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Ranking Joe

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Ranking Joe

Real Name: Joseph Jackson
Born: July 1st, 1959
Place of Birth: Kingston, Jamaica
Official website: unknown

Ranking Joe cut his musical teeth toasting on a sound system known as Smith The Weapon. Working his way up through the ranks he became resident DJ on the El Paso sound, performing as Little Joe. His name was inspired by DJ Big Joe, who had enjoyed a hit with "Selassie Skank", and not, as many believed, by the character from Western television series Bonanza. As with so many of his Jamaican counterparts he began recording with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. His first session resulted in "Gun Court", which saw him toasting over the Heptones' "Love Me Girl", but this did not make an impression on the charts. He subsequently studied electronics before pursuing his recording career. Encouraged by his father, he enjoyed a major breakthrough when he returned to the studio to record the highly infectious "750". The hit resulted in many recordings for a number of producers, notably "Don't Give Up", "Psalm 54", "Natty Don't Make War", "Tradition", and a tribute to the bionic man, "Steve Austin". He also returned to the sound system circuit as resident DJ for U-Roy's King Sturgav, alongside Jah Screw, before it was destroyed in the violent election campaign of 1980.

Later in the same year, the Jamaican sound system Ray Symbolic Hi Fi toured the UK, giving British audiences their first taste of a real "yard" sound. As he had become the resident DJ with the system, Ranking Joe featured on the tour and a new wave of enthusiasm for his recordings followed. By 1982 he had become an international figure with the release of Weakheart Fadeaway and Saturday Night Jamdown Style. Tracks included the popular "Natty The Collie Smoker", "Nine Month Belly" and "Step It Down A Shepherds Bush". The popularity of the lewd slackness style of "Lift Up Your Frock", "Rub Sister Rub It" and "Sex Maniac" ensured an enthusiastic response to his output. Dub It In A Dance included "Clarks Booty Style", "Slackness Style" and the title track, but was not as successful. In 1982/3 he enjoyed renewed success with Disco Skate and the reissued Armageddon. Shortly after Ray Symbolic's system returned to Jamaica the promoter's life was bought to a sudden end in the streets of Kingston. The tragedy cut short Ranking Joe's career, but many of his albums are still available and remain cherished by discerning reggae fans.

Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Copyright Muze UK Ltd. 1989 - 2005
Source - BBC Music Profiles

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