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DESMOND DEKKER: rockin’ steady in the afterlife

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Desmond Dekker
1941 – 2006

Mother’s Young Gal
Beautiful & Dangerous
Pretty Africa
Bongo Gal

most these songs can be found on the Trojan Rocksteady Box Set

I got my hands on these recordings during my first trip to Jamaica. It was a bootleg cassette tape that I still have and have nearly worn out. Some of us have melodies that we hum whenever we’re alone or walking late at night or just feeling proper, little licks that we return to again and again because somehow the notes got inscribed in our cerebrum; “Mother’s Young Gal” has been my perennial humming tune from the time I was 17 and first heard it, until, hmmm, now. “Ewwww-ew-ewwwww -eeee”, that part of the hook still keeps me company when I’m in the shower or biking through the park in the shade under a hot sky. Sometimes I hear Charlie Parker, but more often than not it’s that one song. So simple and so right.

Much of the world owes a great debt to pioneers like Desmond for breaking open the international market for Jamaican pop music, and it’s easy to hear how he did it too. With vocal creativity and liveliness like his, the lyrics to the songs are put into performance. I’m always able to feel the sunshine and picture the scenery.

He’s most well known for his classic tune “Israelites” which became a crossover hit even in the US. And of course, there’s rude bwoy anthem “007 (Shanty Town)” which made an appearance on the soundtrack to the monumental The Harder They Come. If you don’t have those in your collection, then you should correct that mistake immediately. Much respect to the Dekker legacy, and condolences to family and friends.