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Forever Loving Jah: Kit De Waal's 1981 Playlist

Posted on 2nd June 2016 by Kit de Waal
Become immersed in the 1981 world of Kit De Waal's debut, My Name Is Leon, as you listen to the music of this restless and volatile era. De Waal's tender and heart-breaking novel depicts the life of two brothers that are separated within the care system.

After years working in criminal law, Kit de Waal began writing in her mid-forties. Quick to achieve success, she has received numerous literary awards for her short fiction including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize. As the six-way auction to acquire her debut suggests, her first novel was highly sought-after. Using part of the money from the book-deal, she has set up a creative writing scholarship for under-privileged writers to study for an MA at Birkbeck College.

Her debut, My Name is Leon, tells the story of two brothers who are separated in foster care. The story takes place in 1981, a time of IRA bombings, hunger strikes, riots and royal weddings; while these momentous events are taking place, Leon is coming to terms with being adopted and being alone.

De Waal, whose mother was a foster parent and who has spent time on adoption panels herself, has said: ‘I wanted to be fair to every character involved, from the children and birth parents to the social workers… I have two adopted children, I know you don’t tell those stories casually: it really matters.”

On reading the novel, Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love said: ‘[it is] beautiful and heartbreaking - I cried buckets of tears for Leon and his family’.

My Name is Leon is a novel soaked in its period; the sights, the sounds, the music. Kit de Waal brings us right to the centre of the tale with this hand-picked selection of music that helped set that era alight in her own imagination (the playlist will prompt non-members to download Spotify):



1. Are we a Warrior   -  Ijahman Levi

This song was the inspiration for Ode to Castro and very much an anthem of the time.

2. After Tonight - Matumbi

This song was a favourite with everyone in 1981.

3. Keep it Like it is - Louisa Marks

One of the few Lovers Rock songs that Tufty likes.

 4. Mr. Cop - Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs was very big in 1981, this song is telling the Police to cool down and keep their temper.

 5. The Winner - Barrington Levy

 This song is for Leon.  ‘From the day I was born I’ve never been a winner.'

 6. I’m still Waiting - Delroy Wilson

 A feel good song from that era and one that Tufty would appreciate at a dance.

 7. Truths and Rights - Johnny Osbourne

 A beautiful spiritual song from a Studio One master.  

 8. Hard Times -  Pablo Gad

 Castro’s favourite song about how hard life is.

 9. Black Woman - Judy Mowatt

 One of my favourite songs sung by one of Bob Marley’s backing singers.

 10. Forever Loving Jah - Bob Marley

 It was difficult to choose only one by Bob.  This was it.

11. Jah is My Light - Leroy Smart & I Roy

Probably the most splendid song of the time, this version particularly says it all.

12. Jahoviah - Twinkle Brothers

The best baseline in the mix.

13. Love me tonight - Trevor Walters

Tufty’s romantic side likes this one.

14. War in a Babylon - Max Romeo
This songs talks about the state of warfare between black people and the authorities in the 80s.

15. Breakfast in Bed - Lorna Bennett

This song was covered by UB40 but this is the real deal.

16. Work all day - Barry Biggs

Another fabulous song with a baseline you have to dance to.

17. Downpressor - Peter Tosh

 Peter Tosh used to sing with Bob Marley as one of the Wailers.  This song about oppression has lyrics Tufty would love.

18. Bide Up - Bunny Wailer

 Another one of the original Wailers and a song Tufty used to play in his shed.

19. Fade Away - Junior Byles

 ‘He who seeks of only vanity with no love of humanity, will fade away.’  Tufty and his friends would sing this together.

20. No No No - Dawn Penn

 A feel good song from the time, still played today.


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