Monday, May 20, 2013

Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady" & The Whispers "Rock Steady" (examples & comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part series on the American R&B songs & children's cheerleader cheers that have the title "Rock Steady".

Part I features videos of Aretha Franklin's 1971 dance song "Rock Steady" and The Whispers' 1987 dance song "Rock Steady". Part I also includes my comments about the inspiration for the title of those two songs, the meaning of the term "rock steady" in those two songs, and information about a dance movement that was usually performed for those two songs.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II of this series features videos & transcriptions of five examples of the children's cheerleader cheer with the name "Rock Steady". Part II also includes my comments about the inspiration for the name of those cheers, the meaning of "rock steady" in those cheerleader cheers, and information about how those cheers might be performed.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

I believe that it's very likely that Aretha Franklin's dance song "Rock Steady" was inspired by the name of the Jamaican "Rocksteady" music genre. However, the tune, beat, and lyrics of that R&B song are different from Jamaican "Rocksteady" music.

Furthermore, I believe that the the name of The Whispers' dance song "Rock Steady" was probably inspired by Aretha Franklin's earlier song.

Also, I believe that it's very likely that the name of the children's "Rock Steady" cheerleader cheers was inspired by the 1987 "Rock Steady" song by The Whispers instead of the 1971 "Rock Steady" song by Aretha Franklin. I believe this because I've yet to come across any examples of children's cheerleading cheers* with the phrase "rock steady" (and not just "rock"), or any remembrances of such cheers prior to 1987. If you remember any such cheers prior to 1987, please add a comment below or contact me via

*By "children's cheerleader cheers", I mean cheerleader cheers & chants that are performed by children and teens in community cheerleader squads and/or in school cheerleader squads prior to colleges or universities.

Click for a pancocojams post on Rocksteady music.

In the Aretha Franklin's song "Rock Steady" the term "rock steady" means "to consistently swing your hips from side to side to the beat". In The Whispers' song "Rock Steady", "rock steady" means "to continue to make love".

Not surprisingly, one dance movement that was done to the American R&B songs entitled "Rock Steady", as well as the dance movement done to songs in the Jamaican Rocksteady music genre is to gently swing your hips from side to side in imitation of a boat rocking back & forth.

In children's cheerleader cheers*, "rock steady" means "to consistently excell on the athletic field." Whether any hip swinging is done while performing the "rock steady" cheer or how much hip swinging is done while performing that cheer depends on whether the cheerleading squad is completely mainstream, is completely "stomp & shake", or adopts varying degrees of the African American originated "stomp & shake" cheerleading styles. More information about the "rock steady" term in children's cheerleader cheers and the ways that cheer is performed can be found in Part II of this series.

Example #1: Soul Train Line Dance to Aretha Franklin Rock Steady

Lockingknowledge, Uploaded on Nov 5, 2011
Click for another sound file of Aretha Franklin singing "Rock Steady"
[embedding disabled by request]. The summary statement of that sound file notes that "Aretha Franklin performs Rock Steady live on Soul Train in 1973, episode 55."

Here's an excerpt about Aretha Franklin's song "Rock Steady" from
"Rock Steady" is a song written and performed by Aretha Franklin and released in 1971, from the album Young, Gifted and Black. The single reached the #9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts that same year. It also peaked at #2 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart. The B-side, "Oh Me Oh My (I'm a Fool for You Baby)" peaked at #73 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart."
Click for the lyrics to Aretha Franklin's song "Rock Steady".

Example #2: The Whispers - Rock Steady Official Video

UnidiscMusic, Uploaded on Feb 11, 2010
Here's an excerpt from
"Rock Steady" was a single released by American R&B group The Whispers, from their eighteenth studio album, Just Gets Better with Time (1987).

It was released on June 13, 1987[1] and was their highest charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number seven, and was their second and final number one on the Hot Black Singles Chart.[2]"
Click the lyrics to The Whispers' "Rock Steady" song.

Thanks to Aretha Franklin and The Whispers for their musical legacies. Thanks also to the YouTube publishers of these sound files and video.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Interesting post. Enjoyed it. & Who are the dancers in The Whispers - Rock Steady Video?

    1. Thanks for your comment, anonymous.

      The dancers in the video are the members of the Whispers.

      Here's some information about that group from
      " The Whispers is a group from Los Angeles, California, with a consistent track record of hit records dating back to the late 1960s. The Whispers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003,[1] and were winners of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's prestigious Pioneer Award in 2008.[2] By popular vote, the group was inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame at in December 2012...

      The Whispers formed in 1964 in Watts, California. The original members included twin brothers, Wallace "Scotty" and Walter Scott, along with Gordy Harmon, Marcus Hutson and Nicholas Caldwell. After Harmon injured his larynx in a driving accident in 1973, he was replaced by former Friends of Distinction member Leaveil Degree. Scotty Scott's fluid, melodic voice is featured on virtually all of their hits.

      The group scored many hits on the R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and they hit #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart in 1980 with "And the Beat Goes On / "Can You Do the Boogie" / "Out the Box". In 1987, they enjoyed a brief tenure in the Top 40 when "Rock Steady" became their first Top 10 success on the Hot 100, reaching #7, while also capturing the #1 spot on the R&B chart."...