Ranking Roger

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Ranking Roger
Ranking Roger - Godiva Festival 2015.JPG
Ranking Roger at Godiva Festival (Coventry), 2015
Background information
Birth nameRoger Charlery
Born(1963-02-21)21 February 1963
Birmingham, England
Died26 March 2019(2019-03-26) (aged 56)
Birmingham, England
Genres 2-tone, ska, new wave, punk rock, electronic
Instruments Vocals, toasting
Years active1978–2019
Labels IRS, Paras
Associated acts The Beat, General Public, Big Audio Dynamite, Dum Dum Boys

Roger Charlery (21 February 1963 – 26 March 2019), known professionally as Ranking Roger, [1] [2] [3] [4] was a British musician. He was a vocalist in the 1980s two-tone band the Beat (known in North America as the English Beat) and later General Public. He subsequently headed up a reformed Beat lineup.


The "Ranking" moniker is short for "top-ranking" or "high-ranking", and was a titular boast common amongst reggae music MCs. [5]

Early life

Roger Charlery was born in Birmingham, England, and grew up in the Small Heath area of the city. [6] The son of Jean Baptiste Charlery and his wife Anne Marie, he was of West Indian descent; his mother and father were from Saint Lucia. He attended Archbishop Williams school, and while still at school began deejaying with reggae sound systems before becoming a drummer with the Dum Dum Boys in 1978. [7] [8] [9]


Roger became a punk rock fan as a teenager and was the drummer in the Dum Dum Boys before joining ska revival pioneers the Beat in the late 1970s. The Dum Dum Boys' first gig was with the Beat and his burgeoning friendship with them meant he began to gatecrash their gigs, take the mic, and start toasting. [10] He had appeared on stage, toasting and singing with them, many times before officially joining the band. His energetic style and Jamaican-influenced vocals, paired with Dave Wakeling, were crucial in distinguishing the band from the other second-wave ska bands. The Beat released three albums: the critically acclaimed and seminal I Just Can't Stop It (1980), Wha'ppen? (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982). [2]

Music journalist Richard Grabel wrote in 1985: "In the Beat, his role was mainly to 'toast' — Jamaican slang for the rhythmic raps that Roger would interject into the middle of the Beat's songs. But those toasts often contained the songs' most important emotional messages. Beyond that, Roger was the one whose looseness and humor, great dancing and general presence made the Beat happen on stage." [11]

In 1981, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of the Clash invited him to sing on a version of "Rock the Casbah" which was released in 2015. [12]

After the Beat's 1983 break-up, Roger and Wakeling formed General Public with former members of Dexys Midnight Runners and Horace Panter of the Specials. [13] Roger took more of a leading role with vocals in this group. [11] They released the album All the Rage , aided by the single "Tenderness". Three years later, they released Hand to Mouth , which was less successful, and the band split up.

In 1995, Roger and Wakeling reformed General Public with a new supporting band, and released the album Rub It Better. The duo also worked on various projects and reunited for the 1994 Threesome soundtrack, recording a cover of "I'll Take You There". [14]

Roger released Radical Departure, his first solo album, in 1988 which included band members Panter and Fuzz Townshend. [15] The single "So Excited" reached #23 on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart. [16] On 2001's Inside My Head, Roger pursued a more dance/electronic sound. [17]


In the early 1990s, Roger joined members of the Specials to form the new band Special Beat which released two live albums. [18] In 1996, he sang back-up and toasting on the new version of "The Bed's Too Big Without You" on Sting's "Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot" CD-Maxi single. The rock band Smash Mouth featured Roger on their song "You Are My Number One" in 2003. [19]

He collaborated with Pato Banton in 1995 on "Bubbling Hot", which reached number 15 on the UK single charts. [20]

Ranking Roger, with his daughter Saffren Murphy and son Ranking Junior Ranking Roger, Daughter and Ranking Junior.JPG
Ranking Roger, with his daughter Saffren Murphy and son Ranking Junior

In 2005, the Beat re-formed, with Roger and Everett Morton of the original line-up, with Roger's son, Ranking Junior also on vocals. Performing some new material, the Beat performed at Glastonbury the same year, where Roger was joined by Ranking Junior. [21]

Roger sang on "Roxanne" on stage with the Police on their 2007 world tour. [22] He was a guest performer on Big Audio Dynamite's seventh album Higher Power in 1994 when the band were known as simply 'Big Audio'. He later became a member of Big Audio Dynamite for their final studio album Entering a New Ride (1997). [23]

Roger contributed to Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge, written by Daniel Rachel and published in 2016. [24]

Later work

Roger continued to lead the Beat and tours throughout Europe as well as works on solo projects. In his last years he released a series of new albums. 2013 saw the release of Retrospective, an album of solo work recorded over the 25 years since the break-up of General Public, featuring various artists and producers including Sly and Robbie, [25] and songs such as "Bubbling Hot" (the 1994 hit collaboration with Pato Banton) and a cover of "The Bed's Too Big Without You" (first recorded with Sting for the 1996 film The Truth About Cats & Dogs [26] ).

Live in London was released in 2013 – a live recording of the Beat playing at 229 The Venue, featuring some of their greatest hits as well as new tracks by Roger and Ranking Junior. [27]

2014’s Pop Off the Head Top consisted of entirely new compositions, including additional vocals and song writing from Ranking Junior. They recorded tracks for this project with Hugh Harris from London, Dopegrinders from Brighton and Mr. Anonymous from Colorado. Other key tracks involved the Italian producer AleXannA whose version of “16 Tons” features vocals by Roger, Ranking Junior, and Roger’s daughter Saffren Murphy. [28]

Rock the Casbah, [29] released in 2015 in collaboration with the charity Strummerville (founded by the friends and family of Joe Strummer to support aspiring musicians and projects that create social mobility through music) is a five-track EP which features a previously unheard version of "Rock the Casbah", which Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of the Clash had asked Roger to sing on back in 1981, re-recorded by the Brighton producers Dopegrinders, and using the original stems donated by Mick Jones. The EP features new tracks by Roger, Ranking Junior and Hugh Harris as well as a re-working of "Muscle Ska", co-written by Roger and Neville Staple from the Specials.

In September 2016, DMF released Bounce; the first new album by the Beat in 30 years. Written by Ranking Roger, Mick Lister and Ranking Junior, it was produced by Mick Lister and mixed by Tim Hamill and Mick Lister, with the exception of "Side to Side" and "My Dream", which were mixed by Dennis Bovell. The album was recorded in Roger's 'eco-friendly hideaway' – a round recording studio in his back garden, which he called The Pod. [8] [30] The album received generally positive reviews [31] with reviewers typically praising the band's 'passionately political edge' [32] and pointing to how the album 'encompasses every aspect of one of the most musically diverse bands to come out of the multi-racial, multi-cultural explosion that made British pop music what it was in the 80’s'. [33]

The band continues to tour and currently features Roger’s son Ranking Junior (real name Matthew Murphy), with drummers Oscar Harrison of Ocean Colour Scene and Fuzz Townshend of Pop Will Eat Itself. The line-up is completed by Chiko Hamilton on sax, bass guitarist Andy Pearson, Ex. Bad Manners and Specialbeat guitarist Andy Perriss and Bobby Bird of Higher Intelligence Agency. [30] [34]

In 2017, the Beat joined fellow 2-tone band the Selecter for a co-headline UK tour, [35] Owing to demand, the tour was extended to cover other countries. [36] [37]

In early August 2018, Ranking Roger was hospitalised with a suspected mini-stroke. He recuperated at home, but cancelled planned live shows in the United Kingdom and United States. The band had just finished recording an album and Roger had written his autobiography, I Just Can't Stop It, published June 2019. [38] [39]

Personal life and death

Roger had five children, including son Ranking Junior (Matthew Murphy) and daughter Saffren who both featured with their father in a Beat revival band. [9]

In January 2019, it was announced that Roger had undergone surgery for two brain tumours, and was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. [13] He died at his home in Birmingham on 26 March 2019 at the age of 56. [40] [41] [42]

In 2021, Ranking Junior teamed up with The Ordinary Boys to record a tribute single to his father called "Legacy". [43]


Related Research Articles

General Public

General Public were an English band formed by vocalists Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, and which also included former members of Dexys Midnight Runners, the Specials and the Clash. They are best remembered for their hits "Tenderness" (1984) and "I'll Take You There" (1994).

The Specials

The Specials, also known as The Special AKA, are an English 2 Tone and ska revival band formed in 1977 in Coventry. After some early changes, the first stable lineup of the group consisted of Terry Hall and Neville Staple on vocals, Lynval Golding and Roddy Radiation on guitars, Horace Panter on bass, Jerry Dammers on keyboards, John Bradbury on drums, and Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez on horns. Their music combines a "danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk's energy and attitude". Lyrically, they present a "more focused and informed political and social stance".

Ska punk is a fusion genre that mixes ska music and punk rock music together. Ska-core is a subgenre of ska punk that mixes ska with hardcore punk. Early ska punk mixed both 2 Tone and ska with hardcore punk. Ska punk tends to feature brass instruments, especially horns such as trumpets, trombones and woodwind instruments like saxophones, making the genre distinct from other forms of punk rock. It is closely tied to third wave ska which reached its zenith in the mid 1990s.

Neville Staple

Neville Eugenton Staple is a Jamaica-born English singer for the 2-tone ska band The Specials as well as his own band, The Neville Staple Band. He also sang with Ranking Roger in Special Beat.

Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake is an American ska punk band from Gainesville, Florida, formed in 1992. The band consists of Chris DeMakes, Roger Lima, Matt Yonker (drums), Buddy Schaub (trombone) and Peter "JR" Wasilewski (saxophone).

The Beat (British band)

The Beat are a band founded in Birmingham, England, in 1978. Their music fuses Latin, ska, pop, soul, reggae and punk rock.

<i>I Just Cant Stop It</i> 1980 studio album by the Beat

I Just Can't Stop It is the debut album by English two-tone band the Beat. The album was released in 1980 via Go-Feet Records in the United Kingdom. It was released the same year in the United States on Sire Records under the band name "The English Beat". In Australia, it was released on Go-Feet under the band name "The British Beat".

Rachid Taha Algerian singer

Rachid Taha was an Algerian singer and activist based in France described as "sonically adventurous". His music was influenced by many different styles including rock, electronic, punk and raï.

Topper Headon

Nicholas Bowen "Topper" Headon is an English drummer, best known as the drummer of punk rock band the Clash.

Rock the Casbah 1982 single by The Clash

"Rock the Casbah" is a song by the English punk rock band The Clash, released in 1982. The song was released as the second single from their fifth album, Combat Rock. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US and, along with the track "Mustapha Dance", it also reached number eight on the dance chart.

<i>All the Rage</i> (General Public album) 1984 studio album by General Public

All the Rage is the debut studio album by English band General Public, released on 28 January 1984 by I.R.S. Records. It was recorded digitally. After his expulsion from the Clash, Mick Jones was a founding member of General Public. Though he is listed in the credits of the album as a member, Jones left General Public part way through the recording process and was replaced by Kevin White. White's picture appears on the back cover; Jones' picture does not. Jones did play guitar on many of the album's tracks however, including "Tenderness". The album spent 39 weeks on the US Billboard 200 chart and reached its peak position of No. 26 in mid-February 1985. However, it failed to chart in their home country.

Dave Wakeling

David Wakeling is an English singer, songwriter and musician, known for his work with the band the Beat, and General Public.

David "Shuffle" Steele is an English musician who was a member of the Beat and Fine Young Cannibals.

Vic Ruggiero

Victor "Vic" Ruggiero, is a musician, songwriter and producer from New York City who has played in reggae, blues, ska and rocksteady bands since the early 1990s, including The Slackers, Stubborn All-Stars, SKAndalous All Stars, Crazy Baldhead and The Silencers. He has also performed with punk rock band Rancid, both live and in the studio. He has released four solo acoustic albums and continues to tour and record worldwide. Ruggiero is known primarily as a singer and organist, although he also plays piano, bass, banjo, cigar box guitar, guitar, harmonica and percussion.

<i>Special Beat Service</i> 1982 studio album by the Beat

Special Beat Service was the third album by British ska band the Beat. Like the rest of their material, it was released in the US under the name "the English Beat". It reached #39 on the Billboard 200 album chart in 1983 on the strength of two singles, "I Confess" and "Save It for Later," the videos for which received modest airplay on the fledgling MTV video network.

<i>Whappen?</i> 1981 studio album by the Beat

Wha'ppen? is the second album by the British ska band the Beat, released in 1981 via Go Feet Records in the United Kingdom and Sire Records in the United States. After the critical and commercial success of I Just Can't Stop It (1980), which mixed ska, reggae and punk rock with social lyrics, the band changed direction on Wha'ppen?, taking influence from many other musical styles which were intriguing the band, including African, steel band and dub music, while keeping reggae at its core. The fast pace of the band's previous work is also exchanged for a slower, mid-tempo pace. At odds with the music is the socially conscious and political lyrics. The band recorded the record at Roundhouse Studios with producer Bob Sargeant.

<i>Hand to Mouth</i> (album) 1986 studio album by General Public

Hand to Mouth is the second album by General Public, released in 1986.

<i>Rub It Better</i> 1995 studio album by General Public

Rub It Betteris the third album by General Public, released in 1995 when the band reformed after almost ten years.

Mirror in the Bathroom

"Mirror in the Bathroom" is a single by British ska band The Beat released as a single in 1980 from their debut album I Just Can't Stop It. It reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart and consequently was their highest charting release in the UK until 1983. It was released again in 1995 as a CD single to promote B.P.M.: The Very Best of the Beat. The reissued single reached number 44 in 1996.

Keys N Krates is a Canadian electronic music band formed in 2008 out of Toronto, Ontario. The group consists of drummer Adam Tune, keyboardist David Matisse and turntablist Jr. Flo. The band started as a live hip-hop act reliant on rough a cappella loops on top of heavy bass-driven beats, and have since become a tight-knit trio of producers/performers.


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