Obama's Big-Up From South London

(Courtesy DJ Daddy Fridge)
I was chopping vegetables for my roasted red pepper and butternut squash soup Wednesday when I noticed the time; 4:00 p.m. Reggae Drive Time!

Like a flash I steered my radio's dial to 90.8, south London's Lightning FM, to enjoy my weekly dose of Caribbean sounds as I prepared the evening meal.

The first words I heard, shouted loud and clear in a yardie accent like a slogan, were, "Barack Obama!"

DJ Daddy Fridge (MySpace) spent the next two hours playing songs dedicated to — many of them written specifically for — the new American president. In the underground radio station's 20-odd-year history, I very much doubt that has ever happened before, not for an American politician ... or any politician for that matter.

Much has been made of Obama's broad appeal around the world, so it didn't come as a surprise that a radio station targeting London's black community would mention Obama.

But dedicating a whole show to him? A DJ hurling constant praise, best wishes and admiration between songs for hours to a man 3,000 miles away who does not have any direct affect on issues in Britain? That surprised me.

For the first time in my life, I called-in to a radio station. I had to know why Daddy Fridge thought his listeners wanted to hear non-stop about my new president.

"He's the biggest thing right now," Fridge tells me. "Everybody — young, old, black, white — everybody is talking about Barack Obama right now."

I was surprised to learn that Daddy Fridge is not a middle-aged, dreadlocked member of south London's immense Afro-Caribbean community. He's a 21-year-old white guy with short hair. (The only white DJ listed on Lightning FM's Web site, of 24.)

"The white reggae boy in the hot-seat" is a popular personality on the reggae scene in south London. He's been on Lighting for five years. He knows what interests his audience, and it's Obama.

"I'm actually a youth-worker," Fridge says, adding that even the 16-24-year-olds he mentors in the community are paying significant lip-service to Obama. These kids represent a part of British society that no U.K. politician has ever been able to capture the attention of, let alone the hearts of.

One 16-year-old boy from the neighborhood told Fridge, "the name (Barack Obama) is special. It means that one day we will be able to go through any difficulty in life."

"Even though it's the United States, the whole world sees a black man step up," says Fridge.

At the end of his show, Fridge played an as-of-yet-unreleased track by U.K. artists Michael Gordon (MySpace) and Tippa Irie (one of at least 50 reggae songs composed for Obama, according to the DJ). It's a remake of a classic 1964 tune by Sam Cooke called "A Change is Gonna Come."

In the middle of the new version, called, "A Change Will Come," they sing to their fans around the world:

"Can we be a lawyer? Yes we can. Can we be a doctor? Yes we can. Can you be a singer? Yes we can. And can you be a president? Yes you can."

Perhaps even I, writing about the world's reaction to President No. 44 every day for weeks, did not fully appreciate his role. I wonder if he does.

DJ Daddy Fridge commands the airwaves for Lightning FM from 10 a.m. Eastern to 1 p.m. every Wednesday, and from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. every Saturday morning. You can tune-in to his show this Saturday for another two hours dedicated entirely to your president.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.