Desmond Dekker – This Is Desmond Dekkar

I now have a re-issue of This is Desmond Dekkar by Desmond Dekker, well who else would it be by? I’ve no idea why the surnames are different though. Another Trojan Records release, and one I mentioned I was going to get, partially because I already know a few of the tracks but also because it is considered a classic.

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Desmond Adolphus Dacres was born in Saint Andrew Parish (Greater Kingston), Jamaica, on 16 July 1941 and spent his formative years in Kingston. Following his mother’s death, he moved to the parish of St. Mary and later to St. Thomas. While at St. Thomas, he embarked on an apprenticeship as a tailor before returning to Kingston, where he became a welder. His workplace singing drew the attention of his co-workers, who encouraged him to pursue a career in music. In 1961 he auditioned unsuccessfully for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle), he then auditioned for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s record label and was awarded his first recording contract.

It was two years before he actually released a single and in 1963 “Honour Your Mother and Father” (which was written by Dekker) became a Jamaican hit and kick started Dekker’s musical career. Two more hit single releases followed and it was around this time that Desmond Dacres adopted the stage-name of Desmond Dekker. His fourth hit, “King of Ska” resulted in his becoming  one of the Jamaica’s biggest stars.

In 1968 what is probably Dekker’s most well known song, Israelites ,was released. and in April 1969 it reached number 1 in the UK charts. In 1969 Dekkar took permanent residency in the UK.

Much of the music Jamaican music scene was centred around 45’s and the album This is Desmond Dekkar is a collection of much of his work record between 1967 and 1969, so it is effectively a compilation but omits his first and biggest UK hit. The debut album, titled Isralites contained the track for which Dekker was to become synonymous and that makes this album seem more an individual release rather than a compilation.

Tracklist

A1 007
A2 Sabotage
A3 Shing A Ling
A4 Hey Grandma
A5 Beautiful And Dangerous
A6 Wise Man
B1 Music Like Dirt
B2 Rudy Got Soul
B3 Unity
B4 Mother Pepper
B5 It Pays
B6 Mother´s Young Girl

The album presents a wealth of what are considered his finest compositions, all set to the soothing midtempo style prominent in later-’60s Kingston. They are relaxing but never mellow, and often address the island’s “Rude Boy” gang violence and poverty. Perfect for a replaying by Coventry’s The Specials who grew out of a city seemingly suffering a similar fate and who covered opening track 007. I’m not posting that though, instead here are The Bodysnatchers from 1980 covering 007, loads of energy!

The importance of Dekker in reggae music should not be undervalued, while internationally many believe it all started with Bob Marley, it was Dekker who had the first international reggae hits outside of Jamaica and it was Dekker who gave the world Bob Marley by introducing his nobody co-worker, Robert, to his producer in 1961.

Desmond Dekker (1941-2006) succumbed to a sudden heart attack in England on May 25, 2006. Here he is live, playing the big hits, no idea when this is from but later in his career for sure.

Rating: 9.0

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