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Beckford moves with the times

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

HAVING started his career as a teenager in the 1960s Keeling Beckford appreciates the evolution of the music business, and one trait he has never lost is a zest for recording.

Next week the veteran singer is set to release the remix to Ska Time, a song he recorded six months ago with the Loud City Band from Oregon. Last week, Be What You Want, which he did in the 1970s, was reissued by Roots Traders, an Italian company.

Beckford, who is in his late 60s, is an elder of the New York City reggae scene though he recently moved his Keeling music label recording studio and store to New Jersey.

Ska Time is his fifth new release for 2020. He told the Jamaica Observer that he thrives on creating new material.

“I'm an artiste and I wear many hats; I'm a producer and a businessman. I like to control anything I do because I have the knowledge and know-how to do my thing,” he said.

Like many of his contemporaries, Beckford has a lasting fan base in Europe where there has always been a market for vintage reggae. In addition to Roots Traders, his songs from the 1960s and 1970s are reissued by companies such as Reggae Fever from Switzerland.

Last November the Keeling label released Try Me: Keeling Beckford The Rocksteady Years, a 13-song album reflecting his time with producer Enid “Dell” Barnett's Del Tone label which produced Combination, his 1968 breakthrough hit.

Try Me set the pace for a hectic first quarter of 2020 which saw him releasing the songs Living in America, My Love and This Year.

“Yuh have to put new songs out there because it's not every time people want to hear the oldies, as good as they are. Yuh have to move with the times,” Beckford reasoned.

Born in Kingston, Beckford was raised in Islington, St Mary. His cousins include Stanley Beckford of Jamaica Festival Song Competition fame; music producer Maurice “Blacka” Morwell; and his younger brother, deejay Cecil “Nicodemus” Wellington.

Combination, which was released at the tail of the rocksteady craze, was his first chart hit. The song was popular in West Indian circles in the United Kingdom where Beckford retains a cult following.