of some merit as well.  An unrealized wish was not being able to visit New York to explore music stores sampling the guitars on sale. To be able to accompany him would have been a memorable experience indeed for myself as well . It is fitting that apart from the personal memories we may have of him he has left a CD recording Moon Over Me as a statement of his gifts to us.

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