EVER the consummate entertainer, Kenwrick “Kenny J” regaled to his very end, serenading mourners at his own funeral at Belgrove's Funeral Home, Coffee Street, San Fernando on Friday morning.
Mourners, including his daughter Jeselle, wiped away tears as the recording of his voice belting out the opening hymn, God is Standing By, resonated throughout the chapel.
Before the service, his music – gospel, calypso, love ballads, demonstrating his versatility as a singer – filled the chapel. A slideshow of his life from childhood to adulthood, including one of him in the grey short-pants uniform police officers wore many decades ago, continued to entertain.
Even officiating lay minister Cecil Colthrust, one of his former teachers, admitted the voice evoked memories of their past, and became emotional as he remembered the death of Kenny J’s younger sister in a tragic accident and his late mother, a childhood friend.
He said he had to will himself not to cry because he had to conduct the service.
“So this is a family reunion. Know that my pain is with you. I remember Kenny as a well-behaved child in school, who maintained that kind of personality and relationship in his adult life.
“We celebrate the life of one who really lived, loved, knew what it was to love, to make sacrifices to make others happy,” he told the congregation, which was devoid of entertainers with whom Kenny J shared the stage during his singing career.
Calypsonian Wayne “Impulse” Modeste, who followed the service, which was streamed live, wrote, “I not feeling good. I was to be there. He was one of my best friends.”
Other colleagues, including Abebele, Uprising, and a member of the Roy Cape orchestra, made their way to the chapel on learning of the service, but were too late to bid farewell, as the funeral lasted an hour, followed by immediate cremation.
Junior Bisnath and members of the Kaisoca Moko Jumbies, with paintbrushes in their hands, reminiscent of one of Kenny J's parang soca hits, waited outside the chapel to pay homage. Jeselle, with a framed photograph of her father, posed with them to add to her photographic archives.
She told the Newsday the family chose not to divulge details of the funeral in advance, as they did not want a large gathering, in keeping with the health regulations.
In eulogising her father, she said while he most definitely left his mark on the music industry, the man behind the music affected the lives of his family and the people around him in a positive way.
“He always had a joke or three at family gatherings and he tried to keep everyone happy. Daddy made sure people around him were always happy and smiling.”
She credited him with ensuring his siblings, who settled in different parts of the world, were tight-knit after the passing of their parents.
She said he was special and was always willing to guide his colleagues in the musical fraternity and those in the police service during his 33-year career as an officer. Many of his social-commentary calypsoes reflected his experiences as a policeman.
“He was a loving uncle, caring father and best grandpa in the world. Kenny, Daddy, we would always love you. You don’t know how much we are missing you already. Tell Ma (the late Joan Joseph) hello. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your music.”
Kenny J died at the Augustus Long Hospital on January 2 of covid 19. An advocate for the vaccine, he enrolled with the Ministry of Health to encourage people to become inoculated so people like him in the creative sector could get back to work.
Colthrust recalled seeing the advertisement two days before his death.
“I saw him singing, ‘Do not hesitate, vaccinate,’ and when I heard we lost another icon, it really hit me hard, because here he was, healthy and not knowing what would happen two days later. But God has spoken.”
He said Kenny J was a representation of the love Jesus had for God when he laid down his life so others could be saved.
“How did Kenny carry that love? Through his many acts of kindness. He made use of the gift God had given him to make others happy.
“He did not believe in showmanship. He did not do things to have his photograph in the newspapers. He did goodness out of his heart.
“Thank God for the gift that was Kenny. He adorned our lives. He beautified our lives. He is that flower that would decorate the vases upstairs (heaven) and he would be singing of the glory of God.”The first week of the new year saw the deaths of three leading musicians: veteran calypsonian Bomber, Kenny J and kaiso jazz pioneer Clive “Zanda” Alexander.