Recent months have heard my hi-fi dominated by the sweet sounds of Lord Tanamo aka Joseph Gordon. A man whose importance to the creation of Jamaican music should not be underestimated. His career took flight in the mid-50s when he performed mento, R&B, jazz, and calypso numbers on the streets of Kingston. As the calendar flipped to the 60s, he became the first person to front The Skatalites, it was he who dubbed them the original name “The Satellites” which evolved after the creation of ska music of which he held a role. Throughout the sixties, he recorded with the group, but left to live in Toronto, Canada where he remains until this day.
He did however go back to the island to cut a few records. Most notably of which was his Calypso Reggae album with Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and The Aggrovators. He continued to stay active on the music scene up until 2000 when he joined Germany’s finest ska/rocksteady/reggae ensemble, Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars, to record Best Place in the World which features standards of his along with lesser known cuts. His voice didn’t age in the least bit on those sessions and the output of Dr. Ring Ding’s soulful riddims and Lord Tanamo’s sweet melodies made for a very special record.
Sadly, Lord Tanamo resides at Lincoln Place Nursing Home in Toronto after having suffered a stroke in January of this year. Even more sad is the fact that the medical staff had to resort to contacting the Jamican Observer to find out if any friends or family know of his condition or can come to be by his side. An all too common and tragic conclusion to the lives of many Jamaican musical heroes. Lord Tanamo, All the best to your in your battle, you have at least one loyal companion from afar who is wishing everything positive for you.
(Various 45s from the 1960s: Tracks 1 – 17)
(Calypso Reggae, Third World, 1979: Tracks 18-26)