By Joan CumminsBBC Midlands Today • Eleanor LawsonBBC News, West Midlands

BBC Pauline Black and Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson of The SelecterBBC

Pauline Black OBE said Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson was “extraordinary”

Pauline Black OBE has paid tribute to her bandmate from The Selecter, Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson, who died of cancer at the age of 73.

The 2-Tone band formed in Coventry in 1979 and their debut album Too Much Pressure was released a year later.

Black told the BBC: “He was extraordinary. When he used to do James Bond, I’ve never seen anybody as powerful on the stage. He was absolutely fantastic.

“We used to call each other the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of ska. It really fitted in a weird way what we did.”

Black described Hendrickson as a “really fine songwriter” and believed he was always thinking of his childhood in the Caribbean in St Kitts when writing music.

“I feel so much that people don’t know the real Gaps,” Black said. “I don’t know a more humble man.”

She said he was “a gentleman to everybody he ever met”.

Pauline Black

Black said Hendrickson was “a gentleman to everybody he ever met”

Hendrickson was brought up by his grandmother in St Kitts where she would take him to the cane fields before school to cut cane for an hour.

When he was 12, Black said his parents sent for him in the UK and he was on his own for the journey due to a misunderstanding.

Black said: “He was just standing on the harbour-side and the harbour-master said to him ‘come on lad, we’ll get you somewhere, don’t be scared’ and gave him a KitKat.

“That was the first time he ever tasted chocolate and he thought it was absolutely wonderful.”

She added he was told by his grandmother the streets in England were paved with gold and was “bitterly disappointed” when he arrived as he had taken her at her word.

As his grandmother had sold ice in the Caribbean to make money, Black said: “When it snowed all over the pavement, he thought he was gonna be rich because he could collect all this ice and sell it to people. That’s who he was.

“It was the most beautiful innocence and naivety but in that best sense that you can be at wonder with the world and that was him really and that’s what we shared on stage.”

Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson

Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson died after a short illness, a spokesperson for The Selecter announced on Tuesday

Speaking of his contribution to the 2-Tone and ska movement, Black said: “He was extraordinary. Take Too Much Pressure, he took that song and all the angst and frustration of the working man, what he’d been.

“He’d worked at Vauxhall in Luton and he’d come up here to do much the same in a different factory.

“He was channelling that for everybody, for other people who’d come here from the Caribbean.

“It was a hard life, with little opportunity – much, much racism at that time, hard to get a job.

“He took all that on to the stage and presented that – that’s why people remember that song and his particular rendition because you really felt that.”

Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson

Pauline Black said she saw Gaps Hendrickson in hospital before she had to fly to perform gigs in America at the weekend

Black visited Hendrickson in hospital on Thursday before flying out to perform two gigs in America with their other bandmates.

“We knew this was going to happen but when it finally happens it’s dreadful,” she said.

“Fortunately, we had some time before we went to America. We probably knew that was going to be the last time.

“Sometimes you just have to say things to people maybe you’ve never said before.”

Black had planned to go straight back to the hospital to see Hendrickson on returning from America but their flight arrived four hours after he died.

“Gaps was a religious man. He was not your average Christian but he was always quoting at me ‘you’ll be fine, you’ll get saved, don’t worry, you’ve got me to talk for you’,” Black said.

He would often quote from the book of John to her, she said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

“That was always what he said to me and I hope he’s found it and if there is a hereafter I hope I can join him and we can all be together,” Black said.

“All of those people of the ska world who have gone, just doing some ska.”

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