Image for Rocksteady: The Roots of ReggaeNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Duration: 1 hour, 35 minutes

The rocksteady era of Jamaican music in the mid-to-late 1960s is considered a golden age because rocksteady's sweet, soulful vocals, romantic but often socially conscious lyrics and prominent basslines gave birth to reggae, which went on to capture the world.

This documentary chronicles the coming together of rocksteady's surviving vocal stars - artists like the Tamlins, U-Roy, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles from the Heptones, Judy Mowatt, Dawn Penn, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths - and some of the island's greatest players, to celebrate their greatest 60s hits, perform a reunion concert and celebrate that golden era. Think of it as a kind of Buena Vista Social Club for the great 60s architects of Jamaican music. It is also a beautiful portrait of Jamaica.

In 1962, Jamaica gained its independence from Great Britain. There was celebration, optimism, economic growth and opportunity. Recording studios popped up all over Kingston and a generation of great singers and players emerged playing the tuneful, mellow music that became known as rocksteady - tunes like The Tide Is High, Rivers of Babylon and You Don't Love Me Anymore, No No No, which were so successfully celebrated by UB40 on their Labour of Love albums. By 1968, Jamaica's economic bubble had burst and social unrest took to the streets. As poverty, violence and political upheaval spread, rocksteady became politicised, upped its tempo and began to evolve into the music they call reggae.

Last on

Sun 13 Feb 2011 21:00 BBC Four

Music Played

32 items
  • Image for Rocksteady Band & Singers

    Rocksteady Band & Singers People Rocksteady

  • Image for Hopetown Lewis & The Tamlins

    Hopetown Lewis & The Tamlins People Rocksteady

  • Image for Rocksteady Musician

    Rocksteady Musician Unidentified flute music

  • Image for Stranger Cole & Rocksteady Band

    Stranger Cole & Rocksteady Band Morning Train

  • Image for Stranger Cole & Uroy

    Stranger Cole & Uroy Morning Train

  • Image for Stranger Cole

    Stranger Cole Rough and Tough

  • Image for Hopetown Lewis & Rocksteady Band

    Hopetown Lewis & Rocksteady Band Take It Easy

  • Image for Judy Mowatt & Rocksteady Band

    Judy Mowatt & Rocksteady Band Silent River Runs Deep

  • Image for Rocksteady Band

    Rocksteady Band Band rehearsing

  • Image for Alpha Boys' School Band

    Alpha Boys' School Band Alpha Boys' School band warming up

  • Image for Rocksteady Band

    Rocksteady Band Band warming up

  • Image for Marcia Griffiths & Rocksteady Band

    Marcia Griffiths & Rocksteady Band The Tide is High

  • Image for Marcia Griffiths (acapella)

    Marcia Griffiths (acapella) The Tide is High

  • Image for Marcia Griffiths

    Marcia Griffiths The Tide is High

  • Image for Hopetown Lewis & Rocksteady Band

    Hopetown Lewis & Rocksteady Band By the Rivers of Babylon

  • Image for Rocksteady Band & Singers

    Rocksteady Band & Singers By the Rivers of Babylon

  • Image for Dermot Fagan

    Dermot Fagan By the Rivers of Babylon

  • Image for Dawn Penn & Rocksteady Band

    Dawn Penn & Rocksteady Band You Don't Love Me, No No No

  • Image for Rocksteady Band member singing

    Rocksteady Band member singing Nice Time

  • Image for Derrick Morgan

    Derrick Morgan Tougher Than Tough

  • Image for Derrick Morgan

    Derrick Morgan Tougher Than Tough & Rocksteady Band

  • Image for Ken Boothe & Rocksteady Band

    Ken Boothe & Rocksteady Band Shanty Town

  • Image for Ken Boothe

    Ken Boothe Shanty Town

  • Image for Uroy

    Uroy Stop That Train

  • Image for Leroy Sibbles & Band

    Leroy Sibbles & Band Equal Rights

  • Image for Ken Boothe & Rocksteady Band

    Ken Boothe & Rocksteady Band Freedom Street

  • Image for Hopetown Lewis

    Hopetown Lewis In a Vision

  • Untitled

    Stranger Cole & Gladdy Anderson with the Alpha Boys’ School Band -Love Me Today

  • Image for Ken Boothe

    Ken Boothe Nice Time

  • Image for Lyn Taitt

    Lyn Taitt Bog Walk

  • Image for Derrick Morgan

    Derrick Morgan Conquering Ruler

  • Image for Rocksteady Musician

    Rocksteady Musician Unidentified humming

  • BBC Four Reggae Britannia Season

    BBC Four Reggae Britannia Season

    Join BBC Four for a season of programmes looking at reggae.

    Go to the BBC Four Reggae Britannia Season website
  • Photo: Rita Marley

    Photo: Rita Marley

    Alpharita Constantia Anderson (born 25 July 1946), better known as Rita Marley, and sometimes called "Nana Rita", is the widow of reggae legend/musician Bob Marley, and a member of the trio the I Threes, Bob Marley's backup singers [Image copyright Getty Images].

Credits

Director
Stascha Bader
Producer
Valentin Greutert
Producer
Betty Palik

Broadcasts

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