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27 May 2006

reggae star Desmond Dekker dies in England

Believe it or not, I went to The Jamaica Gleaner (founded 1834) for a fuller local obituary, and there was nothing about Desmond Dekker there. If somebody can explain to me why The Gleaner doesn't know who Desmond Dekker was, I'd really appreciate it. Maybe they don't like Reggae.

The Jamaica Observer, however, is alert and at our service.


Friday 26 May 2006

Reggae star Desmond Dekker
dies of a heart attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Jamaican reggae pioneer Desmond Dekker, famed for the genre's first worldwide hit with "Israelites," has died of a heart attack at his home in England, the Jamaica Observer reported on Friday. He was 64.

The newspaper said the singer/songwriter, whose 1960s fame was eclipsed the following decade by Bob Marley, died on Wednesday.

Although his recording career had been on the wane for decades, Dekker remained a popular concert draw in Europe. He gave his last performance at Leeds University in England on May 11.

Dekker, born Desmond Dacres in the Jamaican capital of Kingston on July 16, 1941, was raised on a diet of such 1950s crooners as Nat "King" Cole and Jackie Wilson.

After working initially as a welder, alongside Marley, he began composing songs. He signed with Chinese-Jamaican music label owner Leslie Kong, and scored an immediate hit in 1963 with "Honor Your Mother and Father."

By 1966, he was a big star in his homeland, and he had his first taste of success in Britain with "0.0.7. (Shanty Town)," which was inspired by student riots in Jamaica. It eventually peaked at No. 14 on the U.K. charts, and was featured on the soundtrack of the 1972 film "The Harder They Come."

In 1969, he enjoyed his biggest success with the propulsive reggae classic "Israelites," four years before Marley truly brought reggae into the mainstream. The song's hard-luck lyrics -- "Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir" -- delivered in Dekker's mellifluous voice, resonated around the world. It topped the charts in the U.K. and many other countries, and reached the top 10 in the United States.

"It's about how hard things were for a lot of people in Jamaica -- downtrodden, like the Israelites that led Moses to the Promised Land," Dekker said in the liner notes for the 2005 career retrospective "You Can Get It If You Really Want."

"I was really saying, don't give up, things will get better if you just hold out long enough."

Many of Dekker's hits, including "Rude Boy Train," were about rude culture, which grew out of the Jamaica slums in the early 1960s. The term "rude," as in "rude boy," referred to someone who was cool or hip.

Dekker also enjoyed a U.K. hit in 1970 with a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "You Can Get It If You Really Want," which he recorded only at the behest of Kong. He settled in England about this time, but his chart success was largely over.

He recorded sporadically, and mounted a short-lived comeback attempt in 1980 on the heels of a major ska revival. Four years later, he was declared bankrupt.

Dekker was divorced with a son and a daughter.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


Harder They Come Soundtrack Lyrics

Artist: Desmond Dekker & The Aces

The Israelites

Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir,
so that every mouth can be fed.
Poor me, the Israelite. Aah.

Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir,
So that every mouth can be fed.
Poor me, the Israelite. Aah.

My wife and my kids, they are packed up and leave me.
Darling, she said, I was yours to be seen.
Poor me, the Israelite. Aah.

Shirt them a-tear up, trousers are gone.
I don't want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde.
Poor me, the Israelite. Aah.

After a storm there must be a calm.
They catch me in the farm. You sound the alarm.
Poor me, the Israelite. Aah.

Poor me, the Israelite.
I wonder who I'm working for.
Poor me, Israelite,
I look a-down and out, sir.


Desmond Dekker
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born: 16 July 1941, Kingston, Jamaica
Died: 24 May 2006, Surrey, England
Occupation: Singer and songwriter

Desmond Dekker was a Jamaican ska and reggae singer and songwriter. Together with his backing group, The Aces (consisting of Wilson James and Easton Barrington Howard), he had the first international Jamaican hit with "Israelites." Other hits include "007 (Shanty Town)" (1967) and "It Mek" (1968). Before the ascent of Bob Marley, Dekker was the best-known Jamaican musician outside of his country, and one of the most popular within it.

Early days

He was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in Kingston and was orphaned as a teenager. Dekker began working as a welder, singing around his workplace while his co-workers encouraged him. In 1961 he auditioned for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle). Neither were impressed by his talents and the young man moved on to Leslie Kong's Beverley record label where he auditioned before Derrick Morgan, then the label's biggest star.

Early recording career

With Morgan's support, Dekker was signed but did not record until 1963 because Leslie Kong wanted to wait for the perfect song, which "Honour Your Father and Mother" was felt to be.

"Honour Your Father and Mother" was a hit and was followed by "Sinners Come Home" and "Labour for Learning." as well as a name change (from Desmond Dacres to Desmond Dekker). His fourth hit, however, made him into one of the island's biggest stars. It was "King of Ska," a rowdy and jubilant song on which Dekker was backed by The Cherrypies (also known as The Maytals). The song remains well known among ska fans. Dekker then recruited four brothers, Carl, Patrick, Clive and Barry Howard, who became his backing band, The Four Aces.

Dekker and the Howards recorded a number of hits including "Parents," "Get Up Edina," "This Woman," and "Mount Zion." Until 1967 Dekker's songs were polite and conveyed respectable, mainstream messages. In that year, however, he appeared on Derrick Morgan's "Tougher Than Tough," which helped begin a trend of popular songs glamourizing the violent rude boy culture.

Dekker's own songs did not go to the extremes of many other popular tunes though he did introduce lyrics which resonated with the rude boys starting with one of his best-known songs, "007 (Shanty Town)." The song established Dekker as a rude boy icon and also became an established hero in the United Kingdom's mod scene. "007 (Shanty Town)" was a Top 15 hit in the UK, and he toured that country with a posse of mods following him.

Dekker continued with songs in the same vein such as "Rude Boy Train" and "Rudie Got Soul," as well as continuing with his previous themes of religion and morality in songs like "It's a Shame," "Wise Man," "Hey Grandma," "Unity," "It Pays," "Mother's Young Girl" and "Sabotage." His "Pretty Africa" is a long-standing favourite among his fans and may be the earliest popular song promoting repatriation. Many of the hits from this era came from his debut album, 007 (Shanty Town).

In 1968 Dekker's "Israelites" was released, appearing on both the U.S. and UK singles chart, and eventually topping the latter and peaking in the Top Ten of the former. He was the first Jamaican performer to enter U.S. markets with pure Jamaican music, though he never repeated the feat. Equally, the track became the first reggae song to top the UK chart. That same year saw the release of "Beautiful and Dangerous," "Writing on the Wall," "Music Like Dirt," "Bongo Girl," and "Shing a Ling." In the same year, Dekker was mentioned as "Desmond" by his friend Paul McCartney in The Beatles' song "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", when it was released on 'The White Album.'

1969 saw the release of "It Mek," which first saw only lukewarm success but was re-recorded and became a hit both in Jamaica and the UK. He also released "Problems" and "Pickney Gal," both of which were popular in Jamaica but saw only limited success elsewhere.

Mid career (the 1970s)

In the 1970s Dekker spent most of his time touring and moved to the UK, where he continued to record. Among his best known releases of this period was "You Can Get It If You Really Want," written by Jimmy Cliff, which Dekker had not wanted to record but was convinced to do so by Leslie Kong. Kong, whose production had been an instrumental part of both Dekker's and Cliff's careers, died in 1971 and both his protegés lost direction for a period before returning to music.

Dekker continued recording, but with only limited success until he began working with the production duo Bruce Anthony in 1974. His first hit with the pair was 1975's "Sing a Little Song" which climbed in to the British Top Ten. Dekker was unable to follow its success, however, and did not chart in the UK for some time (except for the Top Ten re-charting of "Israelites" in 1975). Dekker also found only a limited audience in Jamaica.

At the end of the 1970s Dekker signed with Stiff Records, a punk label linked with the Two-Tone movement, a fusion of punk and ska. He recorded an album called Black & Dekker which featured his previous hits backed by The Rumour, Graham Parker's backing band. His first single was "Israelites," a Top Ten Belgian hit, and was followed by "Please Don't Bend," Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" and "Book of Rules." His next album was Compass Point, produced by Robert Palmer. Though Compass Point did not sell well, Dekker was still a popular live performer and he toured with The Rumour.

Later life

In the early 1980s, as the Two Tone movement died out, he saw his fortunes dwindle and he was declared bankrupt in 1984. Only a single live album was released in the late 80s, but a new version of "Israelites" reawakened public interest in 1990, following its use in a Maxell advertisement. He re-recorded some old singles, and worked with The Specials for 1992's King of Kings, which used hits from Dekker's musical heroes, including Derrick Morgan.

He also collaborated on a remix version of his classic "Israelites" with reggae artist Apache Indian.

Desmond Dekker died of a heart attack at his home in Surrey, England, aged 64.


* He is referenced in the Rancid song "Roots Radical" in the lyric

"The radio was playing
Desmond Dekker was singing
On the 43 bus as we climb up the hill."

* He is also mentioned in the Common Rider song "Classics of Love" in the lyric

"Midnight Marauder spinning on my stereo
Mr. Desmond Dekker has a crown made of gold
The kids are alright a what a what I hear."

External links

* Jamaica Observer reports death, retrieved May 26, 2006.

* This page was last modified 22:13, 26 May 2006.

Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.


Anonymous patfromSKAVILLE said...

A sad day. I like to listen to old ska/bluebeat records form the 60s and Dekker was a pioneer and one of the greatest in this field of music., respect, mon, r.i.p

(note: anyone interested in musica obscura or just good music should check out the by now legendary Box Sets from Trojan Records who collected all those obscure Ska, Bluebeat, Calypso, Rocksteady singles from the 60s and 70s. Dekker is well represented.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

People on other islands have music, too -- Faroese clog dancing, the folksongs of the Solomons -- and they sing their songs and it pleases them enormously, but the music just sits there, it just doesn't travel anywhere farther than the far side of the island.

What happened in Jamaica really is an authentic kind of Earth Miracle. The music centers of Earth, the places where the most people have the most money to spend on and celebrate all sorts of music, are wealthy and white -- UK specifically is the Land of Jamaica's white colonial oppressors and, literally, slavers.

Jamaican music was the outpouring of the hopes and anger of The Wretched of The Earth, hated, despised, unimaginably poor blacks -- a subset of what white Englishmen used to call Wogs or Kaffirs or Niggers. (The original title of Agatha Christie's most popular theater mystery was "Ten Little Niggers," people lined up around the block to buy tickets for decades.)

I have never travelled anywhere so far from Jamaica that I haven't seen kids, white, yellow, green, red, blue, wearing t-shirts of Bob Marley.

And what are they singing? Resist Your Oppressors. Material Wealth Is Crap. Love, Respect and Human Relationships Are Everything. God is in all of us.

Apparently every human society on Earth has the capacity -- maybe there's a gene for it -- to hear Jamaican music and instantly become obsessed by it and fall in love with it. Somehow the music from Jamaica flies through EVERYONE'S ears and sears their brains and their hearts forever.

My fave is that tune "Book of Rules" by the Heptones. I don't know why. I didn't know Bob Weir had covered it for decades. Here, from a Dead site (though it goes MUCH BETTER with the actual music):

Book Of Rules

Lyrics: H Johnson, B Llewellyn
Music: H Johnson, B Llewellyn

Played by Bob Weir with Bobby & The Midnites and in a few later appearances with Kingfish.

Isn't it strange how princesses and kings
Can clown their capers in sawdust rings, just like
Poor people like you and me
Will be builders for eternity
Each is given a bag of tools
Shapeless lives and a book of rules

Each must make his life as flowing ink
Tumbling back on a stepping stone, just like
Poor people like you and me
Will be builders for eternity
Each is given a bag of tools
Shapeless lives and a book of rules

Pow wa pow pow, pow wa pa pa pow pow
Wa pa pa pow pow, wa pow pa pow pow pow

And I say small people like you and me
Will be builders for eternity
Each is given a bag of tools
Shapeless lives and a book of rules (note 1)

Look where the rain is fallen from the sky
I know the sun will be only missing for awhile
And I say small people like you and me
Will be builders for eternity
Each is given a bag of tools
Shapeless lives and a book of rules

Pow wa pow pow, pow wa pa pa pow pow
Wa pa pa pow pow, wa pow pa pow pow pow

And I say small people like you and me
Will be builders for eternity
Each is given a bag of tools
Shapeless lives and a book of rules (note 1)

Pow wa pow pow, pow wa pa pa pow pow
Wa pa pa pow pow, wa pow pa pow pow pow
Pow wa pow pow, pow wa pa pa pow pow
Wa pa pa pow pow, wa pow pa pow pow pow
Pow wa pow pow, pow wa pa pa pow pow
Wa pa pa pow pow, wa pow pa pow pow pow
Pow wa pow pow, pow wa pa pa pow pow
Wa pa pa pow pow, wa pow pa pow pow pow

(1) Bob Weir sings "Shapeless lives ..." throughout. But the lyrics with the album include "Shapeless masks ..." here, with the rather strange footnote "informed sources differ on the original lyrics of this song." The original seems in fact to have been "mass" - see below.


studio 1981 Bobby & The Midnites
Jan/Feb 1983? Bobby & The Midnites (video)

The original recording by the Jamaican band 'The Heptones' is readily available on CD.

Bob Weir gave the following account of how he came to record this song in a 1981 interview with David Gans, reprinted in "Conversations With The Dead":

"That has been one of my favorite reggae cuts for the last few years. It was sort of a hit in England. I finally found the record and copped the tune, and recorded it, and then a few weeks ago--after the record had been pressed up and everyhting was happening--a friend of Barlow's found a compilation of verse, a collection of poems from the turn of the century to about 1930. There was in it a poem called "A Bag Of Tools" by R. L. Sharpe. The words to that went

Isn't it strange how princesses and kings
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings
And common people like you and me
Will be builders for eternity
Each is given a bag of tools
A shapeless mass and a book of rules

"The second verse is

Each must make, ere life has flown
A stumbling block or a stepping stone

"So I'm going to sing it like that from now on. That's an example of what happens when you send a lyric through the Caribbean and back: you get some transfiguration, shall we say. It came back this way a little different. I had no idea there was the original poem. I knew there was something I liked about that song beyond the lyrics that were there, though the lyrics I got off the record were kinda neat in their own right. But someone was singing a song, and these guys heard it and got the lyrics as best they could, and then I got the lyrics as best I could off the record. They wrote a third verse, that one about "Look where the rain is falling from the sky."

Thanks also to Beth Loring, who independently spotted the conncetion and alerted me. She found the poem in "Best Loved Poems of the American People" (selected by Hazel Felleman, Doubleday & Co., 1936). She lays it out:


Isn't it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people
Like you and me
Are builders for eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapless mass,
A book of rules;
And each must make -
Ere life is flown -
A stumbling block
Or a stepping stone.

Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For online chords and TAB see

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Inuit kids in the Canadian Arctic wear Bob Marley t-shirts and have their Walkmen and iPods filled with Jamaican music.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

from Steve's Beatles Page:


Desmond has a barrow in the marketplace
Molly is the singer in a band
Desmond say to Molly, girl I like you face
And Molly says this as she takes him by the hand

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da,
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on
Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on

Desmond take a trolley to the jewelers store
Buys a twenty carat golden ring, (rin-ring)
Takes it back to Molly waiting at the door
And as he gives it to her she begins to sing (sin-sing)

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on
Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on

Yeah, In a couple of years they
have built a home sweet home
With a couple of kids running in the yard
of Desmond and Molly Jones

Happy ever after in the market place
Desmond lets the children lend a hand
Molly stays at home and does her pretty face
And in the evening she's a singer with the band

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on
Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on

Happy ever after in the market place
Molly lets the children lend a hand
Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face
And in the evening she's a singer with the band

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on
Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, bra
La la how the life goes on
And if you want some fun
take Ob-la-di-bla-da Availability:
Anthology 3 (CD)
1967-1970 (Blue Album) (CD)
The Beatles (The White Album) (CD)
The Beatles (UK)
The Beatles (The White Album) (US)

Lead Singer: Paul

Recording: 7/3/68, 7/3/68, 7/5/68, 7/8/68, 7/9/68, 7/11/68, 7/15/68
Mixing: 7/8/68, 7/11/68, 7/15/68, 10/12/68
Length: 3:08
Take: 23

What Goes On? Anomalies
Paul says "remember to step it up, John," then coughs, then hums a few notes to hit it right. Best heard when this track is OOPS'd. Laughter and joking by the other Beatles too.
Clap to mark the start of vocal track.
1:08, 1:17
Three clicks at each of the two points
John says "home", in reference to the following line.
After the line "lets the children lend a hand", the first time George says "arm", John says "leg"
In the words "Life goes on, bra / La la how the" there is a vocal punch in, marked by an audible tweet just after. This is a by-product of the two separate erasing operations, causing an audible sound.
John says and spells out "home" at 2:13.
After the line "lets the children lend a hand", the second time John says "foot".
Note: I did not write or compile these anomalies. Please don't email me with new anomalies and please read the WGO Info page.

© 1968 Northern Songs. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

from Wikipedia:

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a Beatles song from double-disc album The Beatles (also known as The White Album). It is a Paul McCartney composition (although credited Lennon-McCartney, as were all his songs with The Beatles). A cover version served as the theme song on the ABC television series Life Goes On, sung by the cast with Patti LuPone on lead vocals.

Musical composition

The song was a conscious homage to the emerging reggae movement, possibly related to the growing Jamaican population in Britain, although it is heavily blended with Honky tonk. Aside from the syncopated beat, the song also employed meter schemes and devices not used in their previous works, and demonstrated the group's highly experimental nature at the time of its recording.

Originally, the song had a slow tempo and apparently sounded too maudlin for the band's taste. So, the musicians experimented with a faster version and found that the song took on a bouncy, joyous tone of which they approved. This second, "official" version features Paul McCartney playing the piano. The earlier version was later released on The Beatles Anthology.

Fact of song

Some of this song is mentioned in Savoy Truffle composed by George Harrison

Album cover
Single by The Beatles
from the album The Beatles
Released 1976
Format vinyl record 7"
Recorded Abbey Road: 1968
Genre Rock and roll
Length 3:08
Label Capitol 4347 (US only)
Producer(s) George Martin
Chart positions

1. 49

The Beatles singles chronology
"Got to Get You into My Life"
(1976) "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
(1976) "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

The light-hearted lyrics tell and retell the story of a couple named Desmond and Molly; the simple, upbeat lyrics are often punctuated by laughter, shouts, and sounds that accompany the lyrics in the background. The second time that the story is retold, the names are switched around in certain places, which many see as a casual challenge to traditional household gender roles, and possibly a reference to transvestism, a theme also seen in McCartney's later hit "Get Back". However, McCartney himself has dismissed the switch as a slip of the tongue; he decided to keep it in simply because he liked it. Longtime Beatles associate Pete Shotton, who was present at the session, confirmed Paul's statement that the switch-up was accidental in his memoir The Beatles, Lennon and Me.

* Nigerian musician/singer Jimmy Scott later claimed that the phrase "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was originally his; Scott sued McCartney for compensation for using the phrase in the lyrics and as the title of the song. According to McCartney, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" merely was a common saying of the Yorumba tribe, and Scott had simply taught the saying to McCartney. It reportedly means "Life goes on", words which are also heard in the song. The case was settled out of court.

External links

* Song Lyrics
* All Music Review
* Beatles classic voted worst song from The BBC (November 10, 2004)


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