Happy Birthday – Frank Opperman
Frank Opperman came to mainstream attention in South Africa as an actor, not a musician. His role as Ouboet van Tonder in the TV comedy show ‘Orkney Snork Nie’ soon established him as a loveable car mechanic. Nearly a decade after the show first appeared, Frank put together a band called Prime Time Addiction and released an album called ‘Serial Boyfriend’ which would get to number 5 on the SA Rockdigest album charts.
The band included such local luminaries as Anton Lamour on guitar, Barry van Zyl (Savuka) on drums and Concorde Nkabinde (Savuka and UK band Black) on bass. On ‘Happy Birthday’, they bring a kind of laid back blues feel to the song with Lamour’s guitar moving seamlessly between a relaxed sound similar to that found on the band Luna’s material and a more grungy sound as the song swells to its chorus.
Released in 1999, the song looks forward to the change in millennia and hinges around the fact that the marking of the years is based on the birthdate of Jesus. Frank unashamedly sings, ‘Happy Birthday Baby Jesus’ and throughout there is a sense that there is a seriousness to the lyrics. Opperman focusses on how, despite the message of peace Jesus brought, the world has failed over the past 2000 years to act on it. He issues a plea to Jesus to return as it is ‘time to save the world again’.
In 2009, Opperman re-recorded the song for his ‘Let’s Be Frank’ album. This version (which is the only one of the 2 available on Youtube at the time of writing) is a more laidback affair.
While not all share the same faith or belief in Jesus, it is hard not to agree with the sentiment that was valid in 1999 and is probably even more valid in 2022 that the world needs saving from our destructive ways. ‘Happy Birthday’ is unlikely to change the hearts of those who seek destruction of others, but it is one small (and very necessary) reminder that we need to learn to live together. Maybe in the year 3000 we will get there.
Where to find it:
Serial Boyfriend – Frank Opperman & Prime Time Addiction (1999), Gallo Records, GWVCD 17
Let’s Be Frank – Frank Opperman (2009), Next Music, LULI 051