1968 an 'Intensified' year

Observer senior writer

Thursday, July 19, 2018

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This is the seventh in a 10-part series on the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) Jamaica Festival Song Competition which started in 1966.

THOUGH they had a handful of hit songs since the early 1960s, Desmond Dekker and The Aces were determined to go one better in the 1968 Festival Song Competition with their entry, Intensified 68.

The previous year, the trio of Dekker, Easton Howard and Wilson James came second with U N I T Y, beaten by Ba Ba Boom done by The Jamaicans.

Intensified 68 was written by Dekker, a flamboyant figure who was one of the top acts at producer Leslie Kong's Beverley's Records. Like U N I T Y, Intensified 68 was produced by Kong, who also had success with Derrick Morgan, Toots and The Maytals, and a teenaged Jimmy Cliff.

Dekker and The Aces were on a high. In 1967, they had a massive hit with 007 (Shantytown) a ode to Kingston's rude boy culture, which went into the Top 20 of the British national chart.

For Intensified 68, Dekker hailed the party of 'Festival', with lines like “music like dirt for your money's worth” and “girls like sand to match every man”. With Kong's promotional machinery behind it, there was little surprise when it was declared winner.

Like their Beverley's colleagues, Desmond Dekker and The Aces tapped into the British charts with a cosmopolitan sound. Around the same time they recorded Intensified 68, Decker wrote Israelites, a song that gave him lasting fame.

Israelites topped the British national chart in 1969 and entered the Billboard Top 10 in the United States. That acclaim prompted Dekker to move permanently to the United Kingdom that year, where he became a hero to the Skinheads and Two-tone movement.

He died in the UK in 2006 at age 64.

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