Ranking Roger (born Roger Charlery, 21 February 1963) is 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 currently leads a reformed Beat line-up.
Roger was born in Birmingham, England, the son of Jean Baptiste Charlery. According to a 1985 article in Mother Jones Magazine, he is of West Indian descent. His mother was from Saint Lucia. Roger has four sisters: Greta, Annie, Sandra, and Equilar, who was a backing singer for him. He also has a half brother and sister, Kevin and Sarah Charlery.
Roger became a punk rock fan as a teenager and was the drummer in the Nam Nam Boys before joining ska revival pioneers The Beat in the late 1970s. The Nam Nam 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. 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).
After The Beat's 1983 break-up, he and Wakeling formed General Public with Mickey Billingham and Andy "Stoker" Growcott of Dexys Midnight Runners and Horace Panter of The Specials. They released the album All the Rage, aided by the single "Tenderness". In 1986 they released Hand to Mouth which was significantly less successful, and the band soon split up.
In 1995 Roger and Wakeling reformed General Public with a new supporting band, and released the album "Rub It Better". Roger and Wakeling also worked on various projects and reunited for the 1994 Threesome soundtrack, recording a cover of "I'll Take You There".
In the early 1990s, Roger joined members of The Specials to form the new band Special Beat which released two live albums. In 1996 Roger 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.
Roger collaborated with Pato Banton in 1987 on the song "Pato and Roger Come Again". Included on Banton's album Never Give In, the song was a follow-up to an earlier collaboration by the two singers on "Pato and Roger a Go Talk", which appeared on Special Beat Service. Roger joined Banton again in 1995 on "Bubbling Hot", which reached #15 on the UK single charts.
Ranking Roger's son, Matthew Murphy - 'Ranking Junior', has followed in his father's footsteps. In 2005, he appeared on The Ordinary Boys' hit single "Boys Will Be Boys". In 2003, The Beat's original line-up, minus Cox and Steele, played a sold-out one-off gig at the Royal Festival Hall. In 2005, The Beat re-formed, counting Roger and Everett Morton of the original line-up, with Ranking Junior also on vocals. The Beat performed at Glastonbury the same year with new material written by Ranking Junior. The band is said to have the blessing of Cox, Steele and Saxa.
Roger appeared on two tracks 'Future Dub' and 'Come Around' from the 2008/9 album 'Turning Point' by Snakestyle.
He was also 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).
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.
Roger continues to lead "The Beat" and tours throughout Europe, as well as working on his own solo projects.
In recent years Roger has 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 & Robbie, 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).
"Live in London" was also 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 his son & co-vocalist with The Beat, Ranking Junior.
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 not only by Roger and Ranking Junior, but also by Roger's daughter Saffren Murphy.
"Rock The Casbah", 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). This 5 track EP featured a previously unheard version of Rock The Casbah, which Joe Strummer & Mick Jones of The Clash, had asked Roger to sing on back in 1981, re-recorded by the Brighton producers Dopegrinders, using the original stems which were kindly donated by Mick Jones. The EP also featured new tracks by Roger, Ranking Junior & Hugh Harris, as well as a re-working of Muscle Ska, co-composed by Roger & Neville Staple from The Specials.
In September 2016, DMF released "Bounce"; the first new album by The Beat in 30 years. Written by a combination of Ranking Roger, Mick Lister and Ranking Junior, it was produced by Mick Lister (Bad Company, Amy Winehouse, The Feeling) 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 Slits, Madness).The album was recorded in Roger's 'eco-friendly hideaway' - a round recording studio in his back garden, which he calls The Pod. The album received generally positive reviews with reviewers typically praising the band's 'passionately political edge' 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'.
The band continues to tour and currently also features Roger's son Ranking Junior (real name Matthew Murphy), a powerhouse MC who adds a new dimension to The Beat's live shows, along 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 guitar Andy Pearson, guitarist Steve Harper and Bobby Bird.
In 2017 The Beat joined forces with The Selecter, for a co-headline UK tour, including a sell out show at the Roundhouse in London. Life-long friends, The Selecter and The Beat are two of the main bands to come out of 2 Tone - a crucial musical and cultural movement which is still as relevant today as it was over 30 years ago. Originally only intended as a six-date tour, due to high demand and a run of sold out dates, the tour was extended to 44 shows across Europe and ending in Australia in 2018.
Radical Departure (1988 I.R.S. Records)
Inside My Head (2001 Paras Recording Records)
Retrospective - Looking Back 2010-1988 (2013 Not Them Again Music)
Pop Off The Headtop (2014 Not Them Again Music)
Bounce - The Beat featuring Ranking Roger (2016 DMF records)