HT: MCAllMusic’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.”