• Ricky Dawes

The Story Behind the Music - Part 1

As creative and innovative as Jamaican music is, there are times when we must highlight those particular instances where the music draws from outside sources. Now, I'm not referring to those times when we adapt popular songs and reproduce them on Jamaican beats; I mean those times when the original was reworked and revamped until it became a brand new entity, not necessarily more popular but certainly very distinct in their own ways.

Darker Shade Of Black

This instrumental was recorded in 1967 by Jackie Mittoo for his album "Jackie Mittoo In London", with the song title being a play on the Procul Harum hit "Whiter Shade Of Pale". That alone could be the entire story, especially since "Whiter" was released the same year, and an argument could be made that it sounds like a darkened reworking.

The similarities between the two songs end there, however, as the melody for "Darker" originated from another British pop group - none other than the Beatles.

It was adapted from the 1965 song, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", from the "Rubber Soul" album. The original marked a turning point in Western music by first incorporating an Eastern instrument - the sitar - into its lineup, sparking the development of what we now know as psychedelic rock.

As critically acclaimed as it was, however, "Darker Shade Of Black" seems to have more in common with "Whiter Shade Of Pale", with its heavy reliance on Mittoo's keyboard instead of strings of George Harrison. What is certain is that Jackie Mittoo serves as a prime example of taking inspiration from one thing and making it your own.

It since then has taken on new life since the 1980s, from dancehall tunes like Barrington Levy's "Quick Divorce" (Joe Gibbs), Frankie Paul's "Pass The Tu-Sheng-Peng" (Junjo Lawes), and Bounty Killer's "Not Another Word" (Jammy's), not to mention countless special recordings (dubplates) for different sound systems across Jamaica and the rest of the world.


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