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Rafael Cameron: Entertainer, Singer, Songwriter

Rafael Cameron
Rafael Cameron

Rafael Cameron was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951. He grew up in a strict, non-musical family who emphasized the value of a good education, preferably in the academic field, but Rafael -who loved to sing along with the American sounds coming out of his radio- found music to be a release from the pressures of life and secretly dreamed of becoming a singer himself. During his senior year, he was asked to sing in a school variety show and a year later, a friend invited him to join his band as the lead vocalist. Rafael performed material by Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and William Bell with The In Crowd and Night People, groups that were popular on Georgetown's resort hotels and clubs. When he moved to America in 1973, it wasn't to pursue a career as an entertainer, but to complete his studies in journalism and later, medicine. But fate decided otherwise and after settling in Brooklyn, New York, Rafael soon found himself in front of a microphone again, as lead singer in The Panharmonics Band.

In this versatile group of musicians who mixed Pop, Soul, R&B, Reggae, Calypso and Latin, Rafael met fellow country man Randy Muller, who was dividing his time between playing steel drums and piano with The Panharmonics, jamming with his own band Brass Construction and working as a string arranger for his manager Jeff Lane (who produced B.T. Express, among others). Randy had to leave The Panharmonics when Brass Construction signed a record contract with United Artists, but towards the end of 1976, some six months after Brass had their first major hit (with the Jeff Lane-produced "Movin'"), Randy and Rafael met by chance on the street. Rafael presented Randy with some songs he had written and Randy, impressed by what he heard, took Rafael to Salsoul Records and teamed him up with his friends in Skyy; another great Brooklyn-based group that had been formed in the same basement as Brass Construction and which Randy successfully produced on Salsoul. On all three of his albums, Rafael was backed by Salsoul's house band Funk Deluxe, which was the same group as Skyy, minus the three female songstresses: the Dunning Sisters.

Rafael Cameron's sweet, easily recognizable tenor, Skyy/Funk Deluxe's dance-friendly funk and Randy Muller's trademark production, proved to be a winning combination. "Cameron", Rafael's 1980 debut on Salsoul, not only spawned the hits "Magic Of You", "Funkdown" and "Feelin'", but topped the charts in Guyana for three months, hit the Top 20 on The British charts and sold over 300 000 copies in the U.S. alone. The follow-up "Cameron's In Love" (1981) offered the crazy and ultra funky hit singles "Funtown U.S.A." and "Boogie's Gonna Get Ya'". That same year, Cameron was named Record World's "Top New Male Vocalist". When Cameron's third LP "Cameron All The Way" was issued in 1982, he had begun to write more of his own songs and supplied two ballads (Randy Muller still wrote the majority of the material, though). The first single was a melodic mid-tempo track, "Desires", followed by the irresistibly groovy "Shake It Down". Both came from Muller's pen and were R&B hits. Cameron was then voted "Single Male Artist of The Year" at the R&B Music Awards and it looked as if he had a promising future. Instead, he disappeared without a trace and seemed to have left the music business for good. Or at least that's what we all thought.

"After Salsoul, for some reason, I wasn't asked by any other production company and I after a while I sort of lost interest in it", a soft-spoken and very eloquent Rafael Cameron explained in December 1998, over the phone from his work at a New York-based bank. Although Rafael migrated to the United States some twenty-five years ago, one can still hear a slight and warm "Caribbean" accent in his voice.
"The music business can really try your patience at times. It's very difficult when you're married and have children you have to feed and the money isn't coming in, as it should. So you have to make a decision; do you wanna do music or do you wanna take care of your family? So I made a choice and I have not regretted it. You're not the first to ask what happened to me after Salsoul, by the way. Whenever I bump into old friends on the street they all say: 'Rafael, I thought you were in Los Angeles, enjoying all your millions'. My answer is 'I never made a million dollars'," Rafael laughed.

Rafael, who humbly said he never understood what "all the fuss" regarding his records were about ("I never thought of myself of being that great or good, I just did it because I loved it"), shared that although he left the recording industry after Salsoul's demise, he never really took his eyes off music. "I had to rejuvenate myself, find out what direction I wanted to go in and about five years ago I decided to give my life to the Lord. Now I am a disciple in the army of God and I am writing and producing my own music."

In October of 1997, Rafael issued his first post-Salsoul recording, a Gospel album entitled "I'm New In Christ Jesus" on his own production company Noremac Productions. "I did all the writing and composing and a friend of mine, Philip Nichols, who's an excellent keyboardist, played on the album. He is a classically trained musician; he went to the Royal Academy of Music in London and he is very skilled at what he does. He played a significant role in terms of me being able to develop the music and extract all the ideas I had in my head and to put them on a disc. I do not play any instruments at all and I can't read or write music, but I can compose." There is one song in particular on the album that Rafael feels has the potential to do great things. It's called "Mothers" and was written especially for celebrating Mother's Day. "It is my belief that this song can be an anthem for all the mothers in the world. Last year I sent out copies of the album to all the local radio and TV stations and to my surprise, the Regis & Kathie Lee Show selected that song to be on their program and as part of their advertisement for Mother's Day." Rafael, who's currently busy working on his next album, added: "I was very happy about how well 'Mothers' was received and I hope that in 1999, even bigger and better things will happen."

1982: Cameron All The Way"
1981: Cameron's In Love"
1980: "Cameron"

1982: "Desires" (Salsoul-SG 373)
1982: "Shake It Down" (Salsoul-S7 7035) - R&B #81[5]
1981: "All That's Good To Me" (Salsoul-SALT 10) - UK release only
1981: "Daisy" (Salsoul-SG 355)
1981: "Feelin's"
1981: "Boogie's Gonna Get Ya"
1980: "Funkdown"
1980: "Let's Get It Off"
1980: "Magic of You"

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