Ranking Roger: “He epitomised everything that was good about British ska”

Music world pays tribute to The Beat frontman, who has died aged 56

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The Beat’s Roger Charlery AKA Ranking Roger has died aged 56, after a battle with cancer.

Reacting to the news, peers from the punk and 2-Tone movements lined up to pay tribute to the vocalist.

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“A very sad day indeed,” wrote Specials and 2-Tone label founder Jerry Dammers in a statement. “Roger was the youngest contributor to the British ska movement, his talent, boundless bouncing energy, humour, common sense politics, and very positive and friendly attitude, was an inspiration to anyone who ever met him or saw him perform, he was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

“I first met Roger when The Specials supported a punk band at Barbarellas Night Club in Birmingham,” Dammers continued. “Roger was toasting lyrics from punk songs and against the National Front, Jamaican patois style, over heavy reggae rhythms supplied by the DJ. He was only 16. A crowd were invited to an after party at another nightclub but the bouncers would not let Roger in, I suspected racism on their part, so I didn’t go in, and chatted to Roger who told me he also toasted with a band, who soon morphed into The Beat. As soon as I saw them I asked them to please put out a record on our new 2 Tone label. The Beat were a fabulous band and wrote and performed some of the very best songs in the British ska genre, with Roger’s lively toasting interjections providing the perfect foil to Dave Wakeling’s vocals. If one person had to be picked to epitomise everything that was good and positive about the British ska movement and its youthful spirit, I think it would have to be Roger.”

Neville Staple wrote on Instagram: “I’m devastated to lose Roger, my Special Beat partner! My whole band and I are so saddened and I will miss Turbo so badly. Rest up Turbo (personal name we had for each other, or Double Turbo when we performed together)”

“So sad to hear about Ranking Roger,” tweeted REM’s Mike Mills. “We loved the (English) Beat, and opened for them on multiple tours just so we could watch, listen, and learn. He and his mates brought a lot of joy into the world. R.I.P., Roger”

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Pauline Black of The Selecter said: “The Beat music embodied joy, love and unity. He was the epitome of that.”

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