Round 7: WILD CARD

From Joe:

Fu Manchu - Desmond Dekker and the Aces. 1968. Beverly's.

I'm really pleased to offer a song from one of greatest artists Jamaica ever produced for this round, and I'm particularly glad to showcase this strange and beautiful gem. 

What do we have here with this mysterious cut?  Dekker approaches the vocals with utter seriousness, instructing his listener as to "what makes you a man."  You almost feel pity for the poor guy who was bragging about what he used to do and what he used to earn.  Then you wonder if this is all a joke when he sings with equal gravity, "this is the face of Fu Manchu."  Fu Manchu a dubious, orientalist caricature in 20th century popular culture if there ever was one, has been taken from its white racist orgins and turned into something else here - a somber figure of masculine wisdom?  Who knows?!   

For his part, Dekker apparently took the song quite seriously, doing something like ten takes of the vocals for the final cut - an uncommon practice when working with tight-fisted producers in Jamaican studios in the 1960s. 

I'm glad Leslie Kong let him do it, because he absolutely nails the song.    Between Dekker's amazing voice - simultaneously emotive and controlled, the creeping bassline, stuttering guitar riffs, and cool hammond organ  it is a fucking great song.  It should be on a soundtrack somewhere.  I often listen to it five or six times in a row.  Is it meant to be cryptic? Is it tongue-in-cheek?  Does it matter? It rules!


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