Rico Rodriguez

Ska legend Rico Rodriguez dies, aged 80

Rico Rodriguez, the trombonist best known for his work with The Specials, has died at the age of 80. The news was announced in a tweet from the band on Friday (September 4).

Born in Cuba in 1934, Rodriguez grew up in Jamaica where he played on countless reggae tracks in the late 1950s and early ’60s, working with such distinguished names as Prince Buster, Coxsone Dodd and Derrick Morgan. In 1961 Rico left Kingston for London, where he continued to record under his own name and as a session musician, contributing to Max Romeo’s controversial hit Wet Dream and Dandy Livingston’s Rudy, A Message To You. When The Specials covered Livingston’s hit for their second single in 1979 they turned to Rodriguez to recreate his recognisable trombone riff; A Message To You Rudy reached number 10 and gave Rico his first credit on a hit single some twenty years after his first recordings.

Rico was also credited on the sleeve of the chart-topping The Special AKA Live! EP and on the 1980 top five hit Do Nothing, becoming a full member of the band in time for their second album More Specials. After the band’s demise in 1981 Rico stayed with the 2 Tone label, releasing the albums That Man Is Forward (1981) and Jama Rico (1982) as well as contributing to The Special AKA’s 1984 album In The Studio. Although he scaled back his musical career after this, in later years he performed with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and was awarded the MBE for services to music in 2007.

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