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Billy Ocean: 'Rastafari is my anchor'

STILL GOING STRONG: Billy Ocean today a

SOME ENTERTAINERS choose drugs, others choose alcohol – Billy Ocean chose Rastafari.

Having found fame in an industry with many perils, the legendary British singer says that Rastafari became his “anchor,” keeping him grounded, not only in his career, but in his life.

“Being in the public eye, I believe you need to have something as an anchor,” says the 63-year-old star. “That’s what Rasta is for me. Rasta isn’t just about growing locks. It’s about the study of Jesus Christ – His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie.

“Rasta has taught me more than the church ever did. It taught me that the Bible is deeper than what it tells us from cover to cover. It teaches us that His Imperial Majesty is more than just an emperor – he is Jesus Christ.”

Attending church as a child, the Trinidad-born singer says that if his parents were alive, they would be stunned to learn that their son had embraced the Rastafari way of life, not least because they would reject the Rasta belief that the Messiah is the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie – a black man.

“If my mother and father could see me now, they would freak,” Ocean admits with a chuckle. “They wouldn’t believe it because they still had the slave mentality.

“That’s why I believe in His Imperial Majesty, because for years, the knowledge we [black people] had, always came from somebody else. Knowledge never came from black people. So the idea of believing that Jesus Christ was Haile Selassie – a black man – my parents would never have believed it. But the facts are there. If black people can’t believe that, what are we looking for?”

Ocean also explains that his faith keeps him steadfast when authorities seek to “indoctrinate” society on what he believes to be important issues.

One such matter is gay marriage, which the singer feels people are being “forced” to support. Ocean believes this is wrong.

“Homosexuality isn’t new – it’s been around since [Biblical cities] Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s fine – do your thing. But for people to now try and indoctrinate me that it’s ok for a man to marry a man, I’m sorry, but that is unnatural.

“I’m not against homosexuality. But trying to indoctrinate people with the idea of gay marriage… it has the potential to bring about resentment, because it feels as though it’s being forced on the community. I’m not condemning homosexuals. I’m condemning the authorities for trying to make it [gay marriage] mainstream, and making people feel as though they have to accept it.”

FOREVER YOUNG: The singer in his ‘80s heyday

Though Ocean began embracing Rastafari in more recent years, his first introduction to the movement and its principles came in his childhood.

“I remember as a little boy, my grandmother would not allow anybody to cut my hair. I also remember back then in Trinidad, there was a Rasta movement, but like many other things, it was gotten rid of. It then became prominent in Jamaica, but I remember there was a movement in Trinidad and I remember hearing the name Haile Selassie.”

With such deep-rooted faith – “I read my Bible from cover to cover and when I’ve finished, I read it again; the Bible isn’t something you can just read once and then put away,” he says – Ocean sounds more like a preacher than a pop star.

But of course, it was music that earned him fame.

Rising to prominence in the ‘80s with hits including Caribbean Queen, Get Outta My Dreams and When The Going Gets Tough – and sporting that unforgettable jheri curl hairdo – Ocean has sold over 30 million albums and is often credited as Britain’s most successful black recording artist.

Still passionate about music, the singer and songwriter releases his new album Here You Are, this week. The 10-track album features songs that have influenced the singer over the years, such as Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry and You Send Me by Otis Redding.

But what of his classic hits like the aforementioned Caribbean Queen – does he still perform these pop smashes?

“Of course,” he exclaims with a smile. “When you go out on tour, people want to hear the songs they associate you with, so you can’t go on stage being all self-indulgent, singing songs that nobody knows. I love singing the old songs – in fact it makes my life easier! The songs are tried and tested and people enjoy them, so I can go on stage and enjoy myself.”

Here You Are is out now on Aqua Music

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