Kwasi “Rocky Dijon” Dzidzornu: One of the world`s best master drummer/conga player who had a successful career with the legends like Mick Jagger in the famous British Rock Band, The Rolling Stones.
In this photo: Rocky Dijon is seen here with the famous and first black supermodel in the world, Donyale Luna, and Brian Jones, the founder and the original leader of the Rolling Stones, and Keith Moon, English drummer who played with the English rock band, The Who. Circa 1968
Kwasi “Rocky” Dzidzornu (1935 – March 13, 1993) also known as Rocky Dijon, was one of the world`s talented and skillful master drummers/percussionist from Ghana, best known for his playing contributions to recordings of The Rolling Stones, Nick Drake, Ginger Baker, Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston and Joe Walsh. His skills with conga drumming was without equal at that time and he became a sought after percussionist who did a lot of gigs here and there for bands and solo musicians. War’s drummer Harold Brown has named him as an important influence, and also credits him with teaching Ginger Baker.
Rocky Kwasi Dzidzornu, an ethnic Ewe man from Ghana, was born somewhere in 1935. He had limited classroom education. He took to drumming as vacation. He quickly, mastered the art of drumming and played for some few local bands. However, extreme poverty forced Rocky to stow away on a boat for weeks with hardly any food and water to make his way to England.
In England, Kwasi Dzidzornu hustled for odd jobs with bands to make a living. At no time his master drumming dexterity came to the fore. Thus in 1967, the famous British and one of the world`s all-time best rock band, The Rolling Stones who were then in their fertile era of experimentation recruited him to be a conga drummer to bring vitality and uniqueness to the band.
His enlistment got him to play on Citadel in 1967. The recruitment was through producer Jimmy Miller. Dzidzornu`s first major contribution to The Rolling Stone was the album, “Beggars Banquet” released in 1968. Even before he could do his help The Rolling Stone in their second album, “Let It Bleed” in 1969 and “Sticky Fingers,” Nick Drake, an English singer-songwriter and folks musician touted as one of the most revered singers of the 20th century, contracted Dzidzornu to play conga for his album, “Five Leaves Left.” Dzidzornu`s dazzled and his master drumming talent had huge impact on the success of the Drake`s song.
As All World Music portal writes about the Drake`s album, “Understatement is the key to his songs and performances’ general success, which makes the combination of his vocals and Rocky Dzidzornu’s congas on “Three Hours” and the lovely “‘Cello Song,” to name two instances, so effective.”
Dzidzornu`s greatest contribution to The Rolling Stones was his percussion work on “Sympathy for the Devil,” which helped to transform the song from its slow, somber origins into a compelling, hypnotic tribal chant. “Dijon`s conga drumming on “Sympathy for the Devil” transformed the song from a dirge, and a dull one at that . . . making it come alive”, critic Ned Sublette wrote.
Another British rock music connoisseur has this to say about Dijon`s contribution to The Rolling Stone: “Rocky didn’t have much of a stage presence, sitting cross-legged behind conga drums looking stoned, but man, you can’t beat that beat. Where would the Stones be without his congas on “Sympathy For the Devil,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” or “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” The guy made those songs. Literally and figuratively.” Rocky Dijon can also be heard on the songs “Child of the Moon,” “Stray Cat Blues”, and the “Factory Girl.”
He participated in the same era on the Stones Rock and Roll Circus event appeared on the Stones three film documentaries: “The Stones in the Park” (1969), “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” (1996) and “The Last Experience.”
In 1971, Dzidzornu left The Rolling Stones to join the sensational Taj Mahal. He contributed to Taj Mahal`s songs such as “The Real Thing” (1971), “Happy Just to Be Like I Am” (1971), Mo’ Roots (1974), Music Keeps Me Together (1975), Music Fuh Ya’ (Musica Para Tu 1975), and Brothers (1977).
One of the greatest celebrations of Rocky Dzidzornu at the international scene was his conga playing role with Jimmy Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell at the 1969 Olympic Games. He was the session guy and absolutely sensational on that day. Dzidzornu’s conga work was the sole augmentation to the Experience’s usual stripped-down, power-trio lineup, which is interesting from a rock history perspective.
Dzidzornu often played more of an anchoring role on these Experience dates, holding down the beat while Mitchell takes off. “There was so much going on with Mitch, particularly with his cymbal work. A traditional percussion player needed to be sensitive to that, and not just clanging away. And I think Rocky did a fine job. Dzidzornu’s conga work does much to enliven Redding’s obligatory extended bass solo segment,” critic John McDermott wrote in 1969.
Kwasi Rocky Dijon Dzidzornu`s other musical combo include: The Road to Ruin (John and Beverley Martyn -1970), Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2 (Ginger Baker’s Air Force- 1970), The Answer (Peter Bardens’ Village 1970), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (Stevie Wonder-1974), Perfect Angel (Minnie Riperton-1974), It’s My Pleasure (Billy Preston- 1975), The Boys Don’t Do It (Hugh Masekela-1975), Stone Alone (Bill Wyman-1976), You Can’t Argue with a Sick Mind (Joe Walsh-1976), Magic Windows (Herbie Hancock-1981), Do What You Like (Ginger Baker-1998) and Valleys of Neptune (Jimi Hendrix 1999)
Dzidzornu married an English woman, Casey in London. They had a son, Gary Dzidzornu Stewart and a daughter, Evonne Dzidzornu in the 1960s. He had another child later. The master drummer, Dzidzornu died on 13th March 1993 in Oakland California, USA.
Contributing towards his father`s fame on Rolling Stones page and how the British musical group, the Stones have neglected his father`s memory in their history, Gary Dzidzornu Stewart wrote: “Wouldn’t it be nice to actually hear Mick Jagger say some of the nice things posted hear! You say he deserves credit/ royalties! Can you believe he only ever received a session fee for his work!!! I go to the cinema and hear him on Rolling Stone soundtracks so often.
How comes it’s always the part my dad is playing. Never paid!!! But hey ho I won’t hold my breath for a good outcome there. What is worth millions to me is that people out there hold my dad in such high esteem.”
Zimmerman, L (2012) Sidekicks, sidemen made The Rolling Stones rock
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