b. 1 August 1948, St. Catherine, Jamaica, West Indies. Dawkins grew up in a musical environment, with his father playing drums in a big band orchestra that entertained tourists on the island’s north coast.
Following a move to Kingston the young singer spent his formative years in the company of Jamaica’s aspiring musicians. He practised harmonies with his colleagues and eventually secured an audition with J.J. Johnson with whom he recorded his successful debut, ‘Baby I Love You’. Dawkins was an early supporter of the Rastafarian ideals, which was to thwart his musical aspirations as he was arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana. Prior to his incarceration the singer recorded the popular and prophetic, ‘Hard Times’. Following his release from jail he returned to Johnson’s studio for further recording sessions but failed to emulate his earlier success. By 1971, Dawkins, now known as Ras Carl Dawkins, began recording with Lee Perry alongside Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. With them he released the moderately successful ‘Picture On The Wall’ and ‘True Love’. The songs credited to Carl Dawkins And The Wailers were released through Trojan Records in the UK and subsequently appeared on the superbly packaged Complete UK Upsetter Singles series. While with Perry he also recorded cover versions of soul songs such as ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘Hard To Handle’, the latter of which surfaced on the 1998 compilation, Dry Acid. The subsequent phenomenal rise of the Wailers in the 70s and the legendary status of the producer resulted in these recordings turning out to be collectors’ items changing hands at high prices. Following his work with the nucleus of the Wailers, Dawkins’ tenuous links with the band continued when he formed the Youth Professionals that briefly included Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett in the line-up. The project was short-lived and Dawkins returned to the studio where he recorded ‘Doctor Rodney’, that was subsequently banned owing to its subversive lyrics. Throughout the years Dawkins maintained a high profile singing songs of the ghetto including the haunting ‘Dreadful Situation’, ‘Pluggy Brown’, ‘No Happiness Here’, ‘Ethiopia’, and the classic ‘This Land’. By the early 80s Dawkins’ profile had diminished, although in 1999 he joined Dennis Alcapone and Max Romeo at the celebrated revival show Heineken Startime in Jamaica. Dawkins is one of a number of highly respected performers in Jamaica who, sadly, was not able to reap the rewards of a career in the music industry.