Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lucky Dube - "I've Got You Babe"

I remember back in 1987 when my mother asked me who sang the song "I've Got You Babe," which seemed to be blaring out of every radio, every window, every passing taxi. It was a new song, but sounded pretty familiar to me: the sharp, skanking riddim, the tart female chorus offsetting the gravelly, aching baritone of the lead vocal... All of these were hallmarks of the classic Peter Tosh sound, so I went to the market with my mother to pick up the new Peter Tosh record. I was quite surprised to learn that not only was the song not by Peter Tosh, it wasn't even from a Jamaican artist but by a South African singer named Lucky Dube.

It seems like South African artists were getting a lot of play in Nigeria that year: The cassettes she bought that day included Dube's Slave, a few tapes by Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Paul Simon's Graceland, featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as well as No Nuclear War, which actually was the new Peter Tosh album and would turn out to the final one.

Later in the year, on September 11th, Tosh was tragically gunned down during a botched robbery at his home. He was 43 years old. Not only had one of reggae's most insistent and articulate voices been silenced, Tosh's murder seemed to mark an official end to the golden age of Jamaican roots reggae.

The golden age of reggae in Africa, on the other hand, was just beginning. Reggae had been pretty popular since the early 1970s, but in '87 it became Africa's de facto musica franca, thanks largely to three landmark releases from homegrown Rasta messengers: From Côte d'Ivoire came Revolution by Alpha Blondy, Nigeria's Majek Fashek made a splash with Prisoner of Conscience, and then, of course, there was Lucky Dube's Slave.

The impact of these records was so momentous that it convinced the international community of roots & culture loyalists that since dancehall wasn't turning out to be the fleeting fad they had hoped it would be, and The Next Bob Marley™ didn't show signs of emerging out of the computer-generated sounds of Kingston, perhaps they should heed the words of Marcus Garvey and look to Africa for a new king to be crowned.

Alpha Blondy was the most logical choice for The Next Bob Marley™: Like Marley, he was possessed of a reedy tenor, a warm, likeable personality and an eagerness to adapt his music to appeal to the broadest possible audience. The deal had been just about sealed when no lesser band than The Wailers themselves backed him on his massive 1985 hit "Cocody Rock!!!"

Lucky Dube for all intents and purposes seeemed more suited for the role of The Next Peter Tosh. Apart from the obvious vocal resemblance, Dube's paramilitary wardrobe was reminiscent of Tosh. Slave didn't contain too much material that could be considered particularly politically radical, but I guess the fact that he came from a country that had some was quite famous for very visible oppression of black people and had had an earlier album banned by South Africa's apartheid government gave him the appearance of a true rebel, which was quite attractive to me, being 13 or 14 at the time.

Like Tosh, Lucky Dube was murdered, shot and killed on Thursday, October 18, 2007, the day before what would have been Peter Tosh's 63rd birthday. He was 43 years old.

All the Africans I've talked to over the past few days are all broken up about it.

My mom called me and asked me if the people who shot him were Nigerians.

Back in 1987, when I was in J.S. 3 (that's the ninth grade, y'all) and between periods, me and my boys Deinma, Baykar and Dog Wonder would entertain (and annoy) our classmates with our Take Style Reggae Radio Show. It wasn't a real radio show, but an extended comedy sketch in which we played a band of Rastas forever staging absurd pledge drives and harebrained moneymaking schemes to fund passage to Jamaica in order to represent Nigeria at Peter Tosh's funeral. Part of the joke was that we were still trying to raise the money long after Tosh had been buried.

"I've Got You Babe" was our theme song.

Lucky Phillip Dube 8.3.1964 - 10.18.2007


kwasi said...

Man.... I remember listening to him growing up

I was in shock when I heard about this. It really sucks

Comb & Razor said...

yeah... it really sucks, but what really really sucks is that while we hear about this case and mourn it because Lucky Dube is famous, stuff like this happens everyday, multiple times a day... the crime situation in South Africa is just off the fucking charts.

Vincent the Soul Chef said...

I have to agree. Not only in South Africa, but everywhere! You know it's bad when you hear on the news that some kid just decided to run roughshod at some public school a la Columbine and riddle the place with bullets! Not to take away from the fact that the music world has suffered yet another tremendous loss (the lead singer of The Suprelatives also passed away last week), but as you say the crime situation is really getting out of hand.

Comb & Razor said...

it's getting really grim out there, Vincent... it's nice to be able to escape from all that by immersing yourself in music and stuff like that, but then when the horror comes in and swallows up the makers of the music... well, you realize that there's just no place to hide, no direction which to avert your eyes.

it's a problem that in the end... we have to face.

skateboardj said...

Sigh there goes my trip so much for shark diving and collecting kwaito records.

Comb & Razor said...

ha... i didn't know you were planning a trip to SA, J!

*shrug* i dunno, man... i guess you can still go. just watch your back (and front)!

Bigdaf said...

I was just shocked when I heard of lucky Dube's murder, but as you have already said, its when it affects celebrities that it hits the headlines.

I want to visit SA and Brazil as they have a certain mystery about them, and I still will.

Its a shame that violence affects our daily life and I thinks that ignorance and poverty are the two biggest killers in the world. A good education is the key to opening the eyes to opportunities that fascilitates escape from poverty. But education works best on a full stomach.

How for do?


Anonymous said...

I thought the wailers backed Alpha Blondy in "Jerusalem" not cocody rock

Comb & Razor said...

unless i'm mistaken, the Wailers backed Blondy on the track "Cocody Rock," and then backed him again throughout the whole Jerusalem album....

i don't have the album in front of me and i'm working completely from memory (from 20 years ago)... so i could be wrong!

i'll doublecheck that.

Comb & Razor said...

yeah... according to the Cocody Rock!!! credits on Allmusic, you canb see a couple of the Wailers contributed to the album... Aston & Carly Barrett, Earl "Chinna" Smith, "Wire" Lindo, etc.

Anonymous said...

Concerning Blondy and the wailers, I worked from memory too, but I kind of knew your researching self will nail the detail as usual.
Must confess, I have become an ardent reader of your blogs since I bumped into writings on your Naija trip. We have very similar interests, just that I lack the energy you have.
I am opening an audio/video studio soon in Abuja for production/post production. I guess one day we can hook up. i bet there is a lot we can share.

Comb & Razor said...

email me immediately, my friend! combrazor at yahoo dot com

wienna said...

Chaaai...TS, thanks for posting dis song here. Haven't heard it in ages. One of my fav. of his.

wienna said...

Chaaai...TS, thanks for posting dis song here. Haven't heard it in ages. One of my fav. of his.

Comb & Razor said...

no probs, wienna... he is still missed!