Saturday, May 27th, 2006

R.I.P. Desmond Dekker

Music like dirt. For your money’s worth. Yeah!

Desmond Dekker & The Aces: Unity
Desmond Dekker: Intensified ’68
Both available on Israelites: Anthology 1963-1999
BONUS BEATS! Tanya Stephens: Power Of A Girl

The Israelite has passed. Tom Breihan already has a playlist up at the Voice. But of course he missed a bunch. 10 Desmond Dekker songs only gets you so far. Even 2 full CDs only get you so far.

So here are two more of my favorites. “Unity” is from 1967, a period that saw the the fraying of Jamaica’s post-independence euphoria into urban turmoil. Bios of Dekker note that this is the point when he recorded “Tougher Than Tough” and the “Israelites”, turning to “rude-boy themes.” Like he suddenly was getting his thug on. It’s important to note that such themes included heartfelt calls for peace like this one. Trivia: Queen Latifah lifted it for her less-memorable-than-you’d-think Top 40 hit in the late 90s. I was going to use the exuberant chorus as an epigraph at the beginning of Chapter 3, but decided it was a bit out of context. Still it remains in heavy rotation around these parts.

“Intensified” was the title given to two seminal 1979 ska collections curated by Steve Barrow, which gripped a new generation of bluebeat fans. It was also the refrain of Dekker’s lighter 1968 hit, also known as “Music Like Dirt”, which may contribute to the idea of Dekker being called “king of ska”, even though history shows his big successes didn’t come until he was doing rocksteady. By this point, the tempos had slowed a bit, the instrumental parts streamlined quite a bit from the raucous virtuosity. For years I was confused by the difference between the two, and now I know why. The post-punk neo-ska revival blurred the historical lines, kinda the same way all these wack W’burgers have forever twisted the term “electro.” Another rant for another time. Anyway, this is a fantastic song, with Desmond singing the heck out of the track.

Bonus track: this 45 from a few years back was produced by German reggae star Gentleman and voiced by the incomparable irrepressible Tanya Stephens (check for her new album this summer), and in its spirit and execution stands as a living tribute. RIP Desmond Dekker.

posted by @ 10:19 am | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “R.I.P. Desmond Dekker”

  1. i says:

    word. that’s all i can say. world’d be a worse place had desmond never been here. rest in peace mi bredda.

  2. Nate P. says:

    Also have to give props to his version of “You Can Get it if You Really Want,” which is just a hair better than the more well-known Jimmy Cliff version; Desmond sounds a lot nicer on the chorus.

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