UZOKWE'S SEARCHLIGHT

Friday, December 11, 2020
obiuzokwe@comcast.net
Harrisburg, PA, USA
PLAYING AND SINGING THE SONG - “LEAVING ON A JET PLANE” – SONYA SPENCE VERSION

ore than 40 years ago, John Denver wrote and sang the song- Leaving on a Jet Plane”. In 1978, Jamaican-born Sonya Spence, “the same song in an album titled – “In the Dark”.

I must be frank that I never heard the song until 1983, when I was serving the mandatory Youth Service Corps in Lagos, Nigeria. Every early morning, when everyone would still be sleeping in the apartment I was living in Surulere, Augustine Mbajiuto - the apartment owner, would slot in this song. Sonya Spence, crooning and cooing, with a velvety and sonorous voice, would begin the song – “I am leaving on a jet plane….don’t know when I will be back, oh babe, I hate to go…kiss me and smile for me…”.

The way she sang the song created a vivid imagination of the scene- a sad, sorrowful but upbeat lover, embarking on an inevitable journey, on a jet plane, that would take her away for a while but with the hope of a return that would culminate in an engagement.

The melody was always mesmerizing, soulful, soothing but jarring and always carried the listener along. That music was very popular in many parts of Africa, including Nigeria. Her subsequent recordings never really found commercial success

Unfortunately, in 2007 at age 54, Sonya Spence tragically succumbed to liver disease some say was occasioned by drug abuse. But the song – “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, will always live in my memory as one of the very best effort that turned an average song into a popular powerhouse in those days.

Below is the link to my version of the song- “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, as I played and sang it.

https://youtu.be/CDrdnX1G1gs

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War

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