Conga player Jimmy Scott, like others (see Alan Civil), is known for a tangential brush with the Beatles that resulted in a cameo appearance on a Beatles record, although in fact he had a long musical career, much of which took place outside of rock music. Born Jimmy Anonmuogharan Scott Emuakor in Nigeria, he came to England in the 1950s to work in London jazz clubs. For a while he played with Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames. Here's guessing that it's Scott we see in the filmed TV appearance of Georgie Fame at the 1965 Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival, dressed in African clothing and taking a long conga solo that brought a touch of worldbeat to the lineup of British Invasion bands. Scott also formed the Ob-la-di Ob-la-da Band, and was a backing musician for Stevie Wonder on the Motown singer's 1965 tour of Britain.
Paul McCartney got to know Scott in London clubs in the 1960s. He borrowed Scott's catch phrase "ob-la-di ob-la-da" -- a Yoruba phrase meaning "life goes on" -- for the title line in one of the White Album's more famous cuts, "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da." Scott also played congas on the track, recorded in July 1968. Apparently he wanted a bit more than an opportunity to play on a Beatles record. As McCartney told Playboy in 1984, "He got annoyed when I did a song of it because he wanted a cut. I said 'Come on, Jimmy. It's just an expression. If you'd written the song, you could have had the cut.'" According to Steve Turner's A Hard Day's Write: The Story Behind Every Beatles Song, when Scott was imprisoned around the end of the '60s for failing to pay alimony, McCartney paid for his legal bill, in exchange for Scott dropping contentions that he was owed something for the title phrase.
Also according to A Hard Day's Write: The Story Behind Every Beatles Song, Scott played on the Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet, and at the Rolling Stones' free concert at London's Hyde Park in July 1969. If that's so, he probably played on "Sympathy for the Devil," the track on which African-style percussion can be heard. In the '70s he gave workshops on African music and drumming at the Pyramid Arts project in East London. In 1983, he joined the ska-rock band Bad Manners, and was still with them when he died in 1986. Doug Trendle of Bad Manners said that Scott caught pneumonia during an American tour, and died the day after a strip-search upon re-entry to Britain, where he was left naked for two hours. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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