×

Ranking Roger, of English Beat and General Public, Dies at 56

Roger Charlery, aka Ranking Roger, the singer and toaster from the English Beat, General Public and Special Beat, died today after a battle with cancer, a rep for the band confirmed to Variety. He was 56.

The group, which has existed in several different forms over the years, issued a statement on its social media accounts saying, “Sadly Roger past away a few hours ago peacefully at his home surrounded by family.”

The Beat — whose members were called the English Beat in many territories due to an already existing band — arose out of the British Midlands in the late 1970s as part of the “2 Tone” ska revival based around the label of the same name. While the the Specials (the movement’s leaders) Madness, the Selecter, the Bodysnatchers and others hewed to a more punk-meets-ska template, from the beginning the Beat set their own tempo, incorporating more reggae into their sound along with lead singer Dave Wakeling’s original and politically tinged lyrics. Roger was a combination toaster and hypeman, dancing energetically across the stage, playing percussion and pumping up the crowd along with his widely imitated toast/raps during the songs.

The group left 2 Tone after releasing their debut single (a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” for their own Go-Feet imprint through Arista. They released three albums — including their stellar 1980 debut, “I Just Can’t Stop It” — and were a leading light of British alternative music until their split in 1983 (the opening act on their final U.S. tour was R.E.M.).

Wakeling and Roger quickly formed a new group called General Public, whose debut album was produced by Clash guitarist Mick Jones. While their three albums produced several alternative-radio singles and were successful, they didn’t quite have the same magic as the Beat.

Roger released a solo album in 1988 called “Radical Departure,” and in the years since he performed with several different incarnations of a reformed Beat, incorporating various members of the 2 Tone extended family. The Beat’s most recent album, 2016’s “Bounce,” was their first in 30 years.

“I’m devastated to lose Roger, my Special Beat partner!,” wrote Neville Staples on Instagram, referencing his nickname for Roger, Turbo. “@SugaryStaple& I have been privately visiting him & his family, at every opportunity over the last 2 of wks, willing him the strength to recover again. Sadly the fight of the lion’s fire has gone out. My whole band and I are so saddened and I will miss Turbo so badly.”

 

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Queen and Adam Lambert Live

    How the Queen + Adam Lambert Tour Brought the Opera to Arenas

    Just as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, wowed moviegoers last year, stage design firm Stufish Entertainment Architects has helped Queen + Adam Lambert’s current U.S. tour deliver a screen spectacular of its own. The tour, which plays New Orleans on Aug. 20 and Atlanta on Aug. 22, touched down at [...]

  • Mass Appeal and Universal Launch Hip-Hop

    Nas, Mass Appeal and Universal Music Launch Hip-Hop Label in India, Sign Divine

    Mass Appeal and Universal Music Group today announced the launch of Mass Appeal India – a new label dedicated to amplifying India’s burgeoning hip-hop culture on a global scale. The new label’s operations will be based Universal Music India’s headquarters in Mumbai and will function as a multi-channel partnership between the two companies. According to the announcement, Mass Appeal India will sign and [...]

  • Trey Anastasio of Phish performs at

    Phish Concert Camp Out Canceled Due to Plague-Infected Prairie Dogs

    The plague, or Black Death, decimated the European population in medieval times and has returned to ruin Phish concert-goers’ camping plans. The band announced Tuesday that camping and vending will be canceled for their Labor Day weekend performance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colo. due to concerns of plague-infected colonies of prairie dogs. [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: 'American Horror Story' Makes 'Suddenly Last Summer' Sizzle Again

    FX Network’s “American Horror Story” returns for a ninth season next month, and promos for the next chapter of the anticipated series, dubbed ‘AHS 1984,’ have been airing frequently across cable television throughout August. In the short yet effective spot (see below), the Motels’ melancholic, moody “Suddenly Last Summer” plays as aerial footage of an [...]

  • AtmosphereThe Current State of Play in

    New York’s PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York’s PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue located in Times Square and operated by Bowery Presents, will close at the end of 2019, a source close to the situation tells Variety. The venue will close with a New Year’s series of shows from the Disco Biscuits. The theater, which is located two stories beneath the [...]

  • Jonas Leijonhufvud and Sven Carlsson

    Yellow Bird U.K. Developing 'Spotify Untold' Limited Series

    Yellow Bird U.K. has optioned the screen rights to tell-all book “Spotify Untold” with plans to develop it into a limited series for television. Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud’s novel details the story behind the Swedish start-up which became one of the world’s leading music services and its attempts to take on U.S. giants including [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content