s skippy the bush kangaroo: Desmond and Hamza

skippy the bush kangaroo

Friday, May 26, 2006

Desmond and Hamza

Hamza El Din video

Desmond Dekker video

The loss of two great talents was announced today – Desmond Dekker and Hamza El Din.

Dekker’s song “Israelites” was a surprise hit out of Jamaica in the 1960’s, long before reggae became trendy or popular. (The same thing happened with “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie Small.) Teenagers across America and the UK puzzled over the lyrics, which said (more or less) “my wife and-a kids they pack up and leave me/darling she said I was yours to receive/I don’t want to end up like Bonnie and Clyde.”

Desmond was a brilliant singer and songwriter. He was slated to star in “The Harder They Come” but had to bow out for health reasons. Jimmy Cliff got the role and became a huge star. Desmond had written “You Can Get It If You Really Want” for the movie, and it became a Cliff hit. My son and I were just listening to his records on our road trip this week – but then, that’s no real coincidence. He’s a family favorite, so we listen to him often.

Desmond Dekker died at 64. The AP obit for him says that he was a “welder” before becoming a singer, but then lots of reggae singers (including Bob Marley) told hapless reporters they had been welders – since “welding” was a Jamaican euphemism for sex.

Hamza El Din played the oud, a Middle Eastern lute – beautifully – and sang both traditional and modern songs. He helped bring Arab and Nubian music to the West, as well as embodying the gentle Muslim tradition of courtesy and gentility known as “adab.” He played with the Grateful Dead, taught music in San Francisco, and worked for years to open cross-cultural doors. He was 76.

Two ambassadors, two great musicians. We’ll remember them.

posted by RJ Eskow at 8:04 AM |


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