Following on the heels of Ska music which dominated from the fifties into the early sixties, came a music genre that would forever be etched in the soul of those of us who grew up during that period. Rocksteady is the predecessor of Reggae and though that period appeared shorter (1966-1969) than some think it should have been, this period produced some of Jamaica’s best music and singers. Just like the music coming from the 1960’s America Inc.’s African experience, Rocksteady was about simple, well written, well sung lyrics of love, while also holding up a mirror of burgeoning awareness of this era’s turmoil and loss of ignorance. Slowed down with a relaxed feel, Rocksteady’s simple delivery allowed the vocalist more expressive musical phrasing and greater lyrical freedom and these elements were retained in Reggae. The term Rocksteady became a household name from the song of the same name by the appointed king of the genre, Alton Ellis, “People get ready; Lets do the Rocksteady”.
Most of the earlier music was performed by vocal harmony groups such as The Gaylads, The Kingstonians, The Maytals and The Paragons. As is all things Jamaican, there is always a dance associated with an event or a celebration, but the dances performed to rocksteady were less energetic than the earlier ska dance moves. Rocksteady had a slower and more relaxed tempo which was reflected in the dance. The bass is heavier and more prominent in the mix and in addition, the bass lines abandon the earlier “walking” style of the ska period in favor of more broken, syncopated figures. The ska-style back beat and the emphasis on the offbeat carried over into rocksteady.