The Voice of Coxsone Dodd

Advertisement for Coxsone Dodd’s sound system dance, Star Newspaper, 1957

It is fascinating to imagine Coxsone Dodd in Studio One, calling his musicians “Jackson” as a term of endearment. But for those of us who have to imagine and have never heard this legend’s voice, what did he sound like, exactly? Thanks to the record industry that he helped to launch and establish in his country, we can hear Dodd’s voice in the flesh, or in the wax. The following is an excerpt from Roy Black who writes regular music columns for the Gleaner newspaper.

From The Music Diaries, Roy Black, June 5, 2016:

So often we have heard on-air radio presenters, who we would expect to know better, referring to Delroy Wilson’s early 1960s ska recording of King Pharaoh, as the only one in which Dodd’s voice is heard.

In the recording, the Studio 1 honcho is heard admonishing his arch-rival and former worker, Prince Buster, with the words:

“When I say get down, I mean get down, I have no use for you. Your father was King Pharaoh and you are Prince Pharaoh. You must go down as your father did go down. Go down and drop your crown”.

The recording came at a time when Dodd had just returned from one of his overseas trips to find the recording scene being taken over by Buster, who had parted ways with him in unceremonious fashion. In parting, Buster voiced his dissent in a recording, titled, One Hand Wash the Other, which prompted several Delroy Wilson responses, including King Pharaoh.

Dodd is better known for his shrewd production tactics that inspired hundreds of aspiring artistes and produced scores of hit songs, but in an interview I had with him a couple years before his passing in 2004, he credited himself with other musical skills.

“I was one of the first rappers in Jamaican music, and I have rapped on about half a dozen recordings done by artistes for Studio 1”, he asserted.

The Studio 1 boss seemed to be at his best as a rapper on a mid-1960s Burning Spear track titled, Rocking Time. Before Burning Spear made their vocal entry, and with a rock rhythm in the background, Dodd had a rapping prelude with:

“Moses struck the rock and brought forth water.

I man open my mouth and bring to you another scorcher”.

Interchanging with Spears, Dodd continued to ride the rhythm throughout, with other peppy toasts like:

“Straighten up yourself, it’s rocking timemove, move, move your body line.

Rock it to me, sock it to me.

Move and groove, move baby move, rock your body line

Work up a heat, move your feet

It’s rocking time”.

Dodd’s voice can also be heard on The Skatalites’ instrumental recording, El Pussy Ska, in which Dodd introduces the recording with:

“Come on everyboys, let’s ska El Pussy Ska”.

But perhaps the biggest shock to many untaught music connoisseurs and presenters is to learn that Dodd, in fact, sang in a recording. Singing in duet with the keyboard maestro, Jackie Mittoo, and calling themselves, The Soul Agents the duo produced one of the most powerful rocksteady pieces to appear on the ‘Coxsone’ label Get Ready Rock Steady. Dodd featured prominently in the recording as the lyrics ran:

“Get ready to do rocksteady

get ready to do rocksteady.

Get in the mood, face your

partner

Move to the left, shake your

shoulder

Move to the right, rock your

hips.

Now jerk your body line

Rock your rocking time

Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me”.