Desmond Dekker, who brought the sound of Jamaican ska music to the world with hits such as “Israelites,” has died, his manager said Friday. He was 64.
Dekker, who lived in England, collapsed from an apparent heart attack at his home on Thursday, manager Delroy Williams said.
Dekker’s 1969 song “Israelites,” a Top 10 single in both Britain and the United States, was the first international hit produced by Jamaica’s vibrant music scene. With its haunting vocals and irresistible rhythm, it introduced the world to ska, a precursor to reggae.
Other hits included “007 (Shanty Town)” — featured on the soundtrack of the seminal Jamaican film “The Harder They Come” — and “Rudie Got Soul.” In the 1970s, he recorded “You Can Get it if You Really Want” by Jimmy Cliff.
“Desmond was the first legend, believe it or not,” Williams said. “When he released ‘Israelites’ nobody had heard of Bob Marley — he paved the way for all of them.”
Dekker, who was divorced, is survived by a son and a daughter.