Jerry Dammers

The Specials' Jerry Dammers chats about the winding path that the British protest music has meandered down since punk.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 16 Jul 2014
  • min read
‘The Specials came in the wake of punk, when people were talking about real life and real issues,’ remembers the band’s founder and main songwriter Jerry Dammers.

‘Looking back now, it was in a much wider tradition of protest music, even though we thought we were doing something new at the time...

'But protest music doesn't even have to have lyrics - jungle and dubstep are newer forms, like jazz was before them.’

Jerry is talking about the parallels between his own career and the winding path that the British protest music has meandered down.

Through the two-tone and ska outfit The Specials, Jerry and his bandmates shaped the pop narrative in the late seventies and early eighties, both with their wildly eclectic approach to music-making and their strident lyricism.

Together with likeminded bands like The Clash and The Jam, The Specials railed against Thatcherism, racism and the birth of 1980s hyper-consumerism.

But it wasn’t all about the rampant politicisation of pop – The Specials brought fun and frivolity to the top of the charts with their deft blend of rocksteady, reggae, ska and punk.

We caught up with Jerry at The Ivors earlier this year, where he received the coveted Inspiration Award, to chat about his musical muses and hear his thoughts on UK protest music traditions.

Jerry and his Spatial AKA Orchestra play at the Barbican, London, on Friday 18 July. For more information and tickets, please visit