@ the Indigo 02
5 August 2012
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Derrick Morgan was born 27 March 1940, Mocho, Clarendon Parish,
In 1957 Morgan entered the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour, a talent
show held at the Palace Theatre in Kingston. He won with rousing
impressions of Little Richard, and shortly after that, was recruited
to perform around the island with the popular Jamaican comedy team,
Bim and Bam.
In 1959 Morgan entered the recording studio for the first time.
Duke Reid, the acclaimed sound system boss, was looking for talent
to record for his Treasure Isle record label. Morgan cut two popular
shuffle-boogie sides “Lover Boy,” a.k.a.“S Corner
Rock”, and “Oh My.” Soon after, Morgan cut the
bolero tinged boogie, “Fat Man,” which also became a
hit. He also found time to record for Coxsone Dodd.
In 1960 Morgan became the only artist ever to fill the places from
one to seven on the Jamaican pop chart simultaneously. Among those
hits were “Don't Call Me Daddy,” “In My Heart,”
“Be Still,” and “Meekly Wait and Murmur Not.”
But it was the following year that Morgan released the biggest hit
of his career, the Leslie Kong production of “You Don't Know,”
later retitled “Housewives’ Choice” by a local
DJ. The song featured a bouncing ska riddim, along with a duet by
Morgan and Millicent ‘Patsy’ Todd.
“Housewives’ Choice” began the legendary rivalry
between Morgan and Prince Buster, who accused Morgan of stealing
his ideas. Buster quickly released “Blackhead Chiney Man,”
chiding Morgan with the sarcastic put-down, “I did not
know your parents were from Hong Kong” – a swipe
at Kong. Morgan returned with the classic “Blazing Fire,”
in which he warns Buster to “Live and let others live,
and your days will be much longer. You said it. Now it’s the
Blazing Fire.” Buster shot back with, “Watch It Blackhead,”
which Morgan countered with “No Raise No Praise” and
“Still Insist.” Followers of the two artists often clashed,
and eventually the government had to step in with a staged photo
shoot depicting the rivals as friends.
Morgan had a major success in 1962 with “Forward March,”
a song celebrating Jamaican independence from Great Britain.
In the mid-1960s, when ska evolved into the cooler, more soulful
rocksteady, Morgan continued to release top quality material, including
the seminal rude boy classic, “Tougher Than Tough,”
“Do the Beng Beng,” “Conquering Ruler,”
and a cover of Ben E. King’s soul hit, “Seven Letters.”
Produced by Bunny Lee, “Seven Letters” is often cited
as the first true reggae single. In 1969 Morgan cut the famous skinhead
anthem, “Moon Hop” (on Crab Records). However, failing
eyesight then forced him to give up regular stage appearances. Morgan
still performs occasionally at ska revival shows across the world
– often backed by the guitarist, Lynn Taitt. He remained popular
in Jamaica and the UK into the early 1970s, and has lived primarily
in the UK or the US since the late 1960s.
Morgan has written several songs that have won the Festival Song
Contest for other artists, including “Jamaica Whoa”
(1998, Neville Martin), “Fi Wi Island A Boom” (2000,
Stanley Beckford), and “Progress” (2002, Devon Black).
In 2007, Morgan appeared on the bill at the annual Augustibuller
music festival. His song “Tougher Than Tough” was featured
in the video game, Scarface: The World is Yours.