A teacher salutes his best studentFriday, May 29, 2020
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
ON May 19, producer Lloyd “King Jammy's” James got a phone call from his protégé and close friend, Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon. It was a brief and sombre chat.
“Him sey, 'Boss, mi a guh do di thing yuh nuh. Mi tell him sey, 'everything good man 'cause God dey wid yuh',” James recalled.
That was their last conversation. Dixon died two days later from kidney disease at age 59; he had been on dialysis for the past seven years.
It is a massive loss to James who first met Dixon in 1984.
“Bwoy, is somebody from New York call mi an' tell mi. Mi start cry 'cause him was very close to mi,” James told the Jamaica Observer's Splash. “Bobby was mi best student an' him was like family.”
Dixon was from Olympic Gardens, a stone's throw from Waterhouse, where James grew up. It is also headquarters of his legendary recording studio.
He remembers their first meeting being on a Sunday when James went to “string up a friend soun'” in Waterhouse.
“Mi friend look pon mi an' sey, 'da youth yah waan come learn wid yuh', an' mi sey, 'yeah man, send him come',” said James, who recalls Dixon showing up at his studio early next morning.
For the next four years, he cut dubs, specials and was engineer for some of the biggest hit songs in the King Jammy's catalogue. They include Sara and I Know The Score by Frankie Paul and Jump Up by Admiral Bailey.
“Him was di most dedicated engineer mi ever see. Sometimes Bobby inna di studio late with jus' a bag a crackers. From dey suh mi si sey him was going to be a great producer,” said James.
Dixon and his mentor produced many of the biggest dancehall/reggae songs of the 1990s, commercially the most successful decade in Jamaican music. In tandem with Steely and Clevie and the Firehouse Crew, Bobby Digital was the hottest producer on record. His most fruitful partnership came with Shabba Ranks on a string of hits including Peenie Peenie, Dem Bow and Just Reality.
Garnet Silk's It's Growing and Kingly Character; Holy Mount Zion by Cocoa Tea, Black Woman and Child by Sizzla, Sweet Jamaica from Tony Rebel, Buju Banton's Till I'm Laid to Rest and I Can't Wait by Sanchez are some of the gems from Dixon's impressive catalogue.
At the peak of his creative prowess, he produced two of contemporary reggae's best albums — Don't Haffi Dread by Morgan Heritage and Sizzla's Da Real Thing.
James finds it difficult to select a favourite Bobby Digital song or album.
“Bwoy, mi love di whole a him production dem yuh nuh. Bobby was a no-nonsense man...never compromise him standards,” he said.
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