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The death of Desmond


Shona writes in The Pub of Desmond Dekker’s untimely death from a sudden heart attack at the age of 64. Dekker was the vital link between Sixties ska and Seventies reggae: ‘The Israelites’ was the first British number one single of either genre and, as with his other big hits ‘007’ and ‘It Mek,’ still sounds other-worldly. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Dekker moved to England in the 1970s and settled, if memory serves me correctly, in Forest Hill, South London. Those who knew him spoke of a vivacious personality a and consummate performer. He was certainly a pioneer. And he will be sadly missed.

I never met Dekker. I did, however, know Ian Copeland, who died this week, aged 57, of melanoma. The middle brother of Miles (IRS Records) and Stewart (The Police), Ian was a booking agent who moved to Macon, Georgia in the very late 1970s determined to sell the American Southern Rock business the British new wave. The trip would have been a total disaster had he not befriended a young intern, Bill Berry, who soon formed R.E.M. and introduced Ian to the happening scene up in Athens. Copeland later moved to New York and started the FBI Booking Agency, avidly booking the new wave bands that most other American agencies would not touch with a barge pole. He was a vital player in R.E.M.’s success, to name just one of the many groups he championed. When I was researching the my R.E.M. biography, Remarks, Copeland was welcoming and co-operative as could be. While every bit the loud American, he also had a genuine warmth to him. In 1995, Copeland published an autobiography, WILD THING. It wasn’t a great book, but he was certainly a great man.

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