BBC Caribbean
May 5, 2004

'Father of Jamaican music' dies

The man widely regarded as the father of Jamaica's music industry, Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd died in Kingston on Tuesday, as a result of an apparent heart attack.

Dodd, 72, was chatting with friends when he took ill with chest pains.

His death came just five days after he attended a ceremony to rename a street in Kingston after his famous recording studio, Studio One.

Dodd's passing is seen as a great loss to the Jamaican music industry, because the legendary producer was hailed as one of reggae's founding fathers.

Born Clement Seymour Dodd in 1932, he started out in the music business in the 1950s, with his popular sound system "Sir Coxsone's Downbeat".

Dodd was a popular fixture in dances and clubs in the inner cities and he used the sound system to promote his music which was not getting airplay on the radio at the time.

His early recordings in the 50s and 60s helped launched the birth of ska, a forerunner to reggae. In 1963, he opened Studio One, Jamaica's first black owned music studio.

Musicologist Bunny Goodison who was in Dodd's company just hours before his death, told BBC Caribbean Service about his contribution to the Jamaican music industry.

"He's obviously the founding father because he was the first to start recording popular dance music," he said. "Our first indigenous music was mento but it wasn't as popular as the early things done by Mr Dodd, such as the shufflebeat and ska."

In 1963, Dodd was introduced to a young singer named Bob Marley who along with his band The Wailers auditioned for Dodd.

The producer was so impressed with Marley and his band he signed them to a five-year contract and launched a musical career that took Marley to the heights of international acclaim.

Dodd became close to the fatherless Marley and allowed him live in a backroom at the studio and with Dodd's encouragement, Marley emerged as the front man of the Wailers.

However, in later years, the two became estranged.

Most of reggae's great names including Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Freddie McGregor, Marsha Griffiths and The Skatelites started their careers at Studio One.

Goodison said that many internationally renowned musicians including one of the American jazz playing Marsalis brothers went to record at Studio One and learn about reggae.

The Jamaican government recognised Dodd's contribution to Jamaican culture in 1991 by awarding him the country's third highest honour, the Order of Distinction.

In 2002, he was honoured with a series of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of his start in the music industry.

Goodison told BBC Caribbean Service he feels that Dodd deserved more.

"I think his contribution deserved a higher national honour," he said. "I think in terms of the fact that reggae is recognised worldwide, and Dodd's influence and contribution to that is so immense, I think we all owe him."

In recent years, Dodd split his time between New York and Jamaica.

He is survived by a wife and six children.