Junior Tucker: Reggae gospel pioneer speaks about his change of direction

Wednesday 24th December 2003

Once JUNIOR TUCKER hit with such songs as "Some Guys Have All The Luck", now he's a reggae gospel minister. He was quizzed by Tony Cummings.

Junior Tucker
Junior Tucker

TC: Do you find prejudice in the Church towards reggae music?

JT: I find, I wouldn't say prejudice, but I find people just being naïve, showing a lack of knowledge, just putting God in a box. He's much broader than that. One of the things that I've learnt in reading my Bible - and I'm still challenging people to show it to me - the Word of God says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue", it didn't say life and death is in the power of the rhythm. So I understand very clearly that reggae music is a tool. So therefore it's really what I say that has the power. Reggae to is a tool. To me it's like a knife - you can cut bread with it or you can kill somebody, y'know? You can use a vehicle and take somebody to the hospital or use that same vehicle and be the getaway car for a bank robbery. It's basically what you use it for. No instrument has a soul, so God didn't call music to repentance, He called men to repentance. So in learning that I understand that my calling is to go for those people who wouldn't come to church. Those who grew up on reggae music and love reggae music; those who I used to live with and grew up with, and used to follow me. I am now going back to them and saying, "Okay, follow the man that I am following now, which is Christ." So that's what I've been doing, to go outside the church.

TC: Going outside the church does worry some pastors, some people within the church. They say immediately, you're dealing with a culture which can be pretty immoral. There can be a lot of drugs circulating around. Isn't that putting yourself into a place of temptation? How would you deal with that?

JT: Well, temptation is everywhere. Staying in the four walls of the church does not make you a Christian. I've known pastors who live in church all their lives, but are still not living right. So me going outside of the house is not gonna increase temptation. Temptation comes to any man. "No temptation has seized you except what has come unto man." So temptation comes to every man. The Bible tells us, "Go!" It doesn't say, "Stay in the church." It says to go. The church is really a place where we're supposed to go and be fed, to go out and then feed. It wasn't a place for us to sit and be fat, y'know spiritually. To take up space on the pews. So I learnt that somebody had to go outside the church and minister to me, so that I could be saved, 'cause I was not a church-going person. Every time I would push my head into a church it would look very alien to me. It was so, just totally irrelevant to me. So somebody had to come outside the church and say to me, "Hey this Jesus is touchable. He can be reached." I'm like, "Me? He would want something to do with me?" An' they're like, "Yeah you! Just like you are; but come as you are an' he'll work on you." And the things that I found him working on in me... he's more interested in my character. He's more interested in my mindset. He's more interested in my spirit than he is in my rhythm.

TC: I'm sure you've been asked this question hundreds of times since you've been here, but for the record, could you give me a little bit of your testimony? How did you become a Christian?

JT: What happened to me was, early 1997 I discovered that my father had gotten ill. Prior to that we weren't speaking to each other, for about six years. Even though I was very popular and doing good things in terms of my music career. My dad and I didn't really have a great relationship because he was an abusive person, to the point where there was one time in my life when I was about 10, my mother ran away. Moved to The States just to get away from him. There was, y'know, some serious abuse in the family. I grew up in that kind of environment. So I decided to stop speaking to him because of what he did. I then started to have these nightmares, trying to deal with the revelation of what he did to me and my mother and brothers and sisters. Struggling with the nightmares, but you think that "If I get the one more hit song, I'll be fine." One more cheer from the crowd, one more award, one more tour would make it better. Yet, it wouldn't go away. So I kept struggling and struggling with it, until one day I got a phone call that he was dying. My sister told me to come to the hospital, he didn't look like he was gonna make it. So I went to see him, and he was a different person, very different. I'm going there to fight to ask some questions, to have my last confrontation - 'cause I really felt like I was gonna lose him, y'know. So I went there and he stopped me in my tracks. He said, "You need to think about the place called Heaven." He started talking to me about that. I'm like "What is all this?" Then he dismissed me and told me to go take care of my wife and child to come. He died about nine days after. That was the first time in six or seven years that I saw him, and the last time. So I'm left with this unfinished thing. All I'm thinking about is him telling me about Heaven and all these unanswered questions. I feel like I've been robbed of a father, because this is the first good conversation we've had in years, which seemed to me like my entire life because it was a terrible relationship. Yet here he is, this peaceful man in the bed, telling me to get my life right. He'd made peace with all of my brothers and sisters, and I'm like "No, man. That's not my father!" Then he's gone, and I'm really confused. One night I had another nightmare, through seeing him and stuff that happened. I just got up and went to the side of my bed and started to cry out to God. I said, "Listen, you need to help me here. They say you're God and they say you listen to prayers. Well here's my prayer. My prayer tonight is, you've got to take these nightmares from me."

TC: Did you know at that moment that Jesus Christ was the Son of God?

JT: No; because my prayer was this and "if you do, I promise you that I'll live for you, I'll serve you." My next question to him was, "But you need to help me to understand what you want me to be." Because once I finish talking to a Rasta, I'm a Rasta. Once I finish talking to a Christian, I'm a Christian. If I watch the Malcolm X movie I'm a Moslem - I'm confused, 'cause at the time I was really studying and reading a lot on Buddhism and Muslims and other religions. I was just searching, y'know. So I said, "God help me tonight. If you take away the nightmares I promise I'll live for you. Please let me wake up and know exactly what you want me to be." That was my cry to him. I stood at the side of the bed and just waited for awhile. Then I fell asleep and I had one of the most peaceful sleeps I ever had in my life. Woke up the next morning about 10 o'clock and said to my wife, "Trudy, I'm a Christian this morning." She said, "How you know that?" So I said, "I just know. We need to find a church right now. We need to get baptised now, because from this day on I'm giving my life to God." From that day I have not looked back. I've totally been sold out for him. I mean, full time minister. I don't have a day job. I don't sing secular music anymore. That was it, from that day on. I later learned one year on, I was in a church and saw my father's best friend in the congregation. I'm like, "What's he doing here?" I didn't know he was saved. So I went up to him and said, "Archie, is that you?" He said, "Yeah, I've been saved now for two years. Did you know your father gave his life to the Lord a year before he died?" I didn't know that. So God really saved the abuser and the abused. What the enemy has tried to steal from me in this life - my father - God has given me back for eternity. God used what the Devil tried to kill and destroy, to turn me. The same father who gave me the worst life, really pointed me to eternal life. My father - in his last act - did the greatest thing he ever did for me. So, I'm just so blessed.

TC: After your conversion, how did your career change? Did you find yourself having to drop some songs from your set?

JT: Well, I dropped every song from the set. There was one concert I was contracted to do before I got saved. It was Jeffery Osbourne, I was opening for him. When I saw the promoter I said to him, "I need to give you back your money. I'm not doing secular concerts anymore because I'm now a Christian." He said I was under contract and that I had to as the show was next week. So, I asked him if I could sing my gospel music and he said that he wanted me to sing the music which he had signed me to sing. I told him that I wasn't doing my old songs and he would have to sue me. So he suggested that I take out the ones which would be an offence to God and leave in the ones that were 'clean' songs. I agreed and I went to my pastor. We sat down and looked at the songs and I did the love songs that were clean and took out the offensive ones which were against the Word. I then ended the show with two gospel songs. I told the crowd that they had just heard me sing my last secular song and from then on I would only be doing gospel. I then sang the two gospel songs. A couple of months after that the Lord took me back to Japan, in front of 25,000 people per night for three concerts, on the same tour with Diana King and Freddie McGregor and others. God took me back there and I did my gospel album. I was the only gospel reggae artist on that tour. So I've just totally been sold out for Christ since then.

TC: Is it difficult for you as a reggae musician who is full on for the gospel? From the reaction of the church and of the fans.

JT: Well, it is difficult, but then I've learnt that with God all things are possible. He didn't say all things were easy, he said it was possible. [laughs] So I've learnt that I have to be true to me. I wasn't born anywhere but Jamaica. So he knew what he was doing when he made me come out in Jamaica. So if he made me in Jamaica, there's a natural skin that I wear that just makes me, me! So if I don't be me, then I am insulting the very God who created me. He knew what he was doing when he created me as a Jamaican. If he wanted me to sound like the blues he would have made me be born in Tennessee. So in worshiping him I have to do so in my natural scheme, my natural sense which is to me like breathing. I cannot worship him in truth if I'm pretending to be Michael W Smith. Michael W Smith cannot do the same pretending to be Lester Lewis.

I love all music, but the type of music I'm least enthusiastic about is when you get people trying to transcend cultures and not quite doing it. It's such a cultural thing.

It's like you live it, you breathe it. So you have to give what is natural to you. To the glory of God. Give it to him. When it becomes foul is when it's directed to the wrong god. When it's offered to the wrong god with the wrong spirit. If my spirit is submitted to him then all I can offer up is true worship. So I'm not too worried about the Church, because God is doing a work in the Church; but for every pastor who has rejected me I have met others who have accepted, that have welcomed me. So I'm not worried because God wouldn't call me then condemn me. So what he has called me to do he will cover it and make room for me. The ones who will catch the vision will be lined up with it, the ones who don't will be left behind.

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