Happy birthday to one of the greats of West African highlife music! The composer of one of the biggest African songs ever, "Taxi Driver", the Nigerian entertainer and businessman Bobby Benson was leader of an 11-piece band, comedian, magician and hotel/nightclub owner. His band played calypso, jazz, jive, samba and highlife and he played the guitar and saxophone.
From Ikorodu in Lagos State, he started his career in '44 in London, playing with a touring ballet, traveling throughout Europe, before returning to Nigeria where he founded a dance & theater company in '47 with his wife Cassandra. His band became popular in Nigeria. He also had a comedy act and was a presence on television in the '70s. He also owned the Caban Bamboo nightclub, which became the Hotel Bobby.
Benson helped popularize big band jazz and Caribbean music in Nigeria, modernizing highlife. He was composer of "Niger Mambo", a tune which has become a US jazz standard as played by Randy Weston and many others. "Freedom, Yes Sir" was another big hit. He has collaborated at times with his friend Eddy Grant. Benson was a longtime musician's union leader and activist. His son Tony Benson is also a well-known musician.