Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae Giant Desmond Dekker


AllMusic’s Jo-Ann Greene summed up the status of Desmond Dekker in her long and detailed profile:

Probably no other Jamaican artist has brought more international acclaim to his island home thanDesmond Dekker, barring, of course, Bob Marley, but Dekker came first. Most people’s introduction to the island’s unique musical sound came via the singer’s many hits, most notably “Israelites” and “0.0.7. (Shanty Town).”

“Shanty Town” was on the soundtrack of “The Harder They Come,” one of the greatest musicals in the history of film. Desmond Dekker and the Aces also had a big hit with “Israelites.” He recorded “You Can Get It If You Really Want It,” though the version in the movie was sung by Jimmy Cliff.

Dekker was born in Jamaica in 1941. As a youth, he accompanied his aunt and grandmother to church, where he enjoyed singing the hymns, according to Wikipedia. He eventually was signed by the influential Leslie Kong, who ran Beverly Records. (Kong produced and appeared in “The Harder They Come”; the world of Jamaican music was small.)

The singer’s rise to real fame appeared to have started in 1975 when “Israelites” was re-released in the UK and became a top ten hit. He joined Stiff Records which, according to the profile, specialized in punk and new wave. I don’t know if it was a good album or not, but a 1980 record called “Black & Dekker” has one of the all-time greatest album names (alongside Chet Atkins and Les Paul’s “Chester and Lester”). Dekker was not just a reggae singer. Greene points out that he also was influential in the ska and rock steady movements.

Dekker suffered a heart attacked and died in London in 2006.

There is not a lot of good video of Dekker. There is some, however: Above is “Israelites” and below is “Get Up Edina.”

Wikipedia and AllMusic were used to write this post. Homepage photo: Sean Mason.

About the author


Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Our New Things: Links to Music Sites and Info on Analog Tech and Vinyl

TDMB has focused on music and musicians. We will continue to do that, of course. We're also expanding our coverage to include vinyl and analog equipment.

More specifically, we'll look at this huge and interesting world from the perspective of music lovers who want a better experience, not committed non-audiophiles.

Check out is some of what we've written so far:

-- Assessing the Value of Vinyl Records: An Overview

-- 7 Quick Tips on Optimizing Your Turntable Cartridge

-- Why Vinyl Records Continue to Thrive

-- Finding the Best Amplifier

-- Finding the Best Phono Preamp

-- What Speakers Do I Need for My Turntable?

Check out more articles on analog equipment and vinyl.

The site also is home to The Internet Music Mapping Project, an effort to list and describe as many music-related sites as possible.

Our Music

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

Full Disclosure

As an Amazon affiliate, this site earns a commission on every purchase made. All prices remain the same to you.