Vincent George Forbes was born in Kingston on the 25th October 1928. From birth, he was immersed in the soundsystem culture of Kingston as he grew up next door to the Success Club which held frequent dance events.
Soundsystems in Jamaica:
He became involved with soundsystems directly after he helped change the tyre of legendary Kingston selecter Tom Wong of Tom’s Soundsystem. Tom asked him to help him the following week and he performed exceptionally. It was through this than he obtained his nickname ‘Duke Vin’ after beating former policeman Duke Reid in a soundclash. Despite offers from a multitude of selecters in Kingston, Vin stayed loyal to Tom’s Soundsystem until he emigrated.
Arrival in London:
Aged 26, Vin stowed away on a ship bound for England with Count Suckle. Upon arriving in the UK he settled in Ladbroke Grove. Initially he worked for Network Rail but he then became an electrician. Vin and his friends were shocked by the dull nightlife in London at the time (‘the country is dead’) and Vin decided to build his own soundsystem. He began by playing in houses and renting out the system for £5 a night much to the chagrin of the local police. Vin soon developed a strong following in the West London area and held his first soundclash in 1958 which he won. He famously claimed to never have lost a soundclash. Soon he gained bookings at the Flamingo and Marquee Clubs and established himself as one of the leading soundmen in London.
Criminal charges and later life:
In the late sixties, Duke Vin was arrested and charged with pimping. During his time in prison he researched his Maroon heritage. He discovered a 1738 treaty which stated that any Maroon descendent should not have to pay any taxes to the United Kingdom. Using this information successfully sued the Inland Revenue for all the taxes he had paid over his time in England. He used this money to by a large house on the Harrow Road in which he set up an upmarket shebeen.
Duke Vin was active on the soundsystem circuit throughout his life. He regularly played in London (at Notting Hill Carnival and Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues among other places) as well as internationally. He died on the 3rd November 2012 and was survived by his partner Vera, two sons and three daughters.
Musical influence and legacy:
The influence of soundsystems on wider musical culture is well documented but Duke Vin is seen as one of the most important figures in popularising Jamaican musical exports. He was one of the first selecters to move away from playing solely US R&B in favour of Jamaican records which foreshadowed ska. Throughout his life he maintained strong links with Jamaican producers and continued to play in Jamaica in the 1970s. Vin’s influence on mainstream white artists was also notable. He was seen as a key influence on figures such as Elton John and Georgie Fame.