Sunday, May 19, 2013

Classic Jamaican RockSteady Songs (sound files & information)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on Rocksteady music. Part I showcases sound files or videos of Jamaican artists & the songs that were influential in the creation & popularization of Rocksteady music. The featured songs in this post are "Girl I've Got a Date" by Alton Ellis, "Take It Easy" by Hopeton Lewis, "Tougher Than Tough" by Derrick Morgan and "Hold Them" by Roy Shirley.

Part II features six additional Rocksteady songs & one Rocksteady mix. Part II will be published ASAP.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Rocksteady is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around 1966.[1] A successor to ska and a precursor to reggae, rocksteady was performed by Jamaican vocal harmony groups such as The Gaylads, The Maytals, and The Paragons. The term rocksteady comes from a dance style that was mentioned in the Alton Ellis song "Rock Steady". Dances performed to rocksteady were less energetic than the earlier ska dances. The first international rocksteady hit was "Hold Me Tight" (1968) by the American soul singer Johnny Nash; it reached number one in Canada.[2]

...As a popular musical style, rocksteady was short-lived; its heyday only lasted about two years, from 1966 until spring 1968.[1] Around this time, young people from the Jamaican countryside were flooding into the urban ghettos of Kingston — in neighborhoods such as Riverton City, Greenwich Town and Trenchtown. Though much of the country was optimistic in the immediate post-independence climate, these poverty-stricken youths did not share this sentiment. 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 "Girl I've Got a Date", 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 guitarist and bandleader Lynn Taitt was the man who slowed down the ska beat in 1964 during a "Take It Easy" recording session.[4] 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."[5] 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. 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, drummer Winston Grennan, bassist Jackie Jackson and saxophonist Tommy McCook.

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"...

(These sound files and videos are presented in chronological order based on the date of their YouTube posting, with the oldest dated example posted first.)

Example #1: Roy Shirley - Hold Them - Reggae Revival

Mikie Dread, Published on Apr 2, 2010

My late great uncle in his glory days. From a little record shop in Orange st, Kingston Jamaica, where he pushed tunes with the likes of Bob Marley, he knew the business inside out and spoke great things of the artists past and gone.. R.I.P. fada Roy
Click for more information about Roy Shirley(18 July 1944 – July 2008). Here's an excerpt from that page:
"Shirley recorded "Hold Them" in 1966, credited as one of the first rocksteady songs,[1][4] and inspired by the beat from a Salvation Army band.[3] Shirley attempted to perform "Hold Them" to a ska beat, but unable to make it work, slowed down the rhythm... The song became a massive hit in Jamaica."

Example #2: Derrick Morgan - Tougher Than Tough (live at the 100 Club)

smoke2jointsblog•Uploaded on Jul 22, 2010
Derrick Morgan performing Tougher Than Tough, live at the 100 Club, in 2008.
Click for information about Derrick Morgan (born 27 March 1940, Mocho, Clarendon, Jamaica). In that page "Tougher Than Tough" is described as "the seminal rude boy classic".

Also, click for a recent Chicago Tribune article about Derrick Morgan who continues to perform in 2013.

Example #3: Girl I've Got A Date - Alton Ellis - Reggae - Rocksteady

Docgreen61, Uploaded on Nov 17, 2011

"Girl I've Got A Date" sung by the late great "Alton Ellis" recorded at "Treasure Isle" a great "Rocksteady" tune
Click for more information about Alton Ellis (1 September 1938 – 10 October 2008).

Example #4: Take It Easy - Hopeton Lewis - Reggae - Rocksteady

Docgreen61, Uploaded on Nov 21, 2011

Taken from the LP "Rusty Dusties" on the "Wildflower" label,This track by "Hopeton Lewis" called "Take It Easy"
Click for an article about Hopeton Lewis (born 30 October 1947, Kingston, Jamaica).

Click and for a two part pancocojams series on two R&B songs and children's cheerleader cheers that have the title "Rock Steady".

Thanks to the featured vocalists for their musical legacies. Thanks also to the YouTube publishers of these sound files and videos.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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