As he recounted his relationship with his father and the legacy he left on The Bahamas, Ronnie Butler Jr. was moved to tears during an emotional memorial service yesterday.
Ronnie Butler, 80, died at his home in New Providence on November 18.
Butler was remembered as an icon, a loyal friend and a loving father during tributes from musicians, politicians and his family at a memorial service for Butler at the Church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road.
When he took the stage, Ronnie Butler Jr. sang “Going back to the island”, a staple in father’s repertoire.
He described his father as a “charming, colorful, aggravating, no holds barred, honest, fiercely independent, proud, punctual, and intensely private” man.
“I’ve cried more in the last 10 days I think than I have in the last 10 years,” Butler Jr. said.
“I don’t think any of us realized how deeply we loved our father until we watched him breathe his last breath.”
Ronnie Butler is considered the godfather of Bahamian music with hit songs that include “Burma Road”, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number”, “Look What You Do” and “Married Man”, just to name a few.
He recorded 15 albums and has performed throughout the globe including Boston, Toronto, France, Germany, Austria, and Belgium.
Ronnie Butler Jr. said he never really grew to appreciate his father until he got older.
“As children, we had to share him,” he said.
“His fans wanted him. The country wanted him. Money wanted him. Fame wanted him. Because he was young and talented, with the world at his fingertips, well sometimes there wasn’t much left for us.
“For a long time we held that against him. I held that against him.
“You see, as kids, we didn’t care about talent and the songs and the recognition. We wanted the father that everybody else had.
“Well, here’s the magic of what happened. I got older, a lot older and stopped comparing and I started becoming aware of the gifts, the things he gave us that a lot of other people didn’t get.”
Butler said once he accepted his father for who he was their relationship flourished.
“So, you see, besides the immense gifts that his talent has already given us, he gave his children something greater,” he said.
“When the radio was off and all the songs are over his love and pride and joy in who we are shines over us and through us.
“So, thank you, daddy, for all these gifts and like you asked, we promise to do our best to not mourn but celebrate because your richness will be with us always.”
Former Fort Charlotte MP Alfred Sears said he and Ronnie Butler were friends for years, noting that Butler endorsed him for Progressive Liberal Party leader earlier this year.
“I saw Ronnie on Saturday November 18, the day before he died,” Sears lamented.
“He was weak and unable to speak, but conscious.
“As I held his hand he squeezed my hand. I spoke to him and thanked him for his friendship, support and encouragement. When I left, I said goodbye and he nodded.
“Ronnie Jr. called me the next morning to say that his father had passed at six that morning.
“Ronnie’s life and work tell us that as we welcome guests and foreign investors to our country, the native people of this native land should always be given priority in opportunities, incentives and facilitation to realize the full potential of the Bahamian creative imagination and intellect and ownership.
“Ronnie’s body is no more but his vision is legend and his rebel spirit will never die.”
Former Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller said it was his privilege to have known Butler.
“To know Ronnie was to love Ronnie,” he said.
“Those of us who knew him truly loved him. More importantly, he loved us.
“He was the kindest human being that God could have put breath in.
“But, oh Lord, when he started cursing. I used to like to hang around him when he cursed because I didn’t have to say nothing. People used to say, ‘Boy, Potcake is a decent fella aye?’”
Parliament met briefly yesterday but was suspended until next week to allow MPs to attend the memorial service for Butler.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who attended the service, said Butler is an icon who will one day be recognized as a national hero.
“I can recall specifically people coming here, guests, and asking who is Ronnie Butler and where can they find him,” he said.
“So his music has made The Bahamas known, not just throughout the Caribbean but throughout the world. We cannot pay for that.
“It was fitting and essential that we suspend Parliament and spend the time here with a cultural icon who has done so much for this country.”
Butler is survived by his mother, Roselene Davis, his four children Michelle Butler, Ronnie Butler Jr., Tara Butler and Dionne Patterson; six siblings: Agnes Nairn, Sheila Butler, Ethel Butler, Rhoda Bain, Samuel Bain and Fred Bain, and numerous other relatives and close friends.