You are here

Tributes pour in for Joey Lewis

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Ailing musician succumbs to cancer
Joey “Pal” Lewis

Musical legend Joey “Pal” Lewis, 78, died yesterday.

Lewis was admitted to the Community Hospital in Cocorite and diagnosed as having a growth in his colon in 2011. 

In August 2012 he began chemotherapy which affected his mobility and he had to be assisted with walking. His condition deteriorated slowly until his passing yesterday.

Lewis had been playing music for more than six decades. He formed his first band—Joey Lewis & The Teenagers—at age 16. In 1964 the band toured the United States where Joey met Harry Belafonte and Dizzy Gillespie. 

The following year he did a command performance in Guyana for President Forbes Burnham. In 1976, the Solid Gold company took the band to New York for performances where it won wide acclaim.The band has toured regularly, performing in every Caribbean island with the exception of Dominica. 

According to his wife Julia, “Joey got the nickname ‘Pal’ from seeing Pal Joey, a 1957 American movie which starred Frank Sinatra, Rita Haywood and Kim Novak. He has been referred to by that monicker since, and his band has carried the name as well.” 

Veteran musician Roy Cape said yesterday: “I awoke to the news and it really shocked me. But then again, life is about living and death.

“In 1961, I did an audition with Joey in Belmont. When I first met him the awesomeness of the man overwhelmed and inspired me. I feel that Joey’s band is the longest existing band in the history of world music. That alone says a lot. But his son will perpetuate the dream.

“The first song I learned to play was Kisses by Frank Purcell. Joey taught me that song. For more than half a century I have shared stages with Joey throughout Trinidad. I will give him credit for being a good manager of human resources.To hold a band for over 60-something years and still have some of the original musicians speaks to your leadership skills.”

Pelham Goddard, leader of Roots and arranger of Republic Bank Exodus Steel Orchestra, said: “Joey is one of my mentors; an all-round musician. He was a true musician who could play anything. He was so much that it’s difficult to say exactly who he was in one go. 

“Joey influenced several musicians, especially myself, and excelled so much that when we had Roots and began playing our own music we used Joey and his music as the model for us to follow by having our own repertoire. Joey’s music, to this day, is still alive ensuring that while he may be missed he will not be forgotten.”

Veteran radio personality Phill Simmons added: “We have lost one of the legends of Trinidad and Tobago music. He was one of the most important musicians in the stability of our music, since he began playing as a teenager. 

Joey bridged eras and generations and was one of the few musicians to own his own studio so he had a position of independence. Joey led from in front to the time of his death. 

This was a stalwart of a man; a poui tree when it came to strength and stability.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.