Sunday, 19 October 2008

Alton Ellis

Yesterday I sent to this contribution concerning the 1965 song Get Ready- Rock Steady by the late Alton Ellis.
This song featured the pianist Jackie Mittoo and was recorded for Arthur "Duke" Reid's Treasure Isle label. The innovative rocksteady beat came about because the scheduled bassist didn't show up for a session and Mittoo was consequently forced to play the bass part himself. The pianist’s left hand couldn't keep up with the frantic ska beat, so he decided to slow down the tempo. This resulted in a choppier rhythm, which enabled Ellis to stretch out more.
This genre-defining song was the first number to use the term ‘rocksteady’ and was arguably the first rocksteady single. Ellis recalled: "I spearheaded that sound without a doubt! I was off the scene for a while during the ska period and when I returned and joined the Treasure Isle studio, I came there with a different mood. The musicians picked up on that and we kept on going in that direction. The music became slower, which gave the bass player the time to play more notes. In 1965 I named it rocksteady."
Alton Ellis was a Jamaican musician who was known as the "Godfather of Rocksteady." His songs slowed down to rocksteady the frantic ska beat that was the popular sound in Jamaica in the early 1960s. Between 1965 and 1967 rocksteady dominated the Jamaican airwaves and Ellis, with the help of a backup vocal trio called the Flames, scored a number of hits. Subsequently this emphasis of the slower tempo evolved into reggae. One of his 1960s hits "I’m Still in Love" formed the basis for Althia and Donna’s 1978 UK chart-topping "Uptown Top Ranking". Ellis moved to England in the 1970s as his career declined, but he returned to popularity in the 1990s because of a rocksteady trend in Jamaica and Europe. In 2006, Ellis was inducted into the International Reggae and World Music Awards Hall of Fame. He died in London on October 10, 2008 and was survived by his wife and over 20 children.

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