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» GUEST RUNDOWNS » VETERAN SINGER DENNIS “THE DRIFTER” WALKS – BEMOANS THE STATE OF TODAY’S MUSIC!

VETERAN SINGER DENNIS “THE DRIFTER” WALKS – BEMOANS THE STATE OF TODAY’S MUSIC!

BY CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON——

CONTEMPORARY reggae artists have lost the art of songwriting. So says veteran singer Dennis Walks, who believes that great lyrics and melodies are the main ingredients for music with staying power.

Walks, whose hit songs include Margaret, Drifter and Heart Don’t Leap, says while he enjoys some of today’s dancehall beats, he is not impressed with the lyrics.

WALKS… they need to do songs that kids and grannies can listen to

“They need to do songs that kids and grannies can listen to,” said Walks. “What I have noticed is that if you are not chanting something lewd you don’t get big forwards for it.”

Substantive writing was a big part of Jamaican music when the Spanish Town-born Walks started his recording career in 1963 at the Treasure Isle label of producer Duke Reid.

“After friends heard me singing they encouraged me to visit Duke Reid and see if he would voice me,” he recalled, adding that after his audition, Reid looked at him and exclaimed, “Better luck next time!”

A determined Walks waited three months before auditioning again. He got the green light second time around and the result was his first recording, Dream Boat.

His greatest success, however, came with Spanish Town producer Harry Mudie, for whom he did Drifter and Heart Don’t Leap.

Walks set the pace for Spanish Town acts like Papa San, Lieutenant Stitchie, Dirtsman and Lutan Fyah. He is not happy with the music scene there now.

“Back in the day, I had to seek earnestly to get a good producer and it didn’t matter how long it took, I was committed to it,” he said. “After three months they get bored and feel they should get a ‘buss’ already.”

Walks regrets not learning much about the business side of the music early in his career.

“In those days I knew nothing about publishing. I was just happy to record and now my works are out there and someone else is collecting for it,” he said.

He advises up-and-coming artists not to make the same mistake.

“When you do recording, make sure your publishing is right, sign up with a performing rights society or you won’t get as much out of the business.”

Walks recently released his latest album, Gwani Gwani, in England.

 

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