Reggae - History

History

Reggae developed from mento, R&B, and Ska music in the 1960s. The shift from rocksteady to reggae was illustrated by the organ shuffle pioneered by Jamaican musicians like Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright and featured in transitional singles "Say What You're Saying" (1967) by Clancy Eccles and "People Funny Boy" (1968) by Lee "Scratch" Perry. The Pioneers' 1967 track "Long Shot (Bus' Me Bet)" has been identified as the earliest recorded example of the new rhythm sound that became known as reggae.

Early 1968 was when the first genuine reggae records were released: "Nanny Goat" by Larry Marshall and "No More Heartaches" by The Beltones. American artist Johnny Nash's 1968 hit "Hold Me Tight" has been credited with first putting reggae in the American listener charts. Around that time, reggae influences were starting to surface in rock music. An example of a rock song featuring a slight taste of reggae rhythm is 1968's "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by The Beatles.

The Wailers, a band started by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963, is perhaps the most recognized band that made the transition through all three stages of early Jamaican popular music: ska, rocksteady and reggae. Other significant reggae pioneers include Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and Ken Boothe.

Notable Jamaican producers influential in the development of ska into rocksteady and reggae include: Coxsone Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Leslie Kong, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby. Chris Blackwell, who founded Island Records in Jamaica in 1960, relocated to England in 1962, where he continued to promote Jamaican music. He formed a partnership with Lee Gopthal's Trojan Records in 1968, which released reggae in the UK until bought by Saga records in 1974.

The 1972 Jimmy Cliff milestone The Harder They Come reached U.S. theatres and generated considerable interest and popularity for reggae there, while Eric Clapton's 1974 cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" helped bring the music mainstream. By the mid 1970s, reggae was getting radio play in the UK on John Peel's radio show, who promoted the genre the rest of his career. At the same time British filmmaker Jeremy Marre documented the Jamaican music scene in Roots Rock Reggae, capturing a slice of the "Golden Age of Reggae" during the heyday of roots reggae.

In the second half of the 1970s, the UK punk rock scene was starting to form, and reggae was a notable influence. Some punk DJs played reggae songs during their sets and some punk bands incorporated reggae influences into their music. At the same time, reggae began to enjoy a revival in the UK that continued into the 1980s, exemplified by groups like Steel Pulse, Aswad, UB40, and Musical Youth. Other reggae artists who enjoyed international appeal in the early 1980s include Third World, Black Uhuru and Sugar Minott. The Grammy Awards introduced the Best Reggae Album category in 1985.

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