Vocally blessed, Pamela Maynard charmed global audiences with her dynamic personality, compelling charisma and expansive voice.
The golden voice, whose hits included the soca medley “One Day at a Time” and “Misty Blue”, was silenced last Sunday. The entertainer extraordinaire succumbed to breast cancer in a city hospital at age 58.
Maynard’s musical career was deeply influenced by her parents. Her father operated a sound system and her mother, Mavis, wrote the lyrics for her daughter’s debut hit, “Lost, Lonely & Helpless”, and shared the stage with her and Eddy Grant at a show in Georgetown.
After leaving school, Maynard joined the Guyana Defence Force and performed at state receptions for several visiting dignitaries, including Fidel Castro. She also sang with some of Guyana’s top bands at the time, including the Yoruba Singers and Sid & the Slickers.
Two-time Juno award nominee, George St. Kitts, who migrated to Canada in 1980, and Maynard were both members of Sid & the Slickers.
“You knew back then that she was special,” said St. Kitts. “She had stage presence and that voice was something else. Pam was more than just a very talented singer. She was a wonderful human being.”
Maynard spent a year in Barbados performing at some of the island’s top resorts and entertainment centres and later enjoyed considerable success with the Trinidad Troubadours before teaming up with the late Lord Shorty’s band as the lead singer.
When the band toured Canada in 1979, Maynard phoned close friend, Aubrey Mann, who was living in the Greater Toronto Area.
“She was very blunt in telling me she didn’t want to return to the Caribbean at that time because she didn’t feel as if her musical career was progressing,” recalled Mann who the provincial government hired in 1994 to create and produce a Motown-style show – Soul to Soul – at Ontario Place’s Island Club.
“I invited her over to my home, we had dinner and talked for hours and I promised to help her even though I was illegal in the country at the time.”
Maynard and Mann shared many stages across Canada and they were both recognized for their musical excellence by Guyana’s former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, during a visit to Toronto in 2009 for the Guyana Independence Day festival.
Mann said he was shocked when he learned three weeks ago that Maynard was in hospital battling cancer.
“I became very angry because both of my parents died from that disease,” said Mann. “I am just happy that I had the chance to visit her twice in three days before she passed away. Pam was the best female vocalist Guyana has produced and she was also one of our top cultural ambassadors. I will remember her also for her wit, her bigger than life personality and those flashy long nails and exotic hairstyles.”
Award-winning reggae entertainer, Donna Makeda, was also stunned by Maynard’s passing.
“I have been trying to reach her for several months without success and I just assumed she was out of the country on business,” said Makeda. “It was just recently I learned that she was very ill. Pamela was very giving, she always had a smile on her face and her heart was golden just as her voice. I will miss her.”
Former Guyana Association of Musicians president, Gordon Jackman, said Maynard was very creative and determined and she always insisted on doing things the right way.
“She was also easy to work with as I found out during appearances she made on shows I promoted,” Jackman told Share from his Pennsylvania home.
Maynard relocated to England in 1995 after being invited to appear at the Guyana-United Kingdom pageant.
“Looking back, I feel that I should have made that move much earlier because I am now happy and contented,” she said a decade ago.
Often compared to Grammy-award soul singer Gladys Knight, Maynard wowed audiences with Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” on the UK television show, “Stars in their Eyes”. Jet Star Promotions promptly signed her to their label and basked in the glory of her UK debut single, “Believe”, which was a rework of Cher’s international hit. The single was part of a 14-track album, Just An Ordinary Woman, released in 1999.
Maynard’s versatility was showcased on the album which was stacked with reworkings of Smokey Robinson, Lionel Ritchie and Jimmy Cliff songs.
“Pam’s personality and vocal style were simply awesome,” said Florida-based musician Jimmy “Bullet” Ray who met Maynard for the first time in Toronto in 1987 at Reggie Paul’s studio. “She was also versatile in that she could sing any genre of music. Her vocal projection and stage presence were outstanding and she knew how to command an audience and engage them when she had a microphone. I picked up several tips from her that I have been able to apply in my musical work.”
Maynard was a close family friend of the Paul’s.
“We performed on many occasions and my favourite memory of Pam was when we performed at a Guyana Consulate Ball in Toronto in the early 1980s and she brought the house down as she usually does,” said Paul, who lives in Florida. “Pam was probably the best female voice to come out of Guyana in my lifetime.”
Jamaican-born recording artist, Jay Douglas, said Maynard was among a distinguished group of Guyanese entertainers who have left an indelible mark on the Canadian music scene.
“I was speechless for about four minutes when I learned of her death,” said Douglas. “She was an exceptional entertainer with a magical voice and she was certainly not limited to any music genre. That girl was just a tower of power and a wonderful person.”
The recipient of a 2002 Canadian Reggae Music International Award of Merit, Maynard – who resettled in Toronto a few years ago – is survived by her daughters, Sonja and Samantha.
The family has established an account for financial contributions to help defray funeral expenses.
Donations can be made to account # 00102-004-6534676 at Toronto Dominion Bank, 110 Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario, M5C1T4 and by wire internationally to swift code TDOMCATTTOR, ABA#026009593.