Ordinary and extra-ordinary Jamaicans packed the St. Marks United Methodist Church in Brooklyn to bid farewell to beloved friend, colleague and music pioneer Hopeton Lincoln Sinclair Lewis who died of kidney failure on Sept. 4 in Brooklyn.
Some traveled long distances to attend the home-going service for the legend whose death reunited singers, producers, musicians and music lovers who regard the secular hit-maker turned gospel crusader as one of the most respected singer to represent the island.
“He did not have a halo around his head but people turned out to see him off out of pure love and respect,” Charley Simpson said about his longtime friend from Kingston.
Members of the NYPD attempted to control traffic that double-parked along Beverley Road before the formal service began.
“I tried to pay respect at 6 o’clock and I could not get inside,” Paul Jah Paul” Haughton explained.
“He was loved.”
A spillover crowd exceeded the 500-capacity approved by New York Fire Department.
Some of the names that made the inside of the church include: 90s hit-maker Shelly Thunder, Florida resident and rock-steady singer Dobby Dobson, singer Joan Myers, dancer Alphonso Castro, radio personalities Jeff Barnes and Lady Finesse, clergyman Bishop Cecil Riley, Consul General Herman G. Lamott and former consular Dr. Basil K. Bryan, Courtney Robb former bass player with Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, producer Lloyd “Franno” Francis, VP Records presidents Chris and Randy Chin, former politician Una Clarke, immigration specialist Irwine Clare and veteran record company insider Samuel Mitchell.
It was Mitchell who allegedly steered a teenaged Lewis to record his first solo song.
Employed at Federal Records, Mitchell chaperoned the 16-year-old on his first recording session.
“It changed the tempo of Jamaican music to a slower pace,” Mitchell said. That genre became rock steady a pivotal sound that was first recorded on Merritone Records.
The song “Take It easy” took the number one slot on the local charts there and for many years later the track held command at that position. Afterwards it was no stopping Lewis as he followed with four consecutive chart toppers – “Sound & Pressure,” “Music Got Soul,” and “Cool Cool Coolie.”
He was the first to ever hold such distinction.
The Kingston-born Lewis had other hits including the 1970 national Festival Song, “Boom Shacka Laka,” and “Grooving Out On Life.”
But two decades ago, Lewis rejected secular music opting for inspirational songs.
At age 66, Lewis was a devoted Christian and a career promoter of gospel.
He championed the Caribbean Gospel Music Awards and owned Caribbean Gospel Jubilee (CGJ) an internet radio station.
He wholehearted embraced the teachings of the Bible and recorded a total of 24 albums, three compilation CDs, many of them devoted to gospel.
Lewis is survived by his wife Vera, children Karen and Hopeton Jr. along with grandchildren and scores of fans.
Reportedly a scholarship and memorial fund will be named in his honor. In addition, a lobby for the Jamaica government to bestow a national honor will petition global fans to sign.
His body was interred at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.