Jamaican rhythms have found a home on the rock and pop charts for decades. The ’70s and ’80s were especially good to ska, rocksteady, reggae, and associated rhythms, with American superstars such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder turning them into gold and a clutch of bands from Britain, like Madness, the English Beat, and the Specials, creating an exciting new-wave/ska hybrid known as 2 Tone. In the August issue of MD we look at twenty crossover hits. Here are a few more tunes you might know.
As Gil Sharone explains in the feature article “The Evolution of a Style,” Carlton Barrett’s playing on Bob Marley’s international hit “Jammin’” is an example of a swung steppers beat. This 1977 performance is from the Live at the Rainbow DVD.
This cut, originally released on Wonder’s 1980 album, Hotter Than July, is a tribute to Bob Marley. Stevie himself played drums on the original track; check out this live version from the 2009 DVD Live at Last, featuring Stanley Randolph at the kit.
2 Tone Records’ lead band created a brilliant mix of Jamaican ska grooves and British punk aggression, and depending on the song, John Bradbury’s approach to the drums could lean toward one style or another. On this 1980 SNL performance of “Gangsters,” the band’s debut 1979 single, it’s all about the rock.
The Jamaican youngsters known as Musical Youth found themselves all over the radio in 1982 with this hit, a reworked version of a song by the Mighty Diamonds. At about fifteen years old, Freddie “Junior” Waite is more than holding his own on this performance, another classic from Saturday Night Live.