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Friday, March 23, 2012

"Born for a Purpose"

Dr. Alimantado & The Rebels - "Born for a Purpose"

"/Like the doctor who was born for a purpose/Rudie can't fail/" (Strummer/Jones)

Written, performed and produced by Jamaican Rastafarian Alimantado after he survived a hit and run accident with a bus. The stories go that he heard the song in his head while recuperating at home and had to crawl across the floor to get to a pen and pad to write it down. The band were a mishmash of several local bands who all donated their time so that the single could be released as a fundraiser. Released in the U.K., and a underground hit, it found a hold in the punk scene primarily due to one single radio program. Tommy Vance was a DJ on the first non BC radio station in England. Before he went back to the BBC in 1978 to host Friday Rock Show and champion heavy metal and hard rock for years, he would occasionally host celebrities on his program on Capitol Radio in London. On July 16th 1977 his guest was Johnny Rotten, weeks after the release of the Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen". In that radio appearance, Rotten revealed a deep appreciation for many styles of music, including glam (David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel") art rock (Lou Reed - "Men of Good Fortune") experimental (Captain Beefheart - "The Blimp") and funky soul (Bobby Byrd - Back From the Dead). But a lot of what he talked about and played was Reggae. When Vance cued up Born for a Purpose, Rotten jumps in and tells a story that when he had gotten beaten up really bad earlier, he played this song and it got him through it. The album was released by fledgling Reggae label Greensleeves Records which now has the largest catalogue of Reggae music in the world. One of the founders has stated that Rotten mentioning the song on the program was responsible for most of the 50,000 units sold, and ultimately for keeping the label afloat. It was this big success in the U.K Punk music scene that led to The Clash mentioning Alimantado on their 1979 album London Calling on the track "Rudie Can't Fail"

The song itself is infectious. The groove will get into your bones and you will move. That echo effect on the horns that almost make them sound out of tune with each other is great. It sort of reminds me of Mariachi music. Echo effects in general on this track, on the organ, the horns, the bass, the vocals and anything else are what puts this into the genre of Dub, a sub genre of Reggae that typically strips the vocals out of popular songs and then has the bass and drums get reprocessed and turned into a dance hit in a different way than the original. In this case, Alimantado, who worked quite a bit with Reggae and Dub super-producer Lee "Scratch" Perry didn't strip out his own vocals, but he did put a number of dub tricks into the track.

Happy Birthday to me!

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