Born Robert Livingstone Thompson on December 14, 1943 (1944 by some accounts), in Jamaica.

Answering the call from Carnival Records in 1964 for a reggae vocal duo, Dandy Livingstone double-tracked his own voice on a demo single "What a Life," and the track sold 25,000 units. A series of rude boy hits followed for Trojan Records in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Livingstone later altered course, becoming a record producer. Decades later Livingstone's "Rudy A Message to You," "Reggae in Your Jeggae," "I'm Your Puppet," and other hits have survived as popular classics of early British reggae and ska.

Dandy Livingstone, a cousin of singer Ansel Collins, was born Robert Livingstone Thompson in Kingston, Jamaica, on December 14, 1943 (1944 by some accounts). Raised in St. Andrews, he left the island in 1959 at age 15, emigrating to England to join his parents in London. After completing his secondary education in Britain, Livingstone enrolled at an engineering college, in an apprenticeship program for toolmaking.

Livingstone had a piano-playing friend, Floyd, who sparked Livingstone's interest in music in 1963. Honing his talent as a singer, he jammed to Floyd's music in a West London studio most nights after school. Another tenant in their building recorded some of Livingstone's vocals and later released the songs on Planetone, unbeknownst to Livingstone. The owner of the building was Lee Gopthal, an executive at Trojan Records. In 1964 Gopthal referred Livingstone to Carnival Records, a startup label being launched by Cross-Bow.

Carnival, in search of West Indian acts, had expressed a desire to record a duo, which Livingstone accommodated easily by tracking over his own voice on tape, for a two-record deal. The tracks were released, and credited to an imaginary pair called Sugar and Dandy, their names chosen to capture the persona of Livingstone's sweet voice and impeccable dress. Radio Caroline, a popular offshore radio station, picked up one of the sides, a song called "What a Life," and aired the track, providing generous endorsements and play time. The record sold 25,000 copies and became a respectable hit for the unknown Livingstone. In keeping with the notion that the recordings had been taped by two singers, Livingstone shared the stage for live performances with a singer named Roy Smith, but the partnership was brief. Livingstone later teamed for public appearances with Tito "Sugar" Simone, and this collaboration proved more stable. Simone was a soloist in his own right, and when he recorded a single track, "Oh Lawdy Miss Clawdy," in 1964, it was released as the B side of Livingstone's Carnival single "Vipers." Simone later established a career on his own.

While still attending school Livingstone continued his singing career, and in 1967 signed with Ska Beat Records. Soon after making the deal, Livingstone released a long-playing vinyl disc for Ska Beat, Rocksteady with Dandy, calling himself Dandy & His Group. In good company at Ska Beat---where other artists included the Wailers, Don Drummond, and Baba Brooks---Livingstone contributed to the label's growth. Founded in North London's Stamford Hill district, Ska Beat Records grew into one of the top three ska labels in Britain, surpassed only by Melodisc and Island Records. His 1967 release, "Rudy A Message to You," entered the top 50 and realized total sales of 30,000 units.

In 1968 Livingstone moved behind the scenes and began producing songs for Audrey Hall. He also joined his client on a duo billing called Dandy and Audrey. In addition to releasing several singles as Dandy and Audrey, the pair recorded an album, I Need You, which appeared in 1969, with a follow-up album in 1970. Other Livingstone productions of that era included The Marvels' self-titled debut album; a Nicky Thomas hit, "Suzanne Beware of the Devil"; and "Red Red Wine," which was a 1969 chart hit for Tony Tribe.

In the wake of Livingstone's popularity, Trojan Records signed the singer in 1968 and used two Livingstone albums to launch its first-ever album catalog. The albums, Follow That Donkey and Dandy Returns, were credited to yet another Livingstone pseudo-group, called Dandy & The Brother Dan All Stars. Soon afterward Trojan authorized Gopthal to establish Down Town Records, a new label created for the purpose of spotlighting Livingstone, both as a solo artist and as a producer. Among Livingstone's early Down Town hits was a 1968 single named for a traditional Jamaican adage, "Move Your Mule." He gained attention with "Reggae in Your Jeggae" in 1969 and followed in 1970 with the hit "Raining in My Heart," which sold more than 130,0000 units. Also popular in 1969 was the Down Town single track "I'm Your Puppet." The single "Take a Letter Maria," however, failed to chart in 1970. Likewise the second Dandy and Audrey album, Morning Side of the Mountain, proved disappointing, causing Livingstone to return to Jamaica on sabbatical.

With well over five dozen double-sided singles to his credit and a handful of albums by that time, Livingstone's incentive waned, as did his sense of fulfillment, despite a collection of published compositions and hundreds of thousands of records sold. Still on hiatus in 1972, he recorded "Big City" and his own version of "Suzanne Beware of the Devil," before returning to England. He scored a major hit with "Suzanne Beware of the Devil," which was released as a single on Horse in 1972 and later served as the title track on a Trojan compilation album in 2002. "Big City" appeared on Horse in 1973, and the record charted, climbing to a respectable number 27.

After aligning with Mooncrest Records in 1973, Livingstone released a very personal composition called "Black Star," as a double-sided single with "All Strung Out On You." He also recorded the full-length album Conscious, which reflected his perception of the status of black men in society, particularly those from the West Indies. Both "Black Star" and the Mooncrest debut album are considered to be among his finest works. Back in Britain he recorded eleven tracks at Byron Lee's Dynamic studio, releasing a self-titled album in 1973. A reprise of "Suzanne Beware Of The Devil" broke into the British charts at number 14 in 1972. "Big City," released as a single in 1973, made strides as well.

Regarded as a so-called rude boy singer, Livingstone attracted a diverse fan base, appealing to ska enthusiasts as well as the punk-fused 2-tone ska revivalists of the 1980s. And the skinhead movement raised "Suzanne Beware of the Devil" to anthemic status.

In discussing his art and his career in the Hamlyn compilation Black Music, Livingstone cited the critical successes of Conscious and "Black Star." He commented, "When I sat down to write the song ["Black Star"] I realised that many black artists should be earning much more bread than they are at present. Even in America ... the white artist still earns more! A black artist is just as good as a white artist if not better, right! So we shouldn't still be struggling to get an equal share." Indeed, Livingstone achieved immense popularity among British reggae pioneers and others of his genre, but remained largely unknown among media pundits of that era and beyond.

by G. Cooksey

Dandy Livingstone's Career

Major label debut single on Carnival Records, billed as Sugar and Dandy, 1964; produced records, late 1960s; seen in live performances with Roy Smith; later paired with Tito "Sugar" Simone; signed with Ska Beat Records, billed as Dandy & His Group, 1967; single "Rudy A Message to You" charted, 1967; produced for and sang with Audrey Hall, 1968; produced for Tony Tribe, The Marvels, and Nicky Thomas; signed as a solo artist with Trojan Records, 1968; sabbatical to Jamaica, 1971-72; signed with Mooncrest Records, 1973; self-titled album released, 1973.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 13 years ago

Who is Del Of Dandy and Del On So Long Baby?What is the record Number on Blue Beat?

over 15 years ago

well, does anyone knows why Dany is not singing anymore? Or does he?