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About Jackie Opel

Born in 1938 in Bridgetown, Barbados, Jackie Opel (his real name was Dalton Bishop) was a musical superstar in his homeland when he moved to Kingston, Jamaica, in 1962, quickly joining the legendary Skatalites as an occasional vocalist and bass player. At ease in several genres, including calypso, ska, jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, soul, and the Barbados reggae/calypso mento-like hybrid he unwittingly helped create called spouge, Opel was rumored to have had a six-octave singing voice, not to mention considerable dexterity as a dancer, and he soon became known as "the Jackie Wilson of Jamaica."

Among his classic ska and early rocksteady hits for Coxsone Dodd's Studio One and Justin Yap's Top Deck labels are "Old Rockin' Chair," "Turn Your Lamp Down Low," "Sit Down Servant" (actually a version of the ribald "Push Wood," which was supposedly recorded in 1955, making it easily the first ska vocal record), "Turn to the Almighty," "Valley of Green," and two late-'60s recordings with the Wailers, "A Time to Cry" and "The Mill Man," both of which featured harmony vocals from Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. Opel favored American soul and gospel inflections in his vocal approach, and with his James Brown-like stage show, he was poised for international stardom when he died in a car accident while visiting his native Barbados in 1970. ~ Steve Leggett

Bridgetown, Barbados

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