Just a quick blog post about Judge Dread.
No, not Alexander Minto Hughes, the 70's King of Rudeness and apparently the holder of the record for the most banned records of all time, but the Judge Dread immortalised by Prince Buster in a series of songs around the Rude Boy violence of 60's Jamaica.
Many ska, rocksteady and reggae acts made songs about the Rude Boys, some praising their ways, others condemning them. This resulted in some classics tunes, not least of which is Buster's Judge Dread, with the Prince playing the stern Judge Hundred Years and handing down severe sentences to convicted Rude Boys in his court.
Not everyone agreed with Buster. Lee Perry for instance felt that Judge Hundred Years was too harsh and should try to understand the Rude Boys, saying 'Give them a chance your honour' in the person of Lord Defender:
Perhaps Dread had a change of heart, although initially he seemed to find appeals on behalf of the Rude Boys particularly offensive. Barrister Dreadlock ended up charged with racial injustice & slave trading and got life inside for speaking out on behalf of his clients!
Public opinion seems to have swayed him eventually though, he received 700 letters asking for leniency for the Rude Boys and he pardoned them 'under certain conditions', even providing a musician so they could celebrate with a dance:
So, what's my point? Simply this, the Rude Boy situation was one of the major social and political issues of the day and here we see two giants of the Jamaican music scene sparring publicly with records setting one point of view against the other. They did it with humour and cracking tunes too, but this is still social commentary and political discourse being played out by two of the biggest stars of the day.
So where is this today? Throughout the history of popular music there have been acts at the very top of their game prepared to go on record and wear their political opinions on their sleeves. I rarely listen to chart music today, largely because most of it is derivative shite, but also because it doesn't speak to me. Where are the top artists making songs about the current Occupy movement - for or against? I can't recall pro or anti-Iraq War songs on Top of the Pops or Radio 1. Did the recent riots result in another Ghost Town? Will we hear another Shipbuilding? Bloody hope so, but sadly I fear not.