Ska pioneer and legend, Desmond Dekker, has recently released a wonderful 2 CD retrospective of his career,
You Can Get It If you Really Want (Trojan). With a total of fifty one songs ranging from his first release, the 1963 single, “Honour”, all the way through to his recordings with fellow ska mates the Specials and his last solo records in 1993.
It’s an amazing collection of this true icon’s catchy singing style and songs that were sometimes light hearted as on another of his earliest singles, “Parents”, and at other times dark and full of political tension, as on the classic 1966 James Bond-inspired “007”.
While most consider reggae as the original with its melodious bass lines and percussive guitar accentuating the upbeat, the former is actually a descendent of the more upbeat yet strikingly similar ska, but one of the more intriguing aspects of this set of songs is the heavy rock and roll influence heard on some of the songs that were recorded during that genres blossoming years.
“I used to listen to rock Bill Haley little Richard all of the rock and roll singers. I loved music from when I was knee high when I heard a song I liked I always liked to sing it by myself.”
|Encouraged by his friends, the shy teenage Dekker eventually made his way to a tryout for the island’s biggest record producer who ultimately signed him to a deal in 1993. By 1996, he experienced his largest success with the single “Israelites”. It was also at this time that the highly successful Dekker relocated to Kingston after having spent most of his orphaned childhood in St. Thomas. To this day he and Bob Marley, a childhood friend of his, are the two most noteworthy artists to have ever come out of Jamaica.
The second and third waves of ska that hit music fans in the eighties and nineties mostly via England and the U.S., respectively, and had tendencies more along the lines of seventies and eighties punk oozing non-conformity and waving a anti-establishment banner, Desmond Dekker has continually written fairly straightforward songs about life lessons. From the direction of “Honour” to the pleading in “Parents”, Dekker sounds more like a wise and deeply caring friend than some volatile lose gun protestor.
He possessed and to this day still does emanate a subtle feeling of warmth and compassion and tends to share solid and relationships with those near to him. He credits his former boss, when he worked as a welder, who had heard of Desmond’s aspirations as a singer, called him into his office and assured him of his welding position should his musical endeavors not prove fruitful.
Dekker sees this as the key factor to his decision to give his all in pursuing his musical aspirations. “That’s really what made it happen for me. I said to myself I’m going to give it a try if t doesn’t go through then I can go back. I thought to myself I had nothing to lose.”
Amazingly enough, there still that same optimism for his music and his message, “I wirte my songs about everyday life. I realize what’s happening to me, around me, and how I feel about situations and people and put it all in music. If there is one song that reaches one person; one out of a hundred and they learn something form it, then it’s all been worth it.
Honour Your Father
Desmond Dekker: Rude boys like a nice boy
by CHRIS ZIEGLER, O.C. Weekly Media, Inc.
Desmond Dekker came one nice guy away from spending his life as a welder. After his habit of singing while he blowtorched won his co-welders’ encouragement, Dekker figured he’d give a real musical career a shot. But one of reggae’s biggest and best-known stars was told to keep on walking after auditions at Coxsone Dodd’s standard-setting Studio One and Duke Reid’s Treasure Island (on the way to becoming the just-as-standard-setting Trojan Records). Good thing there was one more guy releasing reggae records back in 1961, and at Leslie Kong’s Beverley Records studio, current label star Derrick Morgan listened to Dekker—then going by his original and clunkier name Dacres—and made the decision that would color the rest of reggae history.
Maybe Morgan saw—well, heard—something of himself in Dekker, whose soon-to-be-famous doo-wop falsetto shared Morgan’s own slow, soulful delivery because it was Morgan’s confidence that persuaded Beverley owner/producer Leslie Kong to keep young Dekker around. Of course, they made him wait two years to record—tedious, sure, but a nice thing to do for a kid in an industry in which an early flop could truncate an entire career—and in 1963, Kong finally decided Dekker had developed enough as a songwriter. “Honour Your Mother and Father,” which wound Dekker’s distinctive lilt through aw-what-a-nice-boy lyrics and a perky reggae shuffle—had modest success and marked the real beginning of a career that would lead this Kingston-born kid through Jamaica’s armed and vicious rude-boy gangs and later to England’s trendier punk rockers, detouring even to a few releases alongside the Damned and Elvis Costello on Stiff Records in the early 1980s, on his way to worldwide-ish fame.
Without Bob Marley, Dekker probably would have settled majestically into comfortable iconhood; instead, freshman dorm-room walls across America turned away—maybe he sounded too polished and classy to tap into mass-market play rebellion. Dekker declared bankruptcy in 1984 because critical credibility among three or four youth subcultures wasn’t much for paying bills. But on his way toward 60, Dekker’s career—revived in part by a 1990 commercial that featured his biggest hit, “The Israelites”—began to put on a little muscle, and thanks now to a steady stream of rereleases by powerhouse Trojan Records (who’d eventually realized what they were missing), he reinflated the reputation he deserved. Which was good because it probably would have been pretty awkward to go slinking back to the guys at that Kingston metal shop after forty-some years.
Link to original article: http://www.ocweekly.com/ink/05/32/outta-ziegler.php