Charlie Chaplin (born Richard Bennett) first arrived on the DJ scene when he picked up the mic for U-Roy’s King Stur-Gav Hi-Fi around 1980. Chaplin quickly emerged as one of Jamaica’s most popular entertainers and like Josey Wales he was also a serious threat to King Yellowman’s throne. His initial recordings were done for Roy Cousins and resulted in the excellent album “Red Pond” which also featured another up and coming DJ named Jim Kelly who was unfortunately murdered shortly after the album was recorded. Within a year or two he did a short stint recording for producer extraordinaire Junjo Lawes and the collaboration resulted in the LP “Sound System” and a few popular singles as well. But his popularity really exploded when he recorded a strong string of hits and albums on George Phang’s Powerhouse label. Phang’s slightly digital reinterpretations of Studio One riddims were just the right thing for Chaplin’s delivery and fans often consider that material some of his strongest.
Chaplin was/is renowned for his cultural, non-slack lyrics and is still respected for actually paving the way for DJs to chat conscious lyrics even when it strayed beyond the popular subject matter of the day. The current new wave of culturally aware DJs owe a great deal to Charlie Chaplin.
Now to answer a question that many often pose when they’re exposed to reggae’s Charlie Chaplin for the first time and I’ll quote directly from my well-read copy of the 1984 book “Reggae Inna Dance Hall Style”…
“…So we asked the final question we knew everybody wanted to know: How did you get your name – Charlie Chaplin?
‘Well back in school in the old days they called me Charlie Chaplin… and the name kinda stuck. Everybody calls me Chaplin…’
Well serious in his thoughts and works buy yet a true entertainer while performing – like his world famous predecessor, this Charlie Chaplin. Two of a kind?”
I'm sharing 5 tracks from Charlie Chaplin today and I think they represent a nice sampling of the man's ability and cultural content. All but two of the tracks are directly from vinyl that I borrowed from my friend Nick who owns quite an impressive if not complete collection of Chaplin's catalog. The first track is from Chaplin's debut album "Red Pond" and features Don Carlos on vocals - "Unity Is Strength." The second is from the LP "Quenchie" and features Jim Kelly - "Walk With Jah." The third is an Arrival 7" that I have in my Junjo collection and the song is called "International Robbery." Staying in the Junjo vein, which I've been known to do, is "We Hot" from the LP "Sound System" Finally I have a nice selection from Chaplin's time spent with George Phang - the track is called "Ram Dancehall." This track was available on one of Charlie's solo LPs but I have lifted it from a Powerhouse LP called "Yellowman Meets Charlie Chaplin." Enjoy!
Dig the spelling on that one!
In the continuing effort to present a well-rounded sampling of all of Jamaica's musical heritage...tomorrow I'm gonna take a break from the popular and give everyone a taste of the anthropological - got a couple Nyahbingi tracks from the LP "Churchical Chants of the Nyahbingi" that I'm gonna share. Stay tuned!