DJ David Rodigan embraced reggae music since the 1970s and his autobiography is a record of a wealth of history about a globally influential genre. Rodigan: My Life In Reggae reads as a potted history of the musical genre, starting with chapters titled Bob Marley and The Birth of Sound System, on to Toasting, Lovers Rock and Dancehall, to finish with Dubstep and his pathway into new endeavours with the chapter New Roots. These chapters trace Rodigan’s life as it becomes entwined – and is good signposting into the evolution of reggae music in the UK.
Rodigan’s passionate embrace of reggae music started as a teenager when he became smitten by Jamaica’s sweet-faced Millie Small belting out the song My Boy Lollipop back in 1964 as he watched the family black and white television. The song enjoyed chart success in the UK becoming number one and in the US at number two.
Rodigan’s formative years in reggae existed in a world where music arrived on something called ‘vinyl’ in a special ‘grip’ from Jamaica. These discs were then played on a turntable in hallowed gatherings in places called ‘record shops’ in central London or Brixton, to enthralled men (it was rare to find a woman in such places). File-sharing hadn’t arrived, a cloud really was something fluffy in the sky – and if an artist had a mixtape, it would exist on cassette. Woe-betied if you wanted to rewind any track!
His career moved on into recognisable arenas. Sampling the dub-plate of reggae legend Sugar Minott’s Hard Time Pressure, Rodigan would begin his show of 11-years at Capital Radio. Called Roots Rockers, the programme played authoritative tunes which pre-loaded revelers for their night’s clubbing. The show was essential listing if you’re of a certain ‘vintage’ from an African Caribbean background in Britain.
As he became more knowledgeable about reggae music, David became almost indistinguishable between other Jamaican descended DJs – out of sight. It was mighty perplexing when he became more media-visible and one was confronted by a balding white man who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a middle-class accountancy firm.
He received a lot of flak through accusations that he was only given a platform because he was a novelty, a white man in a black man’s music world. But he was unrepentant and unrelenting in his championing of the music rather than for personal gain. In 2012, he put his money where his mouth was (so to speak) and left Kiss FM after 22 years when the radio station pushed reggae music in to a grave-yard scheduling slot.
Rodigan My Life if Reggae can be purchased here.