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I was reminded of Ernest Ranglin during the initial decent of my flight into Dominica a few days ago. Sitting next to me was a young American who, along with his girlfriend, were making their first visit to the Nature Island to see a friend. He related to me that several weeks earlier, near their home in Northern California, they caught the mercurial master guitarist in concert. Like everyone else who’s ever come across the man and his music, they came away entranced.
Ernest Ranglin is a Jamaican guitarist and composer. He celebrated his 80th birthday 11 days ago. All of us who love reggae should really celebrate him every day, though.
The reason: he’s the man who invented ska.
More to the point, Ranglin invented ska’s signature guitar style, a precursor to all forms of reggae. In the history of Jamaican music, there is hardly a larger, more revered and respected figure.
Ranglin’s not one to rest on his laurels, though. According to my seatmate, Ranglin played well into the wee hours during that recent California concert, even inviting young performers to jam with him, the old man offering pointers and praise all the while.
I first came to know of Ernest Ranglin via the album that corresponds to the image above, Boss Reggae, which was released way back in 1969. My parents had it in their record collection during my 1970’s childhood in St. Croix. Click on the image and you’ll hear a few of my favorite Ranglin riddims.
Note: this is not purely a reggae mix.
You’ll hear some reggae, sure, but you may not recognize it. At different points and turns Ranglin’s music stretches from jazz and lounge/mood music, to blues to ska, dub, reggae and back again. The man can just flat play any musical form, his style and sensibilities lending a unique quality that has earned Ranglin recognition throughout his career as one of the top guitarists on the planet.
Underlying just about everything Ranglin plays is a foundation of pure sophistication; a smooth and mellow vibe guaranteed to help anyone chill out and relax.
Give it a listen and join me in paying homage to one of the forefathers of our favorite music.