Desmond Dekker, dead at 64

Desmond Dekker, Jamaican Ska Legend, Dead at 64

story from

Amy Phillips and Scott Plagenhoef report:

Desmond Dekker, the legendary Jamaican singer/songwriter who helped introduce international audiences to the sound of ska music, died of an apparent heart attack at his London home on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. He was 64 years old.

The man born Desmond Dacres and known as “the King of Ska” (after the title of his 1964 hit) worked as a welder in Kingston before he was discovered by ska pioneer Derrick Morgan and producer Leslie Kong of the Beverley’s record label. His first single, the celebration of traditional values “Honour Your Mother and Father”, was released in 1963. He was one of the progenitors of the rude boy sound, with his 1967 single “007 (Shanty Town)” and an appearance on Derrick Morgan’s “Tougher Than Tough” from the same year. Each song– as well as rude boy anthems like “Rudie Got Soul” and “Rude Boy Train”– celebrated the glamour and violence of street culture, earning Dekker a devoted following in Britain at the height of mod culture.

Dekker’s biggest hit, 1969’s mournful repatriation song “Israelites”, went to No. 1 in the UK and reached the top 10 in the U.S.– the first worldwide Jamaican success since Millie’s 1963 bubble-ska single “My Boy Lollipop”.

Unbeknownst to most record buyers, Desmond himself had first been introduced to a mass audience in 1968 as the inspiration for the Beatles’ horrible plundering of Jamaican music, “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” (“Desmond works a barrow in the marketplace…”). “Israelites” also later provided the inspiration for a well-known Maxell ad. Dekker’s other successes included “It Mek”, a version of Beverley’s labelmate Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, as well as songs recorded with the Cherrypies (aka the Maytals) and his longtime backing band the Aces.

In the late 1970s, Dekker signed with the punk label Stiff Records and recorded with Graham Parker’s backing band, the Rumour, as well as Robert Palmer. In the 1990s, he worked with the Specials. Dekker continued to tour and record up until his death; his last performance was on May 11 at Leeds University, and he had concerts scheduled throughout the summer.

0 thoughts on “Desmond Dekker, dead at 64”

Leave a Reply