Kingston, Jamaica (June 5, 2020)—A mainstay of 1980s and 90s reggae and dancehall, producer/engineer Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon died on May 21 in Kingston, Jamaica from kidney disease. Over the years, Dixon worked with the likes of Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Garnett Silk, Frankie Paul and the U.S. group Morgan Heritage, but also went on to found his own Heatwave studio and Digital B label. He was 59.
Born in 1961 in Kingston, Dixon showed an early interest in electronics, taking a correspondence course to learn home electronics repair skills, but that technical aptitude was soon married to a love of music when he and friend Michael Jemison founded a sound system in the early 1980s. Networking with the aid of Jemison, who was starting to produce local acts, Dixon began engineering four-track recordings at a studio owned by producer Lloyd “King Jammys” James, often working with producer Bunny “Striker” Lee, who in turn nicknamed him “Bobby Digital” due to his prowess with the then-emerging digital recording technology.
During his four years engineering at Jammy’s studio, Dixon recorded numerous acts, including Wayne Smith’s influential Under Mi Sleng Teng, one of the first to incorporate electronic instruments into traditional reggae. In 1988, however, Dixon went out on his own, opening his own 24-track studio, Heatwave, in his home. He soon began working with Shabba Ranks and 1992’s As Raw As Ever and the following year’s X-tra Naked, both won Grammys.
Dixon continued to work steadily throughout the Nineties and 2000s, with high-points including Sizzla’s Black Woman and Child (1997) and Da Real Thing (2002) albums; multiple albums with Morgan Heritage including Don’t Haffi Dread (1999); and others.
With Dixon’s passing, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, hailed the producer in a statement, noting, “Bobby Digital was one of the most respected record producers of his time. He paid attention to detail and brought out the best in the artists he worked with. He had a great work ethic and the studio was his playground. I had a wonderful experience working with him and I was always in awe at his ability to take the simplest ideas and turn them into chart toppers. So strong was his influence that many upcoming artistes felt their only path to stardom was to record for Bobby Digital. He was one of the producers who came from a special mold, akin to the likes of Coxsone Dodd, King Jammys and Jack Scorpio, who could direct others into making hit beats and chart-topping songs. I am sure that all the stakeholders in the music industry would agree that we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Dixon is survived by his wife Merva, three children, two grandchildren, and his sister and two brothers.