My first true exploration into the wonderful world of Rocksteady music was born of a frozen cocktail of homesickness with a large dash of winter depression whilst living in Berlin, Germany.
The music was a warm blanket in contrast to the endless track of sunless, cloud covered skies and bleak greys that blended into the former eastern section of Berlin. Large apartment blocks — then twenty years after the wall was destroyed — still left in large unpainted swaths, punctuated by the smell and dust of coal ovens.
My heart was warmed to the cockles, absorbing every drop of the sweet honey; unique remakes of early American rhythm and blues hits, which harkened to a hopeful and bright time in Jamaica’s turbulent history, shortly after its official Independence from its colonial master, Great Britain, in the early 1960’s.
The music followed the islands second and third generation of expats to England, the US, and beyond, reminding them of home, as it had me, some forty years and generations later.
There is a brilliant documentary on the musical impact of that small isle, created by none other than the BBC titled, “Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music” that explains how Reggae was first born as Ska, then transformed, for three short, glorious years into Rocksteady.
This past March, I visited Jamaica, and was shocked and disheartened to the core by the violence, poverty, male prostitution/gigolo culture, and the still lingering scars of its colonial history. I expected to find the island that existed in my minds eye, held fast by ten years of living abroad, fueled by an endless soundtrack of Rocksteady music. Unfortunately, my fantasy was rudely destroyed. However, Rocksteady remains a beautiful, hope filled, unshakable legacy of some of the best years of that beautiful island and its resilient people.
“Rocksteady” features tracks by: Marcia Griffiths, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Toots and Maytals, the incomparable Phyllis Dillon, Alton Ellis, The Heptones, The Melodians, Pat Kelly, Jackie and Millie, Horace Andy, Delroy Wilson, and last but not least Errol Dunkley.