Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Song Review: Desmond Dekker - 007 (Shanty Town)

Nearly a decade before Bob Marley's ascent, and long before the precipitious descent to dreadlocked potheads that are associated with Reggae today, Desmond Dekker was the OG "Rude boy". Together with his backing band, The Aces, Dekker released nearly 40 singles over his career, many of whom charted on the US and UK charts and introduced the world to Jamaica and unique sound of reggae. Sadly, like many artists from impoverished countries, Dekker ultimately lost much of the fortune he amassed over his career, declaring bankruptcy in the 80's and dying of a heart attack in 2006.

Dekker's influence and brilliance is woefully unrecognized today, save for small subcultures of reggae aficionados, but his songs are as clean and warm today as they surely were 40 years ago. For instance,"Israelites", his biggest hit outside Jamaica, is still a gut-wrenching portrait of poverty that directly influenced The Beatles "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da". His cover of Jimmy Cliff's "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was a huge smash around the globe and arguably eclipsed the original. My favorite song is 007 (Shanty Town), his very first hit and what became something of a rudeboy anthem. I've heard it sampled on several dancehall tracks lately, and it still retains its bouncy energy in every application. The staccato horn bursts and swaying vocals should be on heavy rotation at every summer beach barbecue, and if Don Draper was real, featured prominently in every Corona commercial. 

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