Jamaican-born broadcaster Fitzroy Gordon dies at 65

By Lincoln DePradine

Fitzroy Gordon

Jamaican-born broadcasting entrepreneur, Fitzroy Gordon, is being remembered as a “towering figure’’ and, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “he’ll be deeply missed’’.

Gordon, popularly known as “G’’, died Tuesday at a Toronto hospital, where he was on life support. He was 65.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Toronto Mayor, John Tory, are among hundreds who have been paying tribute to Gordon, founder and chief executive officer of Toronto radio station G98.7 FM.

“Fitzroy Gordon was a towering figure in our city who brought people together. His was a life of great accomplishment and contribution to our city but a life cut way too short,’’ Tory said in a statement.

Gordon, whose “legacy and contributions to Canada will live on’’, was able to bring people together, “gave them a voice, and worked to make Toronto an even better, more inclusive place – both on and off the air’’, Trudeau said.

Gordon’s wife Marvette announced his passing “with great sadness’’, leading to an avalanche of condolence messages on social media.

“We are overcome with grief,’’ she said. “I know Mr G was well-loved by our listeners and the community at large; as such, rest assured that at the appropriate time, there will be opportunity for you to express your love for him.’’

Gordon fell ill with a stroke and a heart attack in late 2017, six years after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granted him a licence to operate G98.7, originally created to serve the Black and Caribbean population. Gordon believed community members did not have a platform to speak from, to discuss their issues or to play their music.

“He was doing everything at the station to make it work,’’ said an employee of G98.7 that spoke to The Caribbean Camera on condition of anonymity. “It’s very difficult. But, after all is said and done, I have a tremendous responsibility to help carry the torch and to protect his legacy as long as I can.’’

As part of the station’s programming, Gordon hosted a show called “Grapevine’’.

The late businessman arrived in Canada in 1979 with family members. He worked at hospitals and nursing homes as a medical equipment technologist, and also wrote for several Canadian and Caribbean publications.

Gordon would spread his wings to include CHIN Radio, FAN 590 and Score Television, and became known as the host of the broadcast program, “The Dr. Love Show.”

Gordon harboured an abiding mission to own a radio station targeting the Black and Caribbean community, saying he wanted to “leave a legacy for my people. I want young people to understand that they, too, can achieve, if they try, and try hard enough’’.

Not only did he receive the nod to start G98.7, but in October 2014 the CRTC announced that Gordon was granted a licence to launch a national Black and Caribbean television station.

Just at the time of becoming ill, there were concerns by some about the future of G98.7, including its financial viability and its ability to meet CRTC requirements to retain its licence. However, Gordon dismissed the concerns in an August 2017 Caribbean Camera interview.

“I don’t see the station as being in danger of being removed by the CRTC,’’ he said. “I can give you my word on that.’’

Gordon expressed pride in the achievements of G98.7, pointing to the employment of 50 full and part-time workers.

“For the first time in the history of Canada, we have a daytime talk show that gives the community a platform to speak,’’ he boasted. “We also have soca and reggae in daytime.’’

Gordon, conceded, however, that he would like to have more advertising on the radio, saying efforts would be made “to convince mainstream advertisers to come on board’’.

The anonymous source at G98.7, admitting that staff have not been “inclusive’’ in the station’s operation, said it’s believed Gordon owned about 55 percent of the broadcast entity, which he wanted to be a commercial community-oriented radio station, except “the community could not afford the commercial advertising prices of the station’’.

“When he got sick, the station literally plunged,’’ said the source, but was confident that G98.7 “will continue to do well and stay float’’, because it has been able to attract national advertising.

Gordon, in his lifetime, was the recipient of many awards, including one from the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), which referred to him as a “visionary and humanitarian’’.

In 2012, Gordon was presented with the BBPA’s Harry Jerome Heritage Award.

“Many communities saw improvement through the kind efforts of Fitzroy Gordon,’’ the BBPA said in a statement of “deepest condolences’’ to Gordon’s family.

“He founded G98.7 FM when there was a void in our community – a black-owned communications channel serving the Caribbean, people of colour and other disenfranchised groups; and he encouraged our community to subscribe to what belonged to them.’’

Kingsley Gilliam, an executive member of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), said the organization learnt with “great sadness’’ of Gordon’s death. As a “luminary broadcaster’’, according to Gilliam, Gordon “championed and pioneered’’ broadcasting at many levels.

“Fitzroy’s voice,’’ he said, “has served and entertained the Black and Caribbean community in Canada and the Caribbean for over 25 years as a radio host at CHIN Radio, hosting Gospel concerts and Jazz and Blues and public affairs programs.’’

Funeral Service for Fitzroy Gordon

Will take place on:
Friday May 10, 2019 at 10 am
Global Kingdom Ministries,
1250 Markham Rd, Scarborough
With a Viewing:
Thursday May 9, 2019 from 5pm- 9pm
Toronto East Seventh-day Adventist Church
4548 Sheppard Ave E, Scarborough