Monday, November 29, 2010

Desmond Dekker - "Isrealites" - Uni, 1968

And now for something completely different - a little Ska from legend Desmond Dekker! Desmond is a Jamaican music giant, who's impact was felt around the world. Hell, an old friend from college even named his son Desmond Dekker!  My first introduction to Desmond Dekker was in high school when his song "007 (Shanty Town)" blew my mind.  I've been a fan of Ska/Rocksteady since.
  In 1941 he was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in St. Andrew, Jamaica and grew up in Kingston.  After some encouragement from his friends Desmond auditioned for a few labels in 1961. and was able to land a contract at Beverley's record label with the help of Derrick Morgan.  His first song in '63, "Honour Your Mother and Father", was the first in a string of hits. From Wikipedia:
"In 1968 Dekker's "Israelites" was released, eventually topping the UK Singles Chart (the first reggae hit to do so) and peaking in the Top Ten of the US Billboard Hot 100. Dekker was the first Jamaican artist to have a hit record in the US with a form and style that was purely Jamaican, though he never repeated the feat."
One of the funny things about this tune is that despite being well known and loved, most don't have clue what the heck Desmond is saying. The lyrics are as impenetrable as "Louie, Louie".

Desmond's career slowed down a bit in the 70's before riding the 2Tone second-wave ska movement to increased popularity. Once that movement died out in the early 80's, so did the gigs, and Desmond declared bankruptcy in 1984. He did work on a few more projects after that point, mostly re-recording old hits and projects with other musicians. Dekker died of a heart attack on 25 May 2006, at his home in Thornton Heath in the London Borough of Croydon, England, aged 64.
This is actually the only record I own on the Uni label. Here's the Wiki blurb on them:
"Uni Records (short for the label's legal name Universal City Records and rendered as UNI) was a record label owned by MCA Inc. The brand, which long featured a distinct UNi logo, was established in 1966 by MCA executive Ned Tanen and developed by music industry veteran Russ Regan. Notable artists on Uni included Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Foundations, Hugh Masakela, Brian Hyland, Desmond Dekker, Bill Cosby, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Dave and Ansil Collins, Fever Tree and Olivia Newton-John. In 1967, Uni took over management of MCA's newly acquired Kapp Records. In 1971 Uni was merged with Kapp and the co-owned American Decca Records, to form MCA Records. The Decca, Kapp, and Uni labels continued to be used for new releases for a short time, but in late 1972, new releases by their former artists began appearing on the MCA Records label; before long their back catalogs had been transferred to MCA as well."
And of course, the clip!

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