Soul Vibes — News and Views

Pat Kelly

Renowned rocksteady and reggae singer, Pat Kelly, who started his career in the mid-1960s, died July 16, 2019, from complications of kidney disease. He recorded as a solo act and a member of the Techniques, with Winston Riley and Bruce Ruffin. His distinctive falsetto graced several hits for the group, including “There’ll Come a Time”, “I’m in the Mood for Love”, and You Don’t Care” a remake of the Impressions’ “You’ll Want Me Back”).

Some Musicians/Singers Born in September

Barry Gibbs of the Bee Gees Born September 1, 1946
Gloria Estefan (“The Rhythm is Gonna Get You”) Born September 1, 1957
Billy Preston Born September 2, 1946
Beyonce Knowles Born September 4, 1981
Freddy Mercury of the Group Queen Born September 5, 1946
Buddy Miles (“Down by the River”) Born September 5, 1947
Jackie Trent (“Then Only Then”) Born September 6, 1940
Macy Gray Born September 6, 1967
Sonny Rollin – Tenor Saxophonist Born September 7, 1930
Little Milton – Blues singer and guitarist Born September 7, 1934
Buddy Holly Born September 7, 1936
(Died February 3, 1959)
Gloria Gaynor Born September 7, 1949
Otis Redding – Major soul/R&B singer Born September 9, 1941
(Died December 10, 1967)
Micheal Buble Born September 9, 1975
Jose Feliciano Born September 10, 1945
Harry Connick, Jr. Born September 11. 1967
Judy Clay (of Billy Vera and Judy Clay fame) Born September 12, 1938
Barry White Born September 12, 1944
Jennifer Hudson Born September 12, 1981
Gene Page Born September 13, 1944
Joni Sledge – Sister Sledge Born September 13, 1956
Amy Winehouse Born September 14, 1983
BB King – Blues singer & guitarist Born September 16, 1925
Earl Klugh – Jazz guitarist Born September 16, 1954
Brook Benton Born September 17, 1932
Bebe Winans – Gospel singer Born September 17, 1962
Frankie Avalon Born September 18, 1940
Bill Medley – Righteous Brothers Born September 19, 1940
Freda Payne – Soul singer Born September 19, 1942
Nile Rodgers – Chic Born September 19, 1952
Eric Gale – Jazz guitarist Born September 20, 1938
John Coltrane – Saxophonist/composer/bandleader Born September 23, 1926
Ray Charles – Robinson legendary singer/musician Born September 23, 1930
Julio Iglesias Born September 23, 1943
Bruce Springsteen Born September 23, 1949
Dee Dee Warwick  – Soul singer; sister of Dionne Born September 25, 1942
Cecil Womack Born September 25, 1947
Olivia Newton-John Born September 26, 1948
Koko Taylor “Queen of the Blues” Born September 28, 1928
Ben E. King – Renowned soul singer Born September 28, 1938
Cissy Houston – Sweet Inspirations Born September 30, 1933
Johnny Mathis Born September 30, 1935
Frankie Lymon Born September 30, 1942
Marilyn McCoo – 5th Dimension Born September 30, 1945

Wilburn Theodore “Stranger” Cole

Called a stranger by his family due to the fact that he did not resemble any of them, Cole has a long lasting career in music that dates back to the early days of ska. His first hit was a song he wrote called “In and Out of the Window” for Eric Monty Morris. The success of this song gave him the opportunity to record his own songs. In 1962, Cole recorded his debut song “ Rough and Tough”, which became an instant hit. He went on to record a duet with singer Millicent “Pasty” Todd called “When I call your Name”, which was also met with great success.

Known to be shy when singing he engaged in a series of duets with Gladstone Anderson and Hortense Ellis. He also worked with the top producers of his time such as Bunny “Striker” Lee, Lee “Scratch“ Perry, and Sonia Pottinger.

In 1971, Cole migrated to England where he toured extensively. In 1973 he moved to Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a machinist at a toy factory and later opened up the first Caribbean record shop.

Cole’s son Squiddly is a drummer for Ziggy Marley and Mutabaruka, carrying on his father’s musical legacy.

Delroy “Cool Operator” Wilson

Regarded as the first Jamaican child singing star, Delroy George Wilson was born on October 5, 1948. Wilson began his recording career at the age of 13 while still a student at Boy’s Town Primary School. Barely out of short pants, he recorded his first single, ”Emmy Lou”, for Producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. His early years with Dodd yielded a number of ska hits, the biggest of which was the Lee Perry- penned “Joe Liges”, an attack on rival producer and former Dodd artist, Prince Buster. Wilson later followed up with “Spit in the Sky”, yet another lyrical attack on Buster. But it didn’t stop there, Wilson went on to record:

  • One, Two, Three
  • I Shall Not Remove
  • Look who is Back (Duet with Sun Smith)
  • Prince Pharaoh (the only recording featuring Coxsone)

It was in the mid 60’s when Wilson’s voice began to mature and as he left his teenage years behind that he began to transition from ska to rocksteady. This would be his peak production period. His songs included one of the first rocksteady hit records, “Dancing Mood”, and also Jerking Time, Feel Good All Over, I’m not a King, True Believer in Love, Rain from the Skies, Conquer Me, and Won’t You Come Home”, a duet with Ken Boothe. His hit with Boothe went on to become one of the most versioned tracks ever.

Wilson left Studio One and recorded tracks for other labels before him and his fellow artists created their own “D&C” label in 1972. Under this label he recorded the song “Better Must Come”, a song that was later used as the People’s National Party political slogan and campaign song. This same year Wilson recorded the hit “Cool Operator”, which later became his nickname.

It was in 1976 that Wilson recorded “I’m Still Waiting”, which met with some crossover success. This was followed by “Last Thing on My Mind”, which sailed up the Jamaican music charts to occupy the #1 spot.

In his later life, Wilson drifted in and out of the limelight. He eventually died on March 6, 1995, due to complications of liver disease. He will always be remembered for his earlier works. His son Karl “Konan” Wilson is carrying on his legacy to this day.

The Gaylads

Groups dominated the early Jamaican popular music scene with many of the early stars going that route before branching out on their own. Most of the biggest hits came from groups. Some operated as duos, while most were three-part harmonies. The Gaylads belong in the latter category, and were the equal of the more celebrated outfits. Perhaps, in some other time, they would have been celebrated as superstars, rather than being second cousins.

Starting out at a time when “gay” could have been used as a prefix to “lads”, without any sexual connotation and anti-gay backlash, the group crafted several #1 hits with a high-pitched style uniquely their own.

Winston “Delano” Stewart, a castoff of Boris Gardiner’s Rhythm Aces, and a prospective

singer-songwriter named Harris “BB” Seaton joined together in early 1963, and had some success as Winston & Bibi”. Produced by iconic producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, they charted with tunes such as “Whap Whap”, “River Jordan”, Brown Skin Gal, and “Gal and Boy” aka “Emmanuel Road.

Later in 1963, they added a third member, Maurice Roberts, and thus the Gaylads group was born. The group’s early output was overseen by the aforementioned Coxsone Dodd, and featured hit such as “Lady With the Red Dress on”, “Stop Making Love Beside Me”, and “You Should Never Do That. They also provided backup to other artistes vocally and instrumentally with Stewart and Seaton playing guitar and Robert string bass.

With Seaton providing most of the songwriting, they followed up their early single efforts with their debut album entitled “Soul Beat”, which featured the enduring classic “Come Love Me With All Your Heart Girl”. Seaton even wrote the Ken Boothe Classic, “The Girl I Left Behind Me” in 1967. Their sophomore album, “Sunshine Is Golden”, signaled the end of their association with Dodd and his Studio One label.

Signing with Sonia Pottinger, the only female record producer, in 1968, the trio scored immediately with the rocksteady gem” It’s Hard to Confess”, and continued with the nonsensical nursery rhyme–themed “ABC Rocksteady”, and “Over the Rainbow’s End”.

Their next stop, in 1969, was Leslie Kong’s Beverly’s Records where they set the nation on fire with a track called “There’s a Fie, pun intended, but the pièce de résistance was their tribute to Jamaican ladies, aptly entitled “My Jamaican Girl”.

At this time, Stewart migrated, and the group suffered a double whammy, when Kong died of a heart attack. Soon thereafter, Seaton also migrated, and Roberts brought in brothers Rondel and Hopeton Thaxter. After one album, Roberts rechristened the group Psalms in response to pressure from anti-gay activists. Psalms became a backup band for Bunny Wailer until Roberts’s death on August 14th, 2015.

Jackie Edwards

He has been called the Nat “King” Cole of Jamaica, and in many ways, it is an apt description of this talented, versatile singer and songwriter.

Born Wilfred Gerald Edwards in 1938, and one of fifteen siblings, he began performing at the age of fourteen. In 1959, he came to the attention of producer Chris Blackwell. After securing four, self-written number one singles in Jamaica, in 1962, he traveled to London with Blackwell, where he joined the latter’s Island Records. There he worked as a singer-songwriter, recording as a solo artist and also half of a duo with Millie Small. He also performed more mundane tasks such as delivering records.

Edwards wrote both “Keep on Running” and “Somebody Help Me”, which became No. 1 singles in the UK for The Spencer Davis Group in the mid-sixties.

When Blackwell began steering Island toward rock in 1972, Edwards returned to Jamaica, and worked with Bunny “Striker” Lee who paired him with the Aggrovators backing and session band.

Somewhat forgotten today, possibly because he was more mainstream than the dreadlocked Jamaican singers of that era, Edwards was a versatile performer and as good a songwriter as the island has ever produced. He died on August 15, 1992 of a heart attack.

Desmond Dekker

Born Desmond Dacres in Kingston 1941, he spent the early part of his orphaned childhood near Seaforth, St. Thomas before returning to Kingston where he worked as a welder. Usually singing on the job, his workmates encouraged him to seek an audition. Receiving rejections from Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, he found a mentor in Leslie Kong of Beverley’s Records.

In 1963, the newly renamed Desmond Dekker teamed up with backing group, the Aces (James Wilson and East Barrington Howard) together they enjoyed a great deal of success during the mid-’60s with songs like “King of Ska”, “That Woman”, and “Mount Zion”.

The emergence of rocksteady in the latter half of 1966 propelled Dekker’s James Bond–inspired “007 (Shanty Town)” into the UK charts the following year. A catchy, rhythmically infectious articulation of the Rude Boy street gang exploits, the single presaged Dekker’s emergence as an international artiste.

In 1967, Dekker and the Aces placed second in the Jamaica Festival Song Contest with “Unity”, and continued their chart topping run in their home country with songs such as “Music Like Dirt”, “Rudie Got Soul”, “Rude Boy Train”, and “Sabotage”.

In 1969 Dekker, achieved his greatest international success with the seminal “Israelites”, which became the first reggae tune to top the UK pop charts. Even more astonishing, was the fact that it broke into the Top Ten of the US charts which had been previously been out of bounds to Jamaican vocalists.

Dekker took up residence in the UK in 1996, and became a regular club performer. He continued voicing tracks over rhythms laid down in Jamaica. Another minor hit was realized with “Pickney Gal”, which was followed by a massive hit version of Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It if You Really Want” taken from the film The Harder They Come.

When longtime manager and producer, Leslie Kong, died in 1971, he joined the Cactus label and had minor success with a reissue of “Israelites”, but the experiment was not commercially successful. Dekker declared bankruptcy, ending a chapter in the career of one of reggae’s best known personalities. He continued touring regularly before he died of a heart attack in 2006.

Dekker’s unmistakable falsetto remains one of Jamaica’s most memorable while his importance as the first major reggae artiste to achieve international success deserves wider acknowledgment.

Ben E. King (September 2, 1938-April 30, 2015)

Born Benjamin Earl Nelson, King was an American songwriter, soul and R & B singer and record producer. He was born in Henderson, North Carolina and moved to New York with his family at the age of 9 in 1947. He began singing in church choirs, and in High School formed the Four B’s, a Doo Wop group that sometimes performed at the Apollo Theater. He had a cameo with the Moon Glows and the Five Crowns.

In 1958 George Treadwell, owner of the name the Drifters, fired the group and hired the Five Crowns to be the new Drifters. The new group found instant success with King on lead vocals, singing a song he co-wrote, titled “There Goes my Baby”. By adding orchestral strings to the vocals, a bold move for a soul/pop song at the time, it vaulted the track to #2 on the Pop and #1 on the R& B charts. Other hits followed with King singing lead, including “Dance with me”, “This Magic Moment, and “Save the Last Dance for Me”, the only Drifters song to reach #1 on the R & B and pop charts.

After a contract and royalties dispute, King moved on with his own solo career under the name Ben E. King. He scored a top ten hit in 1961 with the enchanting “Spanish Harlem”, a song he co-wrote with Phil Spector. He then released a song later that year entitled “Stand by Me”, which has become an enduring classic. The #1 R & B track was again co=written by King, and also reached #5 on the pop charts. Over the ensuing decades, “Stand by Me” has been covered countless times by everyone from Otis Redding, John Lennon, Seal and Tracey Ullman to Bachata singer Prince Royce. Licensing agency BMI has listed “Stand by Me” as the fourth most recorded song of the 20th Century. The song again reached the top ten in the 1980s on the soundtrack of the Rob Reiner coming of age film of the same name.

King continued to have hits throughout the 1960s with songs like “Amor” and “I Who Have Nothing” before the British invasion changed the musical landscape.

He ultimately recorded twenty-one songs that entered the 50top 1200 of the Billboard pop charts. King was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Drifters. Succumbing to an unidentified illness King died at the age of 76 in Hackensack, New Jersey on April 30, 2015. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Betty, three children, and several grandchildren.

An Englishman in New York: Interview with Digital English

A conversation with the mysterious Brooklyn-based UK dub producer.

Born in the Harlesden area of London, Valentine Saunders has always been a mysterious producer: able to release a string of heavy digital steppers hits before completely flying under the radar for years. Who is he? Is he in the UK, or in NYC? Why is his roster of artists so diverse, from Trevor Sparks to Glen Brown, to Karen Morrisson (of Studio One ‘Frenemies’ fame, under her K-Vibes moniker), to Ken Abert, and Lloyd D. Stiff? One bright day, I decided these questions were too much and I needed to know who was behind ‘Mix Up’ and ‘I Don’t want to be a Shotta’. After tracking him down, we ended up meeting one evening in 2007 in an unusual location, at least in reggae circles: Manhattan’s financial district. Why there? Let Digital English explain…

Visit dub-stuy.com for the full interview.

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