Ask 10 people their favorite musical artist from Jamaica, and 9 out of 10 are going to say Bob Marley. The other person is probably going to get Jamaica confused with Cuba and go on some rant about Communism (fuck that guy).
Unless you’re hanging with a bunch of knowledgeable ska nerds (don’t worry, you’re in good company here), you’re probably not going to get Desmond Dekker as an answer, although he is hands down my personal favorite and one of the most influential artists to ever come out of Jamaica. Desmond Dekker’s third full length release This Is Desmond Dekkar is a ska masterpiece and one of the greatest of all time.
It was a time before every single reggae/rocksteady song was about being a rasta and about Jah. Released back in 1969 on Trojan Records, This Is Desmond Dekkar featured 12 ska/rocksteady/reggae classics, and nearly every one of them is a hit. While many people suggest new fans check out his greatest hits compilations (and that’s not a terrible idea) I also think the 3rd full length is also a good starting point. Relaxing yet energetic at the same time, songs such as “007 (Shanty Town)” perfectly demonstrate what Desmond was all about: dynamic vocal delivery over offbeat rhythms. The song “Beautiful And Dangerous” shows just how much vocal ground Desmond could cover with the chorus sounding like a desperate plea, pouring raw emotion into every word.
Even though contemporaries such as Bob Marley (who Desmond Dekker helped make famous by introducing the unknown Bob to his producer) and Toots and The Maytals (who have a bitter song called “Desmond Dekker Came First” with a bit of interesting history behind it) may be more popular these days, Desmond Dekker was one of the most (if not the most important) musicians to ever come out of Jamaica.