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Desmond Dekker

Probably no other Jamaican artist has brought more international acclaim to his island home than Desmond Dekker, barring, of course, Bob Marley, but Dekker came first. Most people's introduction to the island's unique musical sound came via the singer's many hits, most notably "Israelites" and "0.0.7. (Shanty Town)." Needless to say, he was even more influential in his homeland.

Born Desmond Dacres in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 16, 1942, the star-to-be was orphaned in his teens. Left to earn a living on his own, he apprenticed as a welder. It was his workmates who first noted his vocal talents, as the youngster sang around the workshop. With their encouragement, in 1961 the young man decided to have a go at recording and auditioned for both Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and Duke Reid at Treasure Isle. Neither man found anything remarkable about this young hopeful and sent him on his way. Not discouraged, Dacres next tried his luck with Leslie Kong, owner of the Beverley's label. He auditioned before the stable's biggest hitmaker, Derrick Morgan, who immediately spotted the young man's potential. However, it was to be two long years before Kong finally took him into the studio, waiting patiently for him to compose a song worthy of recording.

In 1963, Dacres presented Kong with "Honour Your Father and Mother," and the producer knew the wait had been worth it. Upon its release, the song's heartfelt message soared to the top of the Jamaican charts. Having been renamed Desmond Dekker, the new star followed up with "Sinners Come Home" and "Labour for Learning," which were also successful. However, it was with his next release, "King of Ska," that Dekker's star was truly established. Backed by the Cherrypies, aka the Maytals, the boastful song, a raucous celebration of ska in all its glory, swiftly attained classic status and remains one of the genre's masterpieces. Before the year was out, Dekker had found his own backing group, the Aces, a quartet of singing siblings -- Carl, Clive, Barry, and Patrick Howard -- initially known as the Four Aces. Together the five men cut a slew of excellent ska-fired singles, such as the jubilant "Get Up Edina," the advice to "Parents," the bouncy love letter "This Woman," and the sublime "Mount Zion." All were big hits.

However, as can be seen by the titles, Dekker's initial appeal was as a respectful young man (admittedly with a penchant for admonishing misbehaving young ladies). That would all change in 1967. Derrick Morgan helped set the stage with his trio of rudeboys-go-to-court songs beginning off with "Tougher Than Tough," which featured Dekker and his brother George on backing vocals. Wisely, Dekker himself steered clear of what swiftly turned into a judicial soap opera, instead he rocketed "0.0.7. (Shanty Town)" into the Jamaican charts. Set to a sturdy rocksteady beat, the song quickly became a rudeboy anthem and established Dekker as a virtual rudeboy icon. Across the water in Britain in the wake of its own mod revolution, the Jamaican singer was seen as one of the mod's own. The single looted and shot its way into the U.K. Top 15, and Dekker immediately set off on his first visit to England. The response there astonished him, and he was trailed everywhere by mods almost acting as informal bodyguards. More rudeboy hits followed, including the indeed soulful "Rudy Got Soul and "Rude Boy Train." Others were often in keeping with the more temperate subjects of Dekker's past: the religious-themed "Wise Man," "Hey Grandma," the warning for "Mother's Young Girl," the lovelorn "Sabotage," the bouncy "It's a Shame" (wherein another girl gets a telling off), and the inspirational "Unity" (which took second place at Jamaica's Festival Song Competition that year). One of the most evocative was "Pretty Africa"; one of the earliest repatriation songs composed, it's haunting beauty and yearning quality has kept it a strong favorite. "It Pays," another hit from 1967, features some of the most exquisite falsetto harmonies ever to be recorded and showcases the Aces as their best. Although none repeated the success of "0.0.7.," Dekker remained a powerful force in the U.K. and a superstar at home. Many of the hits from this era were included on the singer's debut album, which was naturally titled after "0.0.7. (Shanty Town)."

In 1968, the singer unleashed the mighty sufferers' lament "Israelites" on an unsuspecting world. For half a year, the song simmered on the U.K. charts, finally coming to a boil in March, when it topped the chart. Meanwhile in the U.S., the song had also begun to rise, peaking thee months later just inside the Top Ten. Dekker had achieved the dream of every Jamaican artist, to break into the U.S. market. He was the first to do so, at least with a pure Jamaican song. Although Dekker would never put another single so high into the U.S. charts, his career continued unabated both at home and in the U.K. The heartbreak of "Beautiful and Dangerous" was the perfect theme for another smash, as was the exuberant "Shing a Ling" and the equally infectious "Music Like Dirt." For the more religiously minded there was "Writing on the Wall," but what did buyers of that popular single make of the highly suggestive and equally successful "Bongo Girl"? Before the year was out, the Beverley's label gathered up a group of hits from the year for the Action! collection.

In 1969, the upbeat "Problems" spoke directly to the Jamaican public, who bought the single in droves. But the year was defined by "It Mek," wherein another girl gets her comeuppance. Dekker composed the song about his rambunctious younger sister. Initially released to muted response, the original was a charmer but lacked punch; the re-recorded version was much stronger and smashed into the Jamaican chart, then soared into the Top Ten across the water. "Pickney Gal," however, although very successful in Jamaica, did less well in the U.K. As to be expected, Beverley's rounded up this year's hits for a new album, Israelites. In the U.K., fans were treated to This Is Desmond Dekker, which the Trojan label also released in 1969, a virtual nonstop chart-busting party, drawn from the three Beverley's sets.

By the time the '70s dawned, Dekker had relocated to Britain and was spending most of his time touring. However, he continued releasing excellent singles, as always backed by the superb Beverley's All Stars house band and accompanied by the exquisite Aces. Neither the band nor singers have ever received the credit they were due. The former's flawless and sympathetic performances powered every one of Dekker's songs, while the latter's sublime soaring vocals and perfect harmonies helped define his sound. Unusually, Dekker's next hit would not come from his own pen, but another's. Leslie Kong had to argue vociferously to convince the singer to cover Jimmy Cliff's "You Can Get It If You Really Want," but in the end, Dekker put his faith in the producer. He was rewarded with a timeless masterpiece that was a smash on both sides of the Atlantic. The song titled yet another hit-laden collection, released by Trojan in 1970 as well. In retrospect, it was fitting that Kong's two greatest stars should have combined talents in this way. In August 1971, the great producer, still only in his thirties, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Unlike virtually every other artist on the island, Dekker had spent his entire career under Kong's wing and was devastated by his death. (Barring a few very early recordings, Cliff had as well and was equally distraught and directionless in the aftermath.) The definitive collection of Dekker's work with Kong is found on the Trojan label's Original Reggae Hitsound of Desmond Dekker and the Aces compilation.

Initially at a total loss of how to now proceed, eventually Dekker found his way, and over the next few years, he released a steady stream of fine singles. However, he seemed to have lost his grip on Britain and none of his releases charted there. In hopes of remedying this situation, in 1974 Dekker joined forces with the pop production team Bruce Anthony (aka Tony Cousins) and Bruce White. Their session together resulted in the singles "Everybody Join Hands" and "Busted Lad," released in the U.K. by the Rhino label. They had little impact however, but in 1975, another song from the session, "Sing a Little Song," charmed its way into the British Top 20. A sugary offering with lush production, it was far removed from the work Dekker had done with Kong. A new album, titled Israelites, and not to be confused with the Beverley's album of the same name, was also released this year. Although it featured a ferocious version of the title track, it then sank quickly into syrupy waters, much like "Sing..." After that and for the next five years, Dekker disappeared off the U.K. radar almost entirely. He continued to release records in Jamaica, although they were sporadic in comparison to his prolific output in the '60s.

However, as the '70s came to a close, the 2-Tone movement gave fresh impetus to the singer's career, and Dekker inked a deal with the independent punk label Stiff. His debut for them was the wittily titled Black & Dekker album, which featured re-recordings of past hits, backed by the British rock band the Rumour. The Rumour, of course, were famous as the group behind Graham Parker. A series of singles also announced his return, with the first, a re-recorded "Israelites," almost breaking into the Top Ten in Belgium. That was followed by "Please Don't Bend" and a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross." A fourth single, "Book of Rules," was especially strong and produced by Will Birch, best known for his work with power pop bands. Dekker's follow-up, 1981's Compass Point, in contrast, featured mostly new compositions and was produced by Robert Palmer. Both it and the single "Hot City," however, did poorly. Regardless, Dekker was in big demand on-stage, where he continued to be accompanied by the Rumour. As the 2-Tone movement disintegrated, so too did Dekker's revival. In 1984, the singer was forced to declare bankruptcy, although this was less a reflection on him than on his past management.

Dekker veritably disappeared from view for the rest of the decade, with only Trojan's 1987 Officially Live and Rare album breaking the drought, which was recorded during an enthusiastic live club appearance in London. A new version of "Israelites," utilized in a Maxell tape ad, brought the singer back into public view in 1990. The following year, Dekker released King of Ska, again featuring re-recordings of past glories. Two years later, he entered the studio with an equally revitalized Specials for the King of Kings album. And although this set too featured old hits, this time around the vast majority weren't Dekker's own, but his personal heroes, including, of course, Derrick Morgan, the man who had discovered him.

In 1996, Moving On appeared, not one of Dekker's best. However, the Trojan label has continued to keep the singer's back catalog to the fore. Beginning back in 1974, when they released the humorously titled Double Dekker, across Sweet 16 Hits (1978), The Original Reggae Hitsound in 1985, and 1992's Music Like Dirt, there's never been a dearth of excellent Dekker material for fans to revel in. Other labels have jumped in on the action, and the shelves have quickly filled with compilations of the singer from varying stages of his career. Dekker's vast catalog of music, songs that defined the ska, rocksteady, and reggae eras have provided the singer with a rich legacy that has rarely been equaled. On May 25, 2006, Dekker passed away at age 64 in his London home. ~ Jo-Ann Greene
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Super Best

Disc 1

1. Honour Your Mother And Father

2. Israelites

3. Nincompoop

4. Parents

5. It Mek

6. Labour For Learning

7. Jeserene

8. Too Much, Too Soon

9. King Of Ska

10. Problems

11. Generation

12. This Woman

13. Mount Zion

14. You Can Get It If You Really Want

15. The Song We Used To Sing

16. 007 (Shanty Town)

17. Archie Wah Wah

18. Rudy Got Soul

19. Reggae Recipe

20. Unity

21. Look What They're Doing To Me

22. Sabotage

23. Live And Learn (The More You Live)

24. Pretty Africa

25. Sing A Song

26. Dance The Night Away

Disc 2

1. Mother Long Tongue

2. This Woman

3. Baby Come Back

4. Beautiful And Dangerous

5. Fu Manchu

6. King Of Ska (1993 Version)

7. Jamaica Ska

8. Mother Pepper

9. Don't Blame Me

10. Moving On

11. Hey Grandma

12. Young Generation (1995 Version)

13. Happy Birthday Jamaica

14. Music Like Dirt

15. A It Miek

16. Jamaica Farewell

17. Get Up Edina

18. Hippopotamus

19. It Mek

20. Licking Stick

21. Pickney Gal

22. Rude Boy Train

23. Sweet Music

24. Warlock

25. Wise Man

26. Personal Possessi


Track List: It Mek

1. Israelites

2. It Mek

3. Problems

4. Tips Of My Fingers

5. It's Not Easy

6. Intensified

7. Too Much, Too Soon

8. Nincompoop

9. My Precious Love

10. For Once In My Life


Track List: ...In Memoriam 1941 - 2006

1. 007 (Shanty Town) (2006 Version)

2. Don't Blame Me (2006 Version)

3. Hippopotamus (2006 Version)

4. Intensified (2006 Version)

5. Israelites (2006 Version)

6. It Mek (2006 Version)

7. Jamaica Ska (2006 Version)

8. Nincompoop (2006 Version)

9. Opportunity (2006 Version)

10. Pickney Gal (2006 Version)

11. Pretty Africa (2006 Version)

12. Problems (2006 Version)

13. Rudy Got Soul (2006 Version)

14. Sabotage (2006 Version)

15. Sing A Little Song (2006 Version)

16. The More You Live (2006 Version)

17. You Can Get It If You Really Want (2006 Version)

18. Unity (2006 Version)

19. Where Did It Go (2006 Version)

20. Wise Man (2006 Version)


Track List: You Can Get It If You Really Want: The Definitive Collection

Disc 1

1. Honour Your Mother And Father

2. Parents

3. Labour For Learning

4. Jeserine

5. King Of Ska

6. Get Up Edina

7. This Woman

8. Mount Zion

9. Soldering

10. It's A Shame

11. Wise Man

12. 007 (Shanty Town)

13. Rudy Got Soul

14. Rude Boy Train

15. Mother's Young Gal

16. Young Generation

17. Unity

18. Keep A Cool Head

19. Mother Long Tongue

20. Sabotage

21. Pretty Africa

22. It Pays

23. Beautiful And Dangerous

24. Mother Pepper

25. Don't Blame Me

27. Fu Manchu

29. It Mek

30. Problems

Disc 2

1. Pickney Gal

2. Generosity

4. You Can Get It If You Really Want

5. Coomyah

6. You Got Soul

7. Polka Dot

8. (Where Did It Go) The Song We Used To Sing

9. Get Up Little Suzie

10. My Reward

11. Archie Wah Wah

13. Licking Stick

14. Live And Learn (The More You Live)

15. Warlock

16. Life Of Opportunity

17. It Gotta Be So

18. First Time For A Long Time

19. Mother Nature

20. Beware

21. Sing A Little Song

22. (I'm A) Busted Lad

23. Money And Friends

24. Moving On

25. Book Of Rules

26. Hot City

27. Dance The Night Away (Live)

28. Jamaica Ska


Track List: Rudy Got Soul: The Early Beverley's Sessions 1963-1968

Disc 1

1. Honour Your Mother And Father

2. Madgie

3. Parents

4. Dracula

5. Labour For Learning

6. Jeserine

7. King Of Ska

8. It Was Only A Dream

9. Get Up Edina

10. This Woman

11. Mount Zion

12. It's A Shame

13. 007 (Shanty Town)

14. Wise Man

15. Rudy Got Soul

16. Rude Boy Train

17. Mother's Young Gal

18. You've Got Your Troubles

19. Keep A Cool Head

20. Personal Possession

21. Unity

22. Sweet Music

23. Mother Long Tongue

Disc 2

1. Pretty Africa

2. Sabotage

3. Shing A Ling

4. It Pays

5. Young Generation

6. Beautiful And Dangerous

7. I've Got The Blues

8. Hanging Tree

9. Bongo Gal

10. Fu Man Chu

11. To Sir With Love (My Lonely World)

12. Mother Pepper

13. Don't Blame Me

14. Hey Grandma

15. It Mek

16. Writing On The Wall

17. Intensified (A.K.A. Music Like Dirt)

18. Coconut Water

19. Nincompoop

20. Tips Of My Fingers

21. It's Not Easy

22. Gimme Gimme

23. My Precious Love (A.K.A. A Woman's World)


Track List: Israelites: The Best Of Desmond Dekker

1. Israelites

2. You Can Get It If You Really Want

3. 007 (Shanty Town)

4. It Mek

5. Pickney Gal

6. Honour Your Mother And Father

7. Music Like Dirt

8. Licking Stick

9. Unity

10. Mount Zion

11. Live And Learn (The More You Live)

12. It Pays

13. Reggae Recipe

14. Pretty Africa

15. Archie Wah Wah

16. Fu Man Chu

17. Where Did It Go

18. King Of Ska

19. Sabotage

20. Hippopotamus

21. Wise Man

22. Problems

23. Beautiful And Dangerous

24. Get Up Edina

25. Mother Pepper


Track List: Compass Point

1. I'll Get By

2. Moving On

3. We Can And We Shall

4. Hurts So Bad

5. Isabella

6. Come Back To Me

7. Cindy

8. I Do Believe / My Destiny

9. Big Headed

10. That's My Woman

11. Allamanna


Track List: Black And Dekker

1. Israelites

2. Lickin' Stick

3. It Mek

4. Please Don't Bend

5. Many Rivers To Cross

6. Hippo

7. 007 (Shanty Town)

8. Work Out

9. Problems

10. Rude Boy Train

11. Pickney Gal

12. Why Fight?


Track List: This Is Desmond Dekker

1. 007 (Shanty Town)

2. Sabotage

3. Shing A Ling

4. Hey Grandma

5. Beautiful And Dangerous

6. Wise Man

7. Intensified '68

8. Rudy Got Soul

9. Unity

10. Mother Pepper

11. It Pays

12. Mother's Young Gal

13. It's A Shame

14. Rude Boy Train

15. Sweet Music

16. Pretty Africa

17. You've Got Your Troubles

18. Keep A Cool Head

19. Personal Possession

20. Mother Long Tongue

21. Young Generation

22. Hanging Tree

23. Bongo Gal

24. Fu Manchu

25. Don't Blame Me

26. Coconut Water

27. Ah It Mek

28. Writing On The Wall

29. Nincompoop

30. It Is Not Easy

31. Israelites


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❤️❤️❤️❤️️ I got rid of pandora ads/skip limit on www.dankprom o . x y z ❤❤️❤️️❤️
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Black suns shine bright together
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This song really gets me moving.
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Michael Stubblefield : you listen to Michael Jackson too much!
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You can get it if you really want: I may want it, but it's no good if you don't want it too.
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michaelrocks 6 8
What's going to happen to youth of today? Babylon parents must stop BREEDING.
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love this song, one of Desmond's best.
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Feeling irie 2 night✌
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I love these real music, it keep me rocking and dancing while I work at my computer. Keep it coming. Thanks
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This is real music with a sense of purpose... REALLY GREAT ;}
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Lyrics are great;)
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1:kiss ur left hand
2: say ur crushes name
3:close ur hand
4:say ur name
5:say a school day
6:post this on at least 15 more songs and ur crush will ask u out on the day u said
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Wow what a kick az song! Definitely making a trip to Amoeba's and picking up the cd. Can't go wrong with one of the pioneers!
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bomacs1947 i was at slims too. still got my ticket!
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Desmond Dekker a man with some fantastic music that need to be played on a regular radio station.
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Hail hail to the King!!!
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I was lucky enough to catch Desmond Dekker in concert about five years ago just shortly before he died. The show was fantastic, Desmond sounded superb. The venue (Slims in San Francisco) was small so the vibe was perfect. The only drawback was that I saw the show with my now exwife so unfortunatel y I have a bitter taste on my mouth about the whole experience. Either way, ole' DD is the king of ska!
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During these Stirring and Tumultous times --Sing Desmond Sing --"Ob La Di; Ob la Da --Life Goes on" --Keep on Skankin!!!
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ralph is not good
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love love love it
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guttural ... cool!
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sick... one of the greatest ever.
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This guy is incredible. It's a shame he wasn't as recognized for his contribution s . Definitely a legend.
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Great music. Timeless
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this much packed into one human is kind of crazy
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Such a prolific singer\songw r i t e r . A treasure trove waiting to be mined.
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this guy revolutioniz e d pop rock like none other, i just hope his next albums are as good as Israelites, The Best of Desmond Dekker. Go sox!
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