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“With every triumph, you learn so much…” Liberty Silver On Being A Pioneer In the Canadian Music Industry

A pioneer is someone akin to a bricklayer, except their task is specific to their position: to mix cement and lay a solid and formidable foundation for others following them. It’s not an easy road to travel, especially in the music and entertainment industry. In the same vein, here in Canada, there is a list of phenomenal Black R&B acts who have and continue to pave the way for Black artists—in this case, Black women in Canadian music. Among the notable is accomplished Juno and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Liberty Silver. With decades of countless accolades and achievements, Silver is a monumental force in the Canadian music landscape.   

Silver, who was raised in Peterborough, Ontario, has roots from Africa, Nigeria to be exact, alongside being half Samoan. And of course, her ties to Jamaica run deep. Silver’s impressive 6.5-octave vocal range is astonishing, coupled with her soulful range. However, she’s never been one to be kept in the secular box, as she’s worked across the jazz, R&B, pop, reggae and calypso scenes. Silver carries the recognition of being the first Black woman to win a Juno award, winning for Best R&B Soul for “Lost Somewhere Inside Your Love” and Best Reggae/Calypso Recording for “Heaven Must Have Sent You” featuring Otis Gayle. Her Associated Grammy win was with the all-star musical cast Northern Lights for the Ethiopian famine relief song “Tears Are Not Enough.” Silver also has the distinction of writing anthems for both the Atlanta Olympics and the Athens Olympics. 

Her life and time in the industry haven’t been without uphill battles—from being bullied as a child and callously learning about being adopted, to being torn down by people within the Black community when she embarked on her singing career—she’s been through it. Nonetheless, her experiences became learning lessons and testaments to what she could do when wielding her power and gift. 

You can’t help but be captivated when listening to Silver recount stories of her journey. As she recounts her time singing with calypso and soca great Ellsworth James for Minister Louis Farrakhan in Chicago, you come to learn that there’s more to just signing with Silver. She’s been immersed in invaluable spaces that added to her expertise as an artist and to her life. “I did a gig with Ellsworth James and we went to Chicago and performed for Minister Louis Farrakhan. He wrote this song called “Minister Farrakhan” and we sang it for him,” says Silver. 

“I met the whole family. We sang to 20,000 Muslims. Minister Louis Farrakhan just loved the song and his son loved the song even more than he did. I learned a lot about the Muslim community. It was a great experience for me. I looked at Ellsworth like, man—you wrote this song for this man, you sang it, and now we’re in front of 20,000 Muslims on Savior’s Day. So with every triumph, you learn so much so you can go on and forward the music. You also help people understand somebody else’s cause. It’s really cool when you get an education like that because that’s all I’ve been having since [I was] 12.”

It was a trip to Toronto to visit her sister after learning about the undisclosed information her parents held close for so long that changed her life. While lounging in a pool, Silver sang Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” Her melodies stopped a gentleman (Norman) in his tracks. Said gentleman happened to know a band that needed a singer. He accompanied her to the audition, she got the job and four hours later, Silver was in a van with her new Jamaican bandmates on the way to hit the stage in Madison Square Garden. 

“We went there that night and opened for Bob Marley at Madison Square Garden. [I did so] at the age of 12. I got there and said, ‘Wow, this is great.’ I didn’t know who Bob Marley was. I knew the songs, but I didn’t know that’s who we were opening up for. I met him and said, ‘I made a hundred dollars.’ And he goes, ‘Don’t worry, man. Make more,’ (laughs)” says Silver.

To say Silver’s musical knowledge runs the gamut would be an understatement. Because she’s achieved success in many genres, she fearlessly crosses boundaries creatively. Her inspiration holds no bounds. “Well, I’ve been writing since I lived in Peterborough. My father was the first string violin player in the Peterborough Symphony. So I used to listen to him. I love opera. I love classical. I learned so much. He used to have tons of records and I would stand in front of the stairs projecting that I was in front of thousands of people and they were adoring me. That was the first time I heard my father, my adoptive father, say, ‘Well, you were manifesting it.’ And I said, ‘Manifesting. That’s very interesting, Dad,” says Silver.

Her manifesting back then took her to places she could never have dreamed of and laid the path to meet and be supported by those who inspire her like, Solongo, Eddie Bolin, the late great Harry Belafonte, Kingsley Etienne, Jean Augustine, Desmond Tutu and Oscar Peterson’s niece, Sylvia Sweeney. The illustrious list goes on. But while carrying the torch in the same manner the above have lifted her, Silver wants to inspire people. She reaches back to help other people and pulls them up as well with support, guidance, a learning space and kindness. 

Silver says adamantly, “I think it’s really important to know yourself, be yourself, love yourself, and then you can share yourself. Make sure you get each step right…because music is a spiritual thing. And if you’re going to emit energy, then you’re going to have to be able to do it properly.​​”

 Liberty Silver, we salute you. 
You can purchase tickets and catch Liberty Silver at Brampton On Stage, on Sunday, April 14th with Jazz Mechanics and the Brampton Concert Band at the Rose Theatre in Brampton.

About Ann Marie Collymore

Montreal-born Ann Marie “amc” Collymore is a veteran independent writer, blogger and copywriter with more than 20 years of experience writing for various print and online publications in Canada and the U.S. Her work has been featured on Centric TV/VH1 Networks, Toronto Life, Bustle.com, Revolt.tv and ByBlacks.com to name a few. amc was the host of a popular radio show/podcast with DJ Sean Sax called The Rhythm with AMC, which was syndicated on four American stations and one Canadian station. Always a creative at heart, you’re bound to find Ann Marie taking in a show, producing or networking in a city near you. amc resides in Toronto.

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