Legendary ska and reggae icon Desmond Dekker has died in London from an undetermined illness. He was 64. The Jamaican star was in the UK to record and perform in upcoming summer festivals.
Dekker was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in Kingston, Jamaica on July 16, 1941. While he auditioned for famed Studio One founder Coxsone Dodd in 1961, his first single was released via the producer Leslie Kong’s Beverly Records label in 1963. « Honour Your Father and Mother » gave way to a number of early ska hits for Dekker, then backed by the Aces. Dekker’s biggest international hit was 1968’s « Israelites, » which topped the UK charts and reached the top 10 in the US. His career includes such standards as « Get Up Edina, » the Derrick Morgan collaboration « Tougher Than Tough, » and the rocksteady rude boy anthem « 007 (Shanty Town) » among others. Prior to the ascent of Bob Marley, Dekker was the best-known Jamaican musician outside of his home country. Desmond continued to record prolifically for a number of labels throughout his life, including famed reggae label Trojan Records. He participated in the burgeoning 70s punk and ska movement by signing with punk label Stiff Records and releasing albums backed by Graham Parker’s backing band the Rumor. Into the 90s Dekker collaborated with the Specials.
Dekker was highly influential in his career. Music historians note that as 68’s « Israelites » topped the UK charts the Beatles responded with the ska-influenced « Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da » (« Desmond has a borrow in the market place »). In recent musical history fans will recall homages to the vocalist in Rancid’s « Roots Radicals » and Common Rider’s « Classics of Love. »
Our condolences go out to Desmond’s friends, family and fans.