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Artist Hall of Fame

Desmond DekkerText by Harry Hawks

Pioneering singer and songwriter who introduced Jamaican music to an international audience in the Sixties and early Seventies.
Date Added: Oct 3, 2008, Date Updated: Jul 19, 2017 Copyright (C) 2019 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Real Name: Desmond Dacres
Jul 16, 1941 - May 25, 2006
Place of Birth: Kingston
From 1967 through to 1975 Desmond Dekker popularised the music of Jamaica all around the world with a string of hits that should have established him as one of the key artists in the history of reggae. Yet, despite his amazing achievements and crossover success, he is not considered a true giant of the genre which he helped to create.

Born Desmond Dacres on 16th of July 1941 in Kingston, Jamaica he was orphaned at an early age and moved to Seaforth to the west of Kingston. He returned to the city to work as a welder and his workmates in the welding shop encouraged him to persuade Leslie Kong, owner and nascent record producer of Beverley's Ice Cream Parlour & Record Shop, to give him an audition. Desmond kept on returning until he eventually forced his way into the back of the Orange Street shop only to come face to face with Leslie Kong and his two biggest recording stars Derrick Morgan and Jimmy Cliff. The trio were so impressed with one of his songs that they agreed to give the young man a chance and he recorded 'Honour Your Mother And Father' the next week. It was released under the name Desmond Dekker on the Beverleys label in Jamaica and on Island in the UK in 1963.

Although the record proved to be a big hit Desmond returned to the welding shop. He managed to obtain some time off and teamed up with four singers collectively known as The Four Aces: Clive Campbell, Easton Barrington Howard, Wilson James & Patrick Johnson. Together they recorded 'King Of Ska' for Beverleys as Desmond Dekker & The Cherry Pies but Patrick Johnson and Clive Campbell left the group not long afterwards.

The trio of Desmond, Easton and Wilson now became Desmond Dekker And The Aces and they would go on to record a staggering series of hit records for Leslie Kong staying with Beverleys for their entire career. Their hypnotic recording of '007', built around one of Lynn Taitt's best ever rock steady guitar patterns, told of the strife between ghetto rude boys and the forces of law and order. Its cinematic theme struck a chord with London's mod audiences and, after heavyweight club play and airings on offshore pirate radio ships, it reached Number Fourteen in the UK Top Twenty in July 1967. It was the first Jamaican produced record to achieve this level of success.

By the time '007' had become a hit in the UK Desmond Dekker And The Aces had notched up further hits in Jamaica, won the Best Group Award for 1966 and The Sonny Bradshaw Cup when they performed with Byron Lee and The Dragonaires in Kingston's National Arena. They narrowly missed the coveted Jamaican Festival Song Competition prize with 'Unity' coming a close second to the Jamaicans' 'Ba Ba Boom' but they won the Festival the following year with 'Intensified Festival '68'. '(Poor Mi) Israelites' from later that year placed Western Kingston's sufferers in the context of the Israelites' Old Testament trials and tribulations. The song's brand new faster style reggae rhythm propelled the record to Number One in the UK in April 1969 and they followed this up by storming the upper echelons of the American charts. These were major, momentous breakthroughs for Jamaican music. 'It Mek', which had previously been a hit within England's Jamaican community, now gave them their third UK Top Twenty hit when it reached Number Seven in July 1969. Buoyed by his success Desmond Dekker, now a solo star without The Aces, relocated to London but maintained his all important Jamaican connections.

The beguiling 'Pickney Gal' provided a minor hit in January 1970 and in the summer of that year Desmond's version of Jimmy Cliff's 'You Can Get It If You Really Want' reached Number Two in the UK Top Twenty. The hit making formula of Beverleys providing the rhythms fresh from Jamaica and Desmond supplying the lyrics and the live work and promotion in the UK looked all set to continue but tragedy struck in August 1971 when Leslie Kong died from a sudden heart attack. Leslie Kong had been Desmond's mentor throughout his career and was instrumental in guiding him on the road to success; their relationship has been described as more like father and son than artist and producer.

Desmond Dekker carried on making records that did far more than relive past glories but, apart from 'Sing A Little Song' which peaked at Number Sixteen in 1975 and various reissues of '(Poor Mi) Israelites', he did not trouble the charts again. However, he continued to be a huge live attraction on the UK and European club and concert circuit until his untimely death of a heart attack on 25th May 2006. Anyone who was fortunate enough to have seen him performing live will acknowledge that his voice, charisma, trademark grins and stares and vibrant versatility remained undiminished until the end.

His catalogue of ska, rock steady and reggae hits is remarkably consistent, free from any form of commercial compromise, and boasts some of the most mesmerising songs in the history of Jamaican music including 'Fu Man Chu', 'Beautiful & Dangerous', 'Coconut Water' and 'Sabotage'. Yet he is still regarded as a novelty rather than one of the best singers and songwriters to ever come out of Jamaica. The 'King Of Ska' led the way for so many others to follow: there was no crossover audience for this music until Desmond Dekker created it. This lack of recognition, and respect, is dispiriting. It must have been heartbreaking for a man of his integrity and talents to be denied their rightful place in the history of Jamaican music but his time must surely come.
Oct 3, 2008 (Jul 19, 2017 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Debut title(s)
Desmond Dekker - Honour Your Mother
7" Desmond Dekker - Honour Your Mother Beverleys
¥570 (US$5.26)
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Hit titles
Desmond Dekker, Aces - 007 Shanty Town
7" Desmond Dekker, Aces - 007 Shanty Town Beverleys UK Shanty Town/007
¥1380 (US$12.73)
Desmond Dekker - Fu Man Chu
7" Desmond Dekker - Fu Man Chu Beverleys UK Fu Man Chu
¥1480 (US$13.65)
Desmond Dekker - Israelites
7" Desmond Dekker - Israelites Beverleys UK Israelites - Desmond Dekker
¥1380 (US$12.73)
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Desmond Dekker - Fu Man Chu (Coloured Vinyl)
7" Desmond Dekker - Fu Man Chu (Coloured Vinyl) Beverleys Fu Man Chu
¥1280 (US$11.81)
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Desmond Dekker - It Mek
7" Desmond Dekker - It Mek Beverleys UK
¥1380 (US$12.73)
Desmond Dekker - U.N.I.T.Y
7" Desmond Dekker - U.N.I.T.Y / Melodians - I'll Get Along With Out You Treasure Isle/Beverleys (Other) Info: Deleted
¥570 (US$5.26)
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Desmond Dekker - Intensified Festival 68 (Coloured Vinyl)
7" Desmond Dekker - Intensified Festival 68 (Coloured Vinyl) Beverleys
¥600 (US$5.53)
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Desmond Dekker - Intensified
7" Desmond Dekker - Intensified Beverleys
¥570 (US$5.26)
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Desmond Dekker - You Can Get It If You Really Want
7" Desmond Dekker - You Can Get It If You Really Want Beverleys
¥700 (US$6.46)
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Recent arrival(s)
Desmond Dekker - Double Dekker (180g) (2LP)
LP Desmond Dekker - Double Dekker (180g) (2LP) Music On Vinyl EU
¥4880 (US$45.02)
Best selling 7"(s)
Desmond Dekker - Unity
7" Desmond Dekker - Unity / Austin Faithful, Hippies - Ain't That Peculiar Pyramid UK/Beverleys
¥1280 (US$11.81)
Desmond Dekker, Aces - Happy Birthday Jamaica
7" Desmond Dekker, Aces - Happy Birthday Jamaica Beverleys UK
¥1480 (US$13.65)
Desmond Dekker - Honour Your Mother & Father
7" Desmond Dekker - Honour Your Mother & Father / Jimmy Cliff - King Of Kings Beverleys UK
¥1480 (US$13.65)
Desmond Dekker - Licking Stick
7" Desmond Dekker - Licking Stick Beverleys UK
¥1180 ¥1100 (US$10.15)
Desmond Dekker - Pretty Africa
7" Desmond Dekker - Pretty Africa / Roland Alphonso - El Toro Pyramid UK/Beverleys
¥1180 (US$10.89)