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|Cultural origins||Mid-1960s, Jamaica|
|Music of Jamaica|
Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966.A successor of ska and a precursor to reggae, rocksteady was the dominant style of music in Jamaica for nearly two years, performed by many of the artists who helped establish reggae, including harmony groups such as The Techniques, The Paragons, The Heptones and The Gaylads; soulful singers such as Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Bob Andy, Ken Boothe and Phyllis Dillon; musicians such as Jackie Mittoo, Lynn Taitt and Tommy McCook. The term rocksteady comes from a popular (slower) dance style mentioned in the Alton Ellis song 'Rocksteady' that matched the new sound. Some rocksteady songs became hits outside Jamaica, as with ska, helping to secure the international base reggae music has today.
The Jamaican musicians and producers who created the rocksteady sound and ska were well-versed in jazz and influenced by other genres, most notably rhythm and blues, and Caribbean music plus African music.When considering the differences between ska and rocksteady it is worth remembering that the backing musicians and producers were essentially the same.
The perceived tempo became slower with the development of rocksteady than it had been in ska.The guitar and piano players began to experiment with occasional accents around the basic offbeat pattern.
The slowing that occurred with rocksteady allowed bass players to explore more fat, dark, loose, slow tone than ska bass.The slower tempo and smaller band sizes in turn led to a much larger focus on the bass line in general, which eventually became one of the recognizable characteristics of Jamaican music. In rocksteady, the lead guitar often doubles the bass line, in the muted picking style created by Lynn Taitt (as on "Run for Cover" by Lee "Scratch" Perry ).
Due in part to the heavy borrowing from US soul songs, many rocksteady songs are love songs; e.g. "Sharing You" by Prince Buster, which is a cover of a soul singer Mitty Collier's original, and "Queen Majesty" by The Techniques, which is a cover of "Minstrel and Queen" by The Impressions.
There are rocksteady songs about religion and the Rastafari movement, though not to the same extent as in reggae. Rocksteady coincided with the rise of rude boys and some rocksteady songs reflect this (usually negatively) such as "Rude Boy Gone A Jail" by The Clarendonians and, most famously, “Judge Dread” by Prince Buster.
Alton Ellis was anti-rudie,[ clarification needed ] and Alton Ellis and the Flames' "Cry Tough" urged Jamaicans in the ghettos to stay tough through the hard times.
As a popular musical style, rocksteady was short-lived; its heyday only lasted about two years, from around summer 1966 until spring 1968.
Also, in the middle to later part of the decade, as ska began to fade in popularity and the optimism that accompanied Independence in 1962 dwindled, young people from the Jamaican countryside were flooding into the urban ghettos of Kingston—in neighborhoods such as Riverton City, Greenwich Town and Trenchtown. Many of them became delinquents who exuded a certain coolness and style. These unruly youths became known as rude boys.
Alton Ellis is sometimes said to be the father of rocksteady for his hit "Rocksteady",but other candidates for the first rocksteady single include "Take It Easy" by Hopeton Lewis, "Tougher Than Tough" by Derrick Morgan and "Hold Them" by Roy Shirley.
In a Jamaican radio interview, pianist Gladstone Anderson said that bandleader Lynn Taitt made a suggestion to slow the music down whilst recording "Take It Easy".Taitt backed this up in a 2002 interview, stating: "I told 'Gladdy to slow the tempo and that's how Take It Easy and rocksteady came about. Rocksteady is really slow ska."
The record producer Duke Reid released Alton Ellis' "Girl I've Got a Date" on his Treasure Isle label, as well as recordings by The Techniques, The Silvertones, The Jamaicans and The Paragons. Reid's work with these groups helped establish the vocal sound of rocksteady. Some would consider the Rocksteady years to be Treasure Isle's best. Rocksteady's dominance meant that all record labels of the time released music in the genre; Studio One, Bunny Lee and Prince Buster were predominant, with Reid.
Notable solo artists include Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe and Phyllis Dillon (known as the "Queen of Rocksteady"). Other musicians who were crucial in creating rocksteady included keyboard player Jackie Mittoo, drummers Joe Isaacs and Winston Grennan, bassist Jackie Jackson and saxophonist Tommy McCook. When ska band The Skatalites disbanded (64/65—accounts vary) McCook went to work at the Treasure Isle label and Jackie Mittoo went to the Studio One label—these two artists/arrangers became instrumental in the way these two labels became dominant and helped to form the sound of Rocksteady.
Despite its short lifespan, rocksteady's influence is great. Many reggae artists began in rocksteady (and/or ska)—most commonly reggae singers grew out of rocksteady groups, e.g., Junior Byles came from The Versatiles, John Holt was in The Paragons, both Pat Kelly and Slim Smith sang with The Techniques (Pat Kelly sings lead on "You Don't Care") and Ronnie Davis was in The Tennors while Winston Jarrett was in The Righteous Flames. The Wailing Wailers were similarly a vocal harmony trio (modelled on The Impressions) who came from ska, through rocksteady and became a reggae band with just the one main vocalist.
Derrick Harriott reflectively noted, "Ask any Jamaican musician and they'll tell you the rocksteady days were the best days of Jamaican music."
Several factors contributed to the evolution of rocksteady into reggae in the late 1960s. The emigration to Canada of key musical arrangers Jackie Mittoo and Lynn Taitt—and the upgrading of Jamaican studio technology—had a marked effect on the sound and style of the recordings. Bass patterns became more complex and increasingly dominated the arrangements, and the piano gave way to the electric organ. Other developments included horns fading farther into the background; the introduction of a scratchier, more percussive rhythm guitar; the addition of African-style hand drumming, and a more precise, intricate and aggressive drumming style.
Also around this time (1969–70) the use of a vocal-free or lead instrument-free dub or B-side "version" became popular in Jamaica; at the beginning this involved the use of Rocksteady tracks, most notably with U-Roy deejaying over Treasure Isle rhythms (made by a young Osbourne Ruddock, later known as King Tubby, beginning with "Wake The Town"). Indeed, this collaboration provided rocksteady with an afterlife as U-Roy rocksteady-based songs rode high in the charts (1970–71) even as Reggae began to establish itself as the new sound.
By the late 1960s, the Rastafari movement became more popular in Jamaica and rocksteady became less popular.Many reggae songs became focused less on romance and more on black consciousness, politics and protest. The release of the 1972 film The Harder They Come and the rise of Jamaican superstar Bob Marley brought reggae to an international level that rocksteady never reached.
Although rocksteady was a short-lived phase of Jamaican popular music, its influence on what came after: reggae, dub and dancehall is huge. This is hard to over-state. Many bass lines originally created for rocksteady songs continue to be used in contemporary Jamaican music. Such as the rhythm from "Never Let Go" by Slim Smith (sometimes known as the answer rhythm) and “Real Rock” both from the Studio One label; “My Conversation” also sung by Slim Smith, produced by Bunny Lee; “Queen Majesty” sung by The Techniques and “Lonely Street” by The Conquerors, both for Treasure Isle label.
Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora. A 1968 single by Toots and the Maytals, "Do the Reggay" was the first popular song to use the word "reggae", effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that was strongly influenced by traditional mento as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues, and evolved out of the earlier genres ska and rocksteady. Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and political commentary. It is instantly recognizable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat and the offbeat rhythm section. The immediate origins of reggae were in ska and rocksteady; from the latter, reggae took over the use of the bass as a percussion instrument.
Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. It combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. Ska is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off beat. It was developed in Jamaica in the 1960s when Stranger Cole, Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems to play American rhythm and blues and then began recording their own songs. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods and with many skinheads.
The music of Jamaica includes Jamaican folk music and many popular genres, such as mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, dancehall, reggae fusion and related styles.
Arthur "Duke" Reid CD was a Jamaican record producer, DJ and label owner.
Cecil Bustamente Campbell, known professionally as Prince Buster, was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and producer. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that would be drawn upon later by reggae and ska artists.
Alton Nehemiah Ellis was a Jamaican singer-songwriter. One of the innovators of rocksteady who was given the informal title "Godfather of Rocksteady". In 2006, he was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame.
Studio One is one of Jamaica's most renowned record labels and recording studios; it has been described as the Motown of Jamaica. The record label was involved with most of the major music movements in Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s, including ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall.
There are several subgenres of reggae music including various predecessors to the form.
Lynn Taitt was a guitarist born in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago, who later moved to Jamaica and became a pioneer of rocksteady music.
Clancy Eccles was a Jamaican ska and reggae singer, songwriter, arranger, promoter, record producer and talent scout. Known mostly for his early reggae works, he brought a political dimension to this music. His house band was known as The Dynamites.
Heartbeat Records is an independent record label based in Burlington, Massachusetts. The label specializes in Jamaican music.
Lloyd Daley also known as Lloyd's the Matador was a Jamaican electronic technician, sound system pioneer, studio engineer and reggae producer.
Derrick Morgan is a Jamaican musical artist popular in the 1960s and 1970s. He worked with Desmond Dekker, Bob Marley, and Jimmy Cliff in the rhythm and blues and ska genres, and he also performed rocksteady and skinhead reggae.
Leroy Sibbles is a Jamaican reggae musician and producer. He was the lead singer for The Heptones in the 1960s and 1970s.
Phyllis Dillon was a Jamaican rocksteady and reggae singer who recorded for Duke Reid's lucrative Treasure Isle record label in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Heptones are a Jamaican rocksteady and reggae vocal trio most active in the 1960s and early 1970s. They were one of the more significant trios of that era, and played a major role in the gradual transition between ska and rocksteady into reggae with their three-part harmonies. The Heptones were contemporaries of the Wailers and the Maytals, and every bit their equal in the mid-60's.
The Skatalites are a ska band from Jamaica. They played initially between 1963 and 1965, and recorded many of their best known songs in the period, including "Guns of Navarone." They also played on records by Prince Buster and backed many other Jamaican artists who recorded during that period, including Bob Marley & The Wailers, on their first single Simmer Down. They reformed in 1983 and have played together ever since.
Gladstone Anderson, also known by his nickname "Gladdy", was a Jamaican pianist, keyboard player, and singer, who played a major part in the island's musical history, playing a key role in defining the ska sound and the rocksteady beat, and playing on hundreds of recordings as a session musician, a solo artist, and as leader of Gladdy's All Stars, featuring bassist Jackie Jackson, drummer Winston Grennan, guitarist Hux Brown, and keyboardist Winston Wright. As Harry J All Stars the band had a massive hit in Jamaica and United Kingdom with the instrumental song "The Liquidator" 1969.
Clifton "Jackie" Jackson is a Jamaican bass player, who was an important session musician on ska, rocksteady and reggae records in the 1960s and 1970s, and later a member of Toots and the Maytals.