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Sizzla and Burning Spear: From “Foggy Road” to “Solid as a Rock”.

Sizzla Sizzla

Burning Spear’s Foggy Road was first released by Clement ‘Sir Coxson’ Dodd and then, like so many reggae songs of the time, reworked in the 1970s to emphasise the bass and horn lines. Sizzla’s Solid as a Rock appears on his standout 2003 album, Da Real Thing, and is a perennial favorite on radio, in dancehalls and during his live performance.

Lyrically, the two songs are more similar than might appear at first – or even second – listen. Not that they share lines, but there is a common thread of resilience and finding strength not only from within, but also looking outside for spiritual sustenance to lean upon in times of crisis.

As is his tendency, Burning Spear’s lyrics are sparse but very effective, while Sizzla goes on a tour de force of words – not his very best, I believe, but certainly set high in his very impressive catalogue.

Burning Spear uses his song as a story, setting the stage of a journey which he takes on which the visibility is poor. This would not be uncommon for a man from the hills of St Ann. He sings:

“The road is so foggy foggy
The road is so foggy foggy
My way is so long, but the road is foggy foggy
My way is long, so long, but the road is foggy foggy”

On the other hand, Sizzla’s travails are not physical terrain, but mainly the ‘teeth and tongue’ of the perennial critics. He does not identify a foe, commenting on the ubiquitous ‘they’ so common in reggae. There is, however, the presence of the law and the implication of a public setting (he may be walking) in which the officers invoke their dubious right to inspect someone’s person. The opening verse and chorus of Solid as a Rock go:

“They can’t keep a good man down
Always keep a smile when they want me to frown
Keep the vibes and I stood my grounds
They will never ever take my crown
Who Jah bless I say no man curse
Things getting better when they thought it would be worse
Here comes the officers
asking for a search
They found no weapons just only a draw of herbs
‘Cause I’m so solid as a rock, they just can’t stop me now
Even when they set their traps, they just can’t stop me now
People will say this and that, they just can’t stop me now
Even when they set up roadblocks they just can’t stop me now.”

Burning Spear does not state his fortitude in as explicit terms as Sizzla, choosing to portray his courage by saying what did not happen to him and what he did not feel. He sings:

“My head never swell, my heart never leap
I had no fear from within.”

In using the Rastafari version of the common saying, “who God bless no man curse”, Sizzla introduces Jah as a source of his sustenance much earlier than Burning Spear, who puts the spiritual being as his way of literally seeing himself out of the place with limited visibility in which he finds himself. There is an excellent transition from the chorus to the second verse:

“Even though the road is so foggy yeah
Can hardly see, Jah Jah is my eyesight.”

Sizzla also uses the idea of Jah providing a way of seeing, though not in the physical sense that Burning Spear does but as illumination, deejaying in the second verse “Jah is the light into my dark/He cut and clear all my path.”

They are very similar in asking for the Almighty to be their companion, in the face of adversaries who attack them for no reason. Burning Spear actually calls on the higher power to be

his refuge against the ominous ‘they’:
“Be with I, be with I
Be with I Jah Jah
Jah Jah be with I
I and I and I
They and them thats hate I
They and them thats fight against I
Some of them a judge I wrongfully
But never mind my brother I will go on.”
Sizzla locates the struggle not in judgement, but negative speech:
“When they come with their evilous talk
I just listen whenever they talk
Jah is the light into my dark
He cut and clear all my path
They fight me without a cause trying to make my life so hard
But the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords giveth my reward.”

As he nears the end of the lyrics of Foggy Road, Burning Spear again invokes the protection of the Most High:

“Guidance be with I
Going out and coming in
From all evil things and
evildoers … .”
And he presses ahead, no matter what:
“No more stumbling block
Forward my brother forward
Even though the road is so foggy foggy I will never turn back
No turning back inna I.”

Sizzla, however, dismisses those who would attempt to distract him from his objective even as, like Spear, he states his intention of going ahead:

“So don’t you mix me up in your dirty game
You’re only trying to tarnish my name
You’re only looking for the innocent to blame
When you’re the one who issue the guns down the lane
You only cause destruction and pain
But the righteous will live and reign
Love is all I got to give and I’m not ashamed
Looking for the future this lion can’t tame.”

Although close to 30 years apart in terms of release to the public, Foggy Road and Solid as a Rock have a number of common elements, even as Burning Spear and Sizzla at times use different ways of saying the same thing but at the same time, are remarkably similar.

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