This episode starts with early rocksteady then goes back in time to original vintage ska.
For those who are not familiar with ska, I will attempt to give you a brief history. Ska music originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and became popular in the 1960s. When you listen to ska lyrics and melodies you must keep a few things in mind:
- Ska had an uptempo beat for dancing and required very energetic dance moves. It’s based on Mento (Jamaican folk music) and Caribbean Calypso mixed with classic American R&B.
- Jamaica gained independence from Great Britain in 1962 with ska as the soundtrack. This music is the island’s 1st true ‘pop’ genre and there is a sense of new national pride in some of the lyrics.
- An influx of youth moved from outlying areas of the island to Kingston to look for work. Unable to make a living, many teens resorted to illegal activities. This set the stage for what became known as the “rude boy” subculture, another major source of lyrics in early ska.
In the late 1960s the pace of the ska beat slowed down and a new, slower genre called rocksteady emerged. Rocksteady only remained popular from 1966 to 1968. Then reggae music hit the town and spread like wildfire.
Ska caught on in the British market from 1960 to 1967. Many British ska record labels popped up on the scene releasing music that featured Jamaican artists and musicians. The skinhead and punk communities also embraced the music. Ska experienced a revival with a second wave of popularity driven by UK bands in the 1970s. Traditional ska transformed with the hard edge of punk rock among other influences.
The third wave of popularity began in the 1980s and continued into the 1990s. By then most continents had a growing ska presence. Ska bands such as No Doubt, Sublime, and Fishbone led the way in the United States and had major commercial success.
- Johnny Clarke – Move Out of Babylon
- Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey
- Carl Dawkins – Baby I Love You
- Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough
- Peter Tosh and The Soulmates – Rudie’s Medley
- Desmond Dekker – 007 (Shanty Town)
- Lloyd Robinson – No More Trouble
- Alton Ellis and The Flames – Cry Tough
- Alton Ellis and The Flames – Blessing of Love
- Hopeton Lewis – Take It Easy
- Alton Ellis – Girl I’ve Got a Date
- U-Roy – Wake the Town
- U-Roy – I Can’t Love Another
- Ken Boothe – The Train is Coming
- Bob Andy – I’ve Got to Go Back Home
- Delroy Wilson – Dancing Mood
- Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come
- Paragons – Happy Go Lucky Girl
- Eric Morris – If I Didn’t Love You
- The Melodians – Rivers of Babylon
- Stranger Cole – Rough and Tough
- Theophilus Beckford – Easy Snappin’
- Bob and Marcia – Young Gifted and Black
- Prince Buster – Hard Man Fe Dead
- The Maytals – Six and Seven Books of Moses
- The Skatalites – Guns of Navarone
- Derrick Morgan – Forward March
- Prince Buster – Al Capone
- Derrick Morgan – The Hop
- Derrick Morgan – Housewives Choice
- Don Drummond – Man in the Street
- The Folkes Brothers – Oh Carolina
- Bob Marley – Judge Not
- Jimmy Cliff – Miss Jamaica
- Alton Ellis and The Flames – Dance Crasher
- Justin Hinds and The Dominoes – Carry Go Bring Come
- The Wailers – Simmer Down
- Laurel Aitken – Boogie in My Bones
- Clancy Eccles – Sammy No Dead
- Baba Brooks – Girl’s Town Ska
- Owen Gray – Midnight Track
- Millie Small – My Boy Lollipop
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“Nothing compares to being in a venue where a reggae band is performing live. The rumble of the bass lines surround you in a warm embrace and you can’t help but to rock and skank as you are transported to another realm and higher level of consciousness. This describes the effects of the power that live reggae musicians have over the masses.”
Third World is a Grammy nominated Jamaican reggae band formed in 1973. Their sound is influenced by soul, funk and disco. Third World’s greatest success came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, peaking with their cover version of The O’Jays’ “Now That We Found Love”, a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic in 1979. Here is a Third World performing “Now That We Found Love:”
This song brought them to the attention of Stevie Wonder, who worked with them and wrote (along with Melody A. McCully) their song “Try Jah Love.” This band still records and tours to this day so definitely check them out if they come to a venue near you. Visit Third World online at http://www.thirdworldband.com/
This Jamaican reggae group was formed in 1968 by the brothers Ian and Roger Lewis in Jamaica. The band released its debut album in 1974 on the famed record label, Trojan Records, and resigned in 1979 to Island Records, where the internationally successful album Everything Is Great originated. They are responsible for the 1989 song “Bad Boys,” which serves as the theme song for Fox Network’s long-running television program COPS. Here is Inner Circle with “Bad Boys:”
Jacob Miller, the frontman and lead singer, was killed in a car crash on March 23, 1980. The band appeared in the reggae cult film Rockers in 1978. Their second American hit, reaching #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1993 was “Sweat (A La La La La Long)”, which was a #3 hit in the UK. Here is Inner Circle with “Sweat:”
Steven Huey reports, “Generally a protest-minded Rastafarian outfit, Steel Pulse started out playing authentic roots reggae with touches of jazz and Latin music, and earned a substantial audience among white U.K. punks as well. Their 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, is still regarded by many critics as a landmark and a high point of British reggae. As the ’80s wore on, slick synthesizers and elements of dance and urban R&B gradually crept into their sound, even as their subject matter stayed on the militant side. By the late ’80s, Steel Pulse had won a Grammy and were working full-fledged crossover territory, but never reached the same degree of commercial acceptance as Aswad or Inner Circle. They subsequently returned to a tough-minded, rootsy sound that nonetheless made concessions to contemporary trends with touches of dancehall and hip-hop.” Here is Steel Pulse performing “Rally Round:”
In 1993 they performed at Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebration, the first reggae band to appear at such an event. Visit Steel Pulse’s website for more.
From Vh1: “Aswad was arguably Britain’s most successful reggae band, in terms of both popularity and longevity. Critical opinion on their body of work is often divided; some hail their early material as the greatest roots reggae Britain ever produced, while others find their later pop-crossover phase more distinctive and unique, even at the expense of authenticity. Regardless, Aswad’s ability to adapt themselves to the changing times — new musical trends, shifting personnel — was ultimately the driving force behind their decades-long career.”
Aswad was often hired as backing musicians for touring Jamaican stars: Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, and Black Uhuru.