Rhoda Dakar performing with The Specials, London, November 2016
Where are you from?
Laandan. Born in the London Borough of Hampstead, now part of Camden, growing up in Brixton, in Lambeth. So, born north, grew up south and my Grannie lived in Gloucester Road, west London, where I spent lots of time. East London, apart from Petticoat Lane market, was a mystery to me until I was in my 30s!
What do you do?
Music - I sing, write, play, DJ and teach it.
Describe your style in three words?
Smart, quirky, colourful.
Best gig you have ever been to?
Luther Vandross supporting Chaka Khan, in New York, August 1981. I was in New York with The Specials and ‘Never Too Much’ was on the radio about every ten minutes, it seemed. Nobody minded, it was a great tune. We were offered guest tickets for Chaka Khan and Luther Vandross was the support. He was brilliant. However, the best ever moment at a gig came when he sang the opening lines, “Never too much, never too much, never too much”. The crowd absolutely lost their minds! Chaka Khan had to follow it and wasn’t on the best form, sadly. August Darnell (Kid Creole) was head of our party and insisted we leave!
The most influential British single ever released?
Tough one, but I’ll go for ‘Anarchy In The UK’. So much British music is influential on the world stage, but this one spread the word far and wide. It didn’t introduce Punk in the UK, it was already happening, but it sent the idea around the world. I know The Beatles did the same sort of thing, but it took more than one single.
If you could play with any musical artist from history?
I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow, but today I’m going for Sam Cooke. The idea of an African American artist and songwriter having his own record label, publishing and then management companies back then was revolutionary. Imagine singing backing vocals on ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’!
What British music icons inspire your sound today?
It’s still Elvis Costello for me. The musical range he explores has got me listening to things I never thought I would even like. Almost Blue, his Country music covers album, showed me that it’s just Soul music by another name. On my latest EP campaign, there’s a free download of our Reggae cover of a Country song. ‘Everyday I Write The Book’ is still one of my favourite EC tracks.
A key artist involved with the 2 Tone label and its output in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rhoda Dakar was lead singer of The Bodysnatchers and a member of The Special AKA, after the initial break up of The Specials. In 2007 she released a solo album 'Cleaning In Another Woman's Kitchen' and in 2015 revisited her Bodysnatcher era with 'Rhoda Dakar Sings the Bodysnatchers'.
Rhoda Dakar recently joined The Specials on stage for their 2016 UK dates.