Two Tone Music Loses Drummer John Bradbury - RIP

by Joshua B. Hoe The Specials by The Specials uploaded by Joshua B. Hoe

As you probably already know, I am a drummer.

If you have read the blog at all, you also probably know that the fusion between punk + reggae that so influenced The Clash (and also the two-tone movement in Britain) forms the heart of how I look at music.

My heart is full of the intersections created between genres of urban roots music.

And today my heart is full of sadness at the loss of John Bradbury.

Viva Specials, Viva John Bradbury

One of my earliest favorite Ska bands was The Specials.

And today, John Bradbury drummer for The Specials, The Specials AKA, and of the more recently reformed Specials, passed away.


Bradbury was technically the second drummer for The Specials, but he was the drummer on most of the songs you know.

And The Specials were a groundbreaking, important band.

Jerry Dammers, a member of The Specials, created the Two-Tone record label which also had a huge impact on my life.

The entire idea of Two-Tone was an explicitly anti-racist idea, it was a desire to integrate and transcend racism culturally through music (at a time in Britain when the right wing extremists were gaining power).

It was a musical call to arms to fight racism and oppose fascism.

If you are not familiar with the two-tone period, you should check out The Specials, The Selecter, and Madness, and I was always a fan of The Beat (in the US called "The English Beat").

I am a bit reluctant to include Madness in that group because they were sometimes associated with right-wing hooligans. They were still a pretty important group, and probably the most commercially successful of the bunch.

I was very influenced by Two-Tone, I was a young punk in the early 80's and part of the cultural discussion going on in American punk music involved the exact same arguments between cultural forces.

In other words, I myself ran into my own share of racist punks.

I felt - and still feel - that Punk at its best was/is, to me, about the integration of styles and cultures, that it was about fusion not fascism.

That message could not be any more relevant today.

And I don't want to forget The Specials AKA, I wore out the song "Free Nelson Mandela" when it came out (you know you got to...Freeeeee Nelson Mandelllla! You got to...).

Many of you are probably more familiar with the wave of pop-ska that became part of the fabric of much of the music that was popular in the late 80's - oddly enough often made by these same artists in different combinations.

Bands you might remember, General Public, Fine Young Cannibals, Fun Boy Three etc.

These waves influenced American two-tone artists, some of who became popular in the 90's, for instance, Mighty Mighty Bosstones come to mind.

John Bradbury, You Will Be Missed

Often the rhythm section of a band is what first draws me to the music. It is why I love Peter Hook so much, It is why I love Kim Gordon so much, It is why I will always love Stewart Copeland.

Playing ska and reggae is a whole different feel from most rock music, and ska is very much about feel.

John Bradbury was a great drummer, and at least here, he will be sorely missed.

I will be spending the rest of my day listening to The Specials.


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