This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Do The Reggay is the first song where the word reggay (which later became reggae) made an appearance. It was performed by THE MAYTALS.
The song was written by The Maytals’ main man, Toots Hibbert. He said that he took the term from a scruffy or unkempt person. Wherever he got it, it certainly caught on. Here is that first song that rather lives up to his definition.
Back in 1988, SHABBA RANKS (Rexton Gordon) recorded an album called “Rapping with the Girls”. One of those “girls” was KRYSTAL (Cherylle Ramdeen).
One of the songs they performed is Twice My Age. It seemed to me that Krystal listened very carefully to the song Seasons in the Sun, until I found out our song today was written by Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen (and a couple of others).
Jacques wrote the original French version of Seasons (called Le Moribond), and his friend Rod the English lyrics, so I guess they’re allowed to steal from themselves.
Before there was Bob Marley, before Toots Hibbert, even before Jimmy Cliff, DESMOND DEKKER was pretty much alone bringing reggae music to the outside world.
Desmond performs the song 007 (Shanty Town), and of course, the writer Ian Fleming spent much of his life in Jamaica writing the James Bond (and other) books. I suspect he didn’t live in Shanty Town though.
Jamaican musicians originally based their music on American soul and R&B music. It wasn’t the only style of music that they used. ANNETTE (Annette Brissett) listened to American pop songs, quite obviously.
Annette’s song is Lover’s Concerto, which was a big hit for The Toys. The song was based on a minuet by classical composer Christian Petzold (not J.S. Bach as is often contended).
TOOTS & THE MAYTALS were the biggest selling reggae performers in the sixties and seventies.
By the eighties, Toots (Hibbert) had left and has had a successful solo career. The Maytals had a couple of songs on the soundtrack of the film The Harder They Come, probably the finest soundtrack album of all time. From that they perform The Pressure Drop.
CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS (John Taylor and Everton Bonner) have evolved from straight reggae performers into a sort of reggae/hip hop act. They had started along on that change on the song Gal Wine, (from their first album together), but weren’t very far advanced on that journey (fortunately).
They both had established careers before they teamed up to become one of the most successful groups in the genre.
At last we get to my favorite reggae artist, JIMMY CLIFF.
I mentioned the film The Harder They Come above. Jimmy was the lead actor in that picture as well as contributing songs to the soundtrack album, including Many Rivers to Cross.
PETER TOSH (Winston McIntosh) was a founder member of The Wailers, along with Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley. Initially, he was the only one in the group who could play any instruments (guitar and piano, in his case).
He later left The Wailers after a dispute with their record producer (who refused to release one of their albums). Later in his career he hung around with the Rolling Stones and made records with both Keith and Mick.
In 1987, Peter was murdered in a home invasion. From the album “Wanted Dread and Alive,” here is the title song.
I guess people would be saying, “Where’s Bob?” if I omitted BOB MARLEY, so here he is.
Although he’d been recording for a while, he didn’t become known in the outside world until Eric Clapton recorded a cover version of his song I Shot the Sheriff. If you’re familiar with Eric’s version, you’ll be even more impressed with Bob’s version, although he is a bit heavy on the wah-wah pedal.
Just because I can, I’ve added a bonus track from JIMMY CLIFF.
Another song from the film is You Can Get It If You Really Want.