NEW YORK - Gil Bailey was a legendary broadcaster on Caribbean radio for more than half a century.
For many Caribbean-American New Yorkers he was the voice they listened to for news, culture and music from the islands. He also focused on issues that affected the tri-state community.
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"That's the radio voice that people would become accustomed to and would find some kind of comfort and nostalgia and excitement," said Irwine Clare, Managing Director of Caribbean Immigrant Services.
Bailey's Saturday programs were appointment radio for many Jamaicans and other Caribbean immigrants who grew up in the city, but that voice was silenced this week when Bailey, who was in his mid-80's, died from complications related to COVID-19.
"Working with Gil Bailey very exciting. It was a lot of fun. Gil was a comedian at times. I started working with Gil in 1994. It's a loss that hurts me very bad," said Nathaniel "Twinthumb" Baker, Bailey's former studio engineer and producer.
Bailey was born in Jamaica. He moved to New York in the 1960's. He launched his first New York radio show with his wife Pat in 1969 and by the 80's he was the king of Caribbean radio. Together they produce nine hours of programming that included a weekly mix of Caribbean gospel, a call-in talk show and the popular “Reggae Mix".
Bailey became known as the "Godfather of Reggae Radio" because many credit him with introducing the music to the tri-state area.
"At times he faced a fierce resistance from people who didn't want to hear yard music but for everyone who didn't have the taste their were 10 or 12 who were yearning to hear the music," said former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson.
His die-hard followers stayed with him for decades, listening to him on several stations and more recently on his Internet network. For some of his fans, the loss has created a void to great to replace.