Lord Tanamo, Jamaican ska and mento musician, Died at 81


Joseph Abraham Gordon was born on October 2, 1934, in Kingston and died on April 19, 2016, in Toronto.

He was better known as Lord Tanamo.

He was a Jamaican singer and songwriter.

He was best known for his mento and ska work.

Joseph was influenced by Lord Kitchener, who lived in Jamaica in the 1940s.

Gordon’s interest in music began at an early age when he heard a rumba box being played by local musician Cecil Lawes.

Joseph went on to perform locally as a teenager, singing calypsos accompanied by Lawes, and began performing in hotels in the early 1950s.

He first recorded for Kingston businessman and sound system operator Stanley Motta, and later recorded with a backing band that included Theophilus Beckford and Ernest Ranglin.

Joseph first hits included “Blues Have Got Me Down” (1960) for producer Emil Shallit.

Lord Tanamo switched to ska in the early 1960s, and was a founding member of the Skatalites, singing with the band on tracks such as “Come Down” and “I’m In The Mood For Ska”.

Lord Tanamo recorded for Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, and Lindon Pottinger in the 1960s, and had hits with adapted folk songs such as “Iron Bar” and “Matty Rag”, and had other hits with songs such as “Ol’ Fowl”.

During 1965, Joseph won the Festival Song Contest with “Come Down”.

Lord Tanamo recorded a reggae cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia”, in 1970, which was the number one hit in Jamaica for seven weeks.

Tanamo resided in Canada from the mid-1970s, where he married a local woman and opened the Record Nook shop, selling Jamaican-produced records, although he returned to Jamaica to record.

On one of his trips back he recorded the 1979 album Calypso Reggae, for Bunny Lee.

During 1990, his ska cover of “I’m in the Mood for Love”, gave him his only UK hit, reaching no. 58 in the UK Singles Chart after being featured in a television advert for Paxo in 1989.

During the year 2002, he performed as part of the ‘Legends of Ska’ concerts in Toronto, the performances recorded and released as a film in 2014.

Lord Tanamo proceeded to perform with the Skatalites into the 21st century, including a set at the 2003 Glastonbury Festival.

In January 2008, reportedly in a Jamaican newspaper that Tanamo was in a nursing home in Canada after suffering a stroke that had left him unable to speak.

Lord Tanamo passed away at 81 yrs old.