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'HUMBLE & MODEST' Rob Strong is the most exciting soul singer this country ever produced

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Talent: Rob with the new book

Talent: Rob with the new book

Talent: Rob with the new book

If I was put against a wall and asked to nominate the best and the most exciting soul singer this country ever produced it would have to be Rob Strong.

Others might choose his son Andrew, but Rob has been doing it for 55 years and doing it without the aid of modern technology. Let me put it like this: Rob Strong is the original, the most authentic and the most talented singer of genuine soul music I ever heard live here.

He’s also a sincere, modest, humble man who never pushed himself and despite being the frontman of one of the very best showbands, was never promoted as he should have been. His unique talent has never been properly appreciated in Ireland.

That’s why I am thrilled that Paul Holland has written and compiled a marvellous book in which Rob’s peers get the chance to put on record their esteem and their appreciation for this modest genius who was blessed with the incredible voice and who used his gift relentlessly.

If you can get your hands on Still Going Strong by Paul Holland, you’ll go back in time to what showband life was like while re-living the life and times of Rob Strong. Paul is Rob’s manager and he wisely puts Rob’s achievements in their proper context.

He gives a fascinating insight into the music scene in Ireland during the ’60s and ’70s with contributions from many of the stars of the time who were Rob’s contemporaries. Without exception, they all agree that Rob is an unbelievable singer, a superb musician but most of all, a great human being.

For years I told anyone who’d listen that Rob Strong was the greatest. When his son Andrew made it to the top in The Commitments, Rob didn’t jump on the bandwagon. Instead he faded into the background and often played bass in his son’s band.

Last year by chance, Rob, Don Baker and I were on the same TV programme in a Cork studio. I was thrilled that Don and Rob were still showcasing their talents on TV. Their manager Paul Holland was surprised that I knew these legendary musicians - now in their seventies. But we were old friends. I knew Rob since his days in the Plattermen Showband when he and Brian Coll shared lead vocals. What a band that was.

Last spring I got a call from Paul Holland. He said he wanted to write a book putting on record the unique achievements of Rob Strong. I told him I would give all the time in the world to help him in any way. There is no Irish singer more deserving of a book than Rob. It was no surprise, while reading the book this week, that I discovered almost every one of those interviewed also instantly agreed to help out with a heart and a half. It’s called respect.

To fully appreciate Rob’s musical achievements, read the book. What you might not realise is that he was born in Derry and grew up in relative poverty in the tin huts of Springtown Camp on the outskirts of Derry City.

It originally was a base for the American Navy during the Second World War. The 302 tin huts were well known, situated off the Buncrana Road. Rob was the eldest in his family who were one of only two Protestant families in Springtown Camp.

Rob’s first job was delivering messages on a bike for two pounds a week.

Music became his best chance to escape the poverty whilst doing something he loved.

How precisely he did it is well chronicled in Still Going Strong. This is a fabulous book to read. My admiration for Rob and his achievements grew with every page. The superb talent that is Rob Strong is at last chronicled with dignity and respect.

Paul Holland has self-published the book. It’s a labour of love for him. The book is only available online at robstrong.ie. It is a bargain because as well as the superb book you also get an exclusive 15-track CD of Rob’s music (Soul Affair). The book, CD and delivery cost a mere €24.99.

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