A tragic incident while visiting Toronto over 40 years ago inspired Mykal Rose to write a song that railed against violence in one of the city’s largest West Indian communities.
That song, ‘Youth of Eglington’, was selected by Rolling Stone Magazine as number 89 on its ‘The Best 200 Songs of the 1980s’, released by that publication on November 23.
Rose’s older brother, Raps, has been a prominent figure in Toronto’s Jamaican Diaspora for many years. At the time, Black Uhuru was on the rise internationally, thanks to songs like ‘General Penitentiary’, ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and ‘Plastic Smile’.
“I wrote ‘Youth of Eglinton’ based on an incident that occurred while I was visiting my brother Rap in Toronto, Canada. I met this girl called Jill, so we became friends and it so happened she invited me to a dance but for some reason at the very last minute I decided not to go. The day after I was told there was a shooting at the dance and Jill was shot dead,” Rose recalled. “The line from the song is in memory of her, “poor Jill, she was a spill, she got hit by a stray shot’. It was so sad that I started writing about the youths on Eglinton Street with their gang warfare and all the shooting, and then I decided to write about all the other cities that had the same issues.”
The early 1980s saw racially charged violence throughout the United Kingdom. Cities with large West Indian populations such as Brixton, Liverpool and Manchester experienced numerous riots that resulted in them being temporarily shut down.
Rose, who left Black Uhuru in 1985, is pleased with Rolling Stone’s recognition of ‘Youth of Eglington’ which is from the trio’s album, ‘Red’.
“I am thrilled that this song has made its way to the Rolling Stone Magazine and even more excited to know it’s number 89 on The Best 200 Songs of the 1980s’. It shows that the message in the song is reaching a lot of people and hopefully to the youths with this gun thing. The gun violence needs to stop!” he declared.
The Rolling Stone list is topped by Prince’s ‘Kiss’.