Jerry Dammers

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Jerry Dammers
Jerry Dammers djs in 2009
Jerry Dammers djs in 2009
Background information
Birth nameJeremy David Hounsell Dammers
Born (1955-05-22) 22 May 1955 (age 65)
Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu, India
OriginCoventry, England
GenresSka, 2 Tone
Occupation(s)Keyboardist, songwriter, DJ
InstrumentsKeyboards, turntables
Years active1977–present
Labels2 Tone Records (as per The Specials)
Associated actsThe Specials The Special AKA The Spatial AKA Orchestra

Jeremy David Hounsell Dammers[1] (born 22 May 1955) is a British musician who is a founder, keyboard player and primary songwriter of the Coventry, England, based ska revival band The Specials, The Special A.K.A. and The Spatial AKA Orchestra. He also founded 2 Tone Records.


Dammers was born in Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu, South India, the son of Horace Dammers who was later Dean of Bristol Cathedral from 1973 to 1987. Jerry Dammers attended King Henry VIII School, Coventry.

Dammers was a mod in the 1960s, then became a hippie, before becoming a skinhead.[2] He had been a member of The Cissy Stone Soul Band, and studied art at Coventry's Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University), where he met Horace Panter.[2]

He founded 2 Tone Records,[3] which helped develop the 1970s/1980s ska revival. He became an anti-apartheid campaigner, helping to create Artists Against Apartheid in the U.S., and writing the song "Free Nelson Mandela" about the jailed African National Congress leader in South Africa. In 1985, in the wake of the Band Aid single, he organised the recording and release of the "Starvation" single, a version of The Pioneers' 1969 song, in aid of famine relief in Africa, featuring members of The Special AKA, UB40, Madness, The Pioneers, and The Beat.[4] In early 1986, he took part in the Red Wedge tour that also featured The Style Council, The Communards, and Junior Giscombe. He also introduced Simple Minds to producer Tony Hollingsworth and they became the first major act to agree to perform at Hollingsworth's Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert, which was broadcast worldwide from London's Wembley Stadium, on 11 June 1988. That same year, he briefly played with the re-formed Madness on their single "I Pronounce You" and its attendant album, The Madness.

In October 2000 Dammers received Q magazine's Q Merit Award at London's Park Lane Hotel.[5]

Dammers still regularly DJs in English nightclubs, as well as performing with his band, The Spatial AKA Orchestra, playing his own compositions and tributes to Sun Ra and other experimental jazz artists. The band features established jazz musicians Zoe Rahman, Larry Stabbins and Denys Baptiste. They perform in elaborate Ancient Egyptian and outer space-themed costumes, and share the stage with bizarre props such as model alien heads and mummy sarcophagi. Renowned trombonist Rico Rodriguez also featured in a number of shows.

In November 2006, Dammers was awarded an honorary degree from Coventry University, celebrating by DJing at the launch party of the Coventry branch of the Love Music Hate Racism organisation. In the same month, he attended a private viewing of a Harry Pye curated art exhibition in east London that featured paintings of bands and singers that had once been championed by the late BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Dammers read out a four-page poem, in which he thanked Peel for helping his own band, and for supporting black musicians.

Carl Barât of The Libertines included a Dammers composition, "Too Much Too Young", on his personal compilation album Under The Influence. Pete Doherty, former member of The Libertines, namechecked "What I Like Most About You is Your Girlfriend" on Down in Albion, the first Babyshambles album. The song "Merry Go Round" contains the lyrics "He says, 'What I like most about you, Pete/Is your girlfriend and your shoes.'" Those who have recorded a song written by Dammers include Tricky ("Ghost Town"), The Prodigy ("Ghost Town") and Elvis Costello ("What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend").

Dammers has produced singles for Robert Wyatt, The Untouchables, UB40 and Junior Delgado. He contributed "Riot City" to the soundtrack of the Julien Temple film, Absolute Beginners, and "Brightlights" to the compilation album Jamming: A New Optimism.

In April 2014, Dammers received the South African Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo in silver award, a national honour, for his role in the anti-apartheid movement. "It feels fantastic. It is a real honour to be considered for this, especially when I compare what little I did to the work of those who sacrificed their lives, I am humbled," he said.[6] In November 2015 he received an honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University.[7]

Solo discography[edit]


  1. ^ "American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers: Jeremy David Hounsell Dammers". ASCAP. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon:"Rip It Up and Start Again", 2005, Faber & Faber, ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6
  3. ^ Reynolds, Simon (February 2006). "Chapter 14: Ghost Dance: 2-Tone and the ska resurrection". Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984 (paperback) (US ed.). Penguin Books. ISBN 1-4295-2667-X. But Dammers held out for a label deal, for 2-Tone as an entity, and got one from Chrysalis. The alliance between the major label and the Coventry independent required Chrysalis to fund the recording of fifteen 2-Tone singles a year and release at least ten.
  4. ^ Thrills, Adrian (1985) "International Rescue", NME, 2 February 1985, p. 22-23, 32
  5. ^ Lister, David (1 November 2000). "Tune in, mouth off, walk out. Q Awards show bad side of industry – News – Music". The Independent. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  6. ^ Khulekani Magubane (28 April 2014). "Zuma honours 'heroes' at National Orders ceremony | National". BDlive. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  7. ^ Sheffield Hallam University. "2 Tone founder awarded honorary doctorate". Sheffield Hallam University. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Various - Absolute Beginners (Songs From The Original Motion Picture)". Discogs.
  9. ^ "Various - Monsterism Night". Discogs.
  10. ^ "Various - Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute". Discogs.

External links[edit]