Jamaican singer Desmond Dekker, who helped bring reggae to an international stage in the 1960s, died at his home in Britain on Thursday. His manager said the 64-year-old suffered a heart attack. For the Jamaican community, Dekker was one of the island's first music legends.
Born in 1941, Desmond Dekker worked as a welder in Kingston before finding that his singing talents could help him earn a living. His first reggae hit was released in 1963, entitled "Honor Your Father and Mother," which soared to the top of the Jamaican charts. After joining with four brothers who were back-up singers known as the Aces, Dekker released a number of songs, including several that were hits in the United States and Britain.
For international fans of reggae, Dekker's name may not be as familiar as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, who rose to fame in the 1970s. But Davion, a Jamaican restaurant worker in Miami, says Desmond Dekker came first.
"He's a household name especially with the older folks. Bob Marley those guys, they grew up respecting him. He's legendary, a true legend of Jamaican music," he said.
With music playing on the speakers in his restaurant, Davion says that tastes in reggae may have changed in recent years. But he says Dekker's style of reggae has been a major influence.
"It's the original music that created everything. All the older folks can appreciate it more. But in recent times, there's a lot of other stuff stemming from that kind of music. But that was the original stuff, so you have to give that respect," he said.
Dekker's biggest hit on the international charts was the 1969 song "Israelites" in which he sings about the hard-scrabble life in Kingston's ghettoes.
Dekker's death from a heart attack came only two weeks after performing at Leeds Metropolitan University. He was to sing in Prague next week and had several other concerts scheduled for Europe this year.