Best known for his 1970 hit, ‘Satisfaction’, Carl ‘Ras’ Dawkins was born on 1st August 1948 in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, before moving to Allman Town in East Kingston. The son of a local jazz drummer, Joseph Dawkins, he was raised in an environment where music played a significant role in everyday life.
Aside from local jazz players, the young Carl was inspired by such R&B greats as Curtis Mayfield, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and Ben E. King and soon developed ambitions to be a singer-songwriter in his own right.
At Allman Town Junior School and later, Kingston Senior School, his classmates included the late, great Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley, who while still students formed the Techniques along with Winston Riley and Frederick Waite.
In 1967, Carl was encouraged by friends to audition for Karl ‘J.J.’ Johnson at the novice producer’s shop in Orange Street, Kingston, performing a number of original compositions that included ‘Baby I Love You’, ‘Running Shoes’ and ‘Hard Time’. A session was duly arranged with Bobby Aitken’s Carib Beats supplying musical backing, with ‘Baby I Love You’ and ‘Hard Time’ seeing issue on Johnson’s JJ label soon after.
While the romantically-themed ‘Baby I Love You’ proved popular, it was the less upbeat ‘Hard Time’ that attracted most attention and propelled the single to the top of the local playlists.
Unfortunately, soon after the hit, Carl was arrested for possession of marijuana, leading to an eight-month prison sentence and a temporary halt to his recording career.
Upon his release, he recorded for ‘I Love The Way You Are’ for British producer, Charles Ross before return to JJ’s to cut a number of tracks in the developing reggae style. Further sessions for the likes of Clancy Eccles, Lee Perry and Leslie Kong resulted a number of fine 45s, although it was not until 1970 that the singer returned to the top of the local charts with the magnificent ‘Satisfaction’.
Recorded for JJ, the single became one of the best-selling Jamaican 45s for the year and was swiftly followed by another major hit in ‘Get Together’. A third significant recording of 1970 was ‘This Land’, which sold heavily despite being banned by the government for its hard-hitting lyrics on the state of the nation.
Throughout the remainder of the early seventies, Carl remained popular with singles for Johnson, Perry, Richard Khouri, Nya Keith and Errol Thompson, but spells in the UK and Canada resulted in a temporary reduction of his recorded work.
There later followed fine 45s, particularly for Geoffrey Chung’s Black World Records (‘Pluggy Brown’ c/w ‘No Happiness Here’) and Harry Johnson (‘Dreadful Situation’, ‘Something Going Wrong’ and ‘Problems’), with his debut album, ‘Bumpity Road’ issued by the latter in 1977.
By the early eighties, dissatisfaction over the direction of Jamaican music led to Carl gradually withdrawing from the business and relocating to the countryside.
Since then, he has occasionally toured and recorded, with his 2013 collection, ‘Hard Times’, reminding reggae fans of his timeless talent. Long may he continue to delight us!
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