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Clement Dodd Dies

Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, who ran the legendary Studio One recording facility and record label, died Tuesday, May 4, from a heart attack. He was 72.

While Dodd is known to reggae and ska fans worldwide as one of the leading producers of Jamaican music — and the man who produced Bob Marley’s earliest records with the Wailers — he began his love affair with music through jazz. The man who became one of Jamaica’s leading sound-system DJs in the 1950s started out playing bebop and jazz records for customers visiting his parents’ liquor store in Kingston.

When Dodd decided to run his own record label in order to have exclusive 7-inch singles for his sound system, he turned to American R&B and jump jazz as the models for the music he wanted. But the Jamaican studio musicians who were imitating the U.S. sounds they loved began to tinker and experiment with the music, adding syncopations with added emphasis on the afterbeat–and thus ska was born. Over time the music slowed down, and reggae was the result.

The first LP Dodd released was All Star Top Hits, which is heavy on the R&B tip, but in 1962 Dodd cut two straightahead jazz records for the Studio One subsidiary Port-O-Jam: I Cover the Waterfront and Jazz Jamaica, both of which feature members of the legendary Skatalites, who were the Studio One house band for numerous hit ska singles. Most of the Studio One musicians were steeped in jazz, playing in big bands in Jamaica in the 1950s, but the ska sound proved so popular that jazz took a backseat to popular music.

While Dodd didn’t get around to recording another purely jazz album until 1989’s Reggae Au Go Jazz (Studio One) — with former Duke Ellington sideman Roy “Bubbles” Burrows, Clifford Jordan and Charles McPherson — he never lost his love for the music. Jamaican jazz men Ernest Ranglin and Monty Alexander made their initial marks at Studio One, and Dodd penned a liner note for their new CD, Rocksteady (Telarc).

Just last weekend the city of Kingston changed the street name that housed the recording facility from Brentford Road to Studio One Boulevard. Dodd died at Studio One.

He is survived by his wife, Norma, and six children.

Originally Published