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Dave Wakeling of The English Beat

Dave Wakeling
Copyright©2007 sandiego.com, Inc.

Dave Wakeling, singer/songwriter and guitarist with the iconic 80’s band, The English Beat has pushed the limits throughout his musical career. He’s a founding member of the afore-mentioned band, which became one of the first groups to integrate Reggae and Pop in Britain’s late 70’s Ska music explosion. The English Beat's message was all about unity, tolerance and acceptance of one another. In the mid-80’s, following the dissolution of his former band, Wakeling formed General Public with former English Beat member, Ranking Roger and continued to spread the same message with their music.

Today, Dave Wakeling still performs the songs of his former bands to the great delight of fans, new and old throughout the country. While being the sole founding band member, the lineup of musicians he has selected to perform with is just as tight as originally performed. In fact, they've been playing together for longer than the original band. I was lucky enough to sit down with Dave prior to a sold out show at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach recently, where he shared some thoughts on his music, life views and active involvement in charitable causes.

I asked him what it feels like to still sell out venues after all these years. Dave stated that it’s an honor and a privilege to perform the songs he created. While he doesn’t use a standard set list, he gauges the feel of his audience to select from the vast pool of former pop hits and his current material. He says his job is to make people feel as good as they possible can.

Even after 20 years, Wakeling's songwriting still reflects heavily on social issues, world change and touching human emotions. “You either have to become overjoyed, despondent or incensed, during the song writing process”, stated Wakeling. A walk in the park or a shower begins the process of finding the right phrases to express his precise emotions at a particular time. “The walk starts to make the music, the music starts to make a tune and that gets the ball rolling”. It’s often about the title of a song. It may be something that he’s been thinking about for days, weeks, or even months. Through music one can express joy or misery, for Dave he has to wait to sum up what he’s been trying to say, in a catchy phrase. “It’s personal but at the same time universal”. Dave has been visited by the writing muse lately and has begun writing a set of songs to be taken in to the studio for a new album performed with his current crew. In addition, he has been working on an acoustic version of The Beat’s former hit tunes.

The English Beat at The Belly Up Tavern.
Copyright©2007 sandiego.com, Inc.

The titles for his new songs show Dave’s passion for social and world change. The songs, “If killing works, it would have worked by now” , and “How could we hate anyone” reflect his desire for promoting peace and tolerance. Another of his new songs, ”I’m only ever lonely when I’m with you”, shows us Dave’s talent for capturing human emotion. Just like 20 years ago, the theme is the same; it’s not about judging others, but dealing with one another using compassion and tolerance.

Another cause close to Dave’s heart is an organization called, The Smile Train, an international charity that provides oral surgery to children living in third world countries. Pointing to his Smile Train blue wrist band, "This is my passion, it just touches my heart”. While he has previously been involved in such lofty organizations as Greenpeace, Dave is currently as devoted to this cause as any in his career. He says that through the training of local doctors by this organization, the current cost of the surgeries being performed for these needy children can be done for only $250. Through his efforts, Dave gets his admirers and fans to give a little of themselves toward this charity and truly make a difference in children’s lives.

Dave playing his teardrop Vox guitar.
Copyright©2007 sandiego.com, Inc.

Early in 2006, Dave found out what it was like to be a true icon among his peers and fans. After taking a tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he was contacted by the staff about having his trademark teardrop Vox guitar displayed in a place of honor next to Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain’s guitars. "It's a wonderful and humbling experience”, stated Wakeling.

Self-taught as a kid, he started to play the guitar after hearing the song “Walk away, Rene”, performed by the The Four Tops, on his father’s car radio. He was given a second-hand guitar, acquired by his father and soon learned to play it upside down, back to front and left-handed, (although he was right-handed). “It just seemed that the important stuff was the notes, and that should be done by my right hand”. After being contacted by the Hall of Fame, his first thought was, "Somehow I feel like I really ought to try to learn to play it properly before I hand it in!" Then again, maybe the way he learned to play is what gave him the uniqueness to be honored. In any case, Dave Wakeling is a truly special performer and a messenger of peace and unity.