Acoustic Guitar Masters
R&B, Soul and Funk
The visuals in both of these videos — Funky Kingston (above) and Sweet and Dandy (below) are fabulous, as is the music. The Sweet and Dandy clip is from The Harder They Come, one of the greatest musicals ever. The Funky Kingston video simply shows streets scenes of Kingston, presumably in the early 1970s when the song was released.
Depending on the mood of the viewer, the clips show either crushing poverty or capture the fantasy of having nothing and living among a group of people who have nothing as well. Upon thinking it through, living in that way isn’t attractive, of course. But, still…
Here is part of Toots & the Maytals’ Wikipedia profile is very interesting:
Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, the frontman of the group, was born in May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica in 1942, the youngest of seven children. He grew up singing gospel music in a church choir, and moved to Kingston in the early 1960s.
In Kingston, Hibbert met Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias, forming in 1961 a group whose early recordings were incorrectly attributed to “The Flames” and “The Vikings” in the UK by Island Records. The Maytals first had chart success recording for producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd at Studio One. With musical backing from Dodd’s house band, The Skatalites, the Maytals’ close-harmony gospel singing ensured success, overshadowing Dodd’s other up-and-coming vocal group, The Wailers. After staying at Studio One for about two years, the group moved on to do sessions for Prince Buster before recording with Byron Lee in 1966. With Lee, the Maytals won the first-ever Jamaican Independence Festival Popular Song Competition with their original song “Bam Bam” (later covered in a Dancehall style by Sister Nancy, and also by Yellowman in 1982). However, the group’s musical career was interrupted in late 1966 when Hibbert was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. He stated that he was not arrested for ganja, but while bailing a friend. He also stated that he made up the number 54-46 when writing “54-46 That’s My Number” about his time in jail. (Continue Reading…)
I cross post The Daily Music Break at Daily Kos, a political/cultural site. In December, I did a post on the influential ska/reggae band The Skatalites. A comment there pointed to a Slovkian band called Polemic. The usual sources of information — Wikipedia and AllMusic — have next to nothing. I finally found a MyPage listing and the band’s website. Neither of those were fonts of enlightenment.
In any case, they do a terrific version of Jimmy Cliff’s You Can Get it if You Really Want, below. But if you only have time to check out one video, please choose the one above, entitled Svetlá Mesta. My universal knowledge of language — actually, Google Translate — reveals that it indeed is Slovak and means “city lights.” It’s a great song — though I don’t understand a word of it. Please check it out. The video (and presumably the words) actually tells the story of an old man being picked up by a couple of beautiful young girls.
The band identifies themselves as in the reggae/ska category. Svetlá Mesta has a Latin feel to it. I almost felt like I was listening to something from The Buena Vista Social Club, especially after the first minute or so.
Burning Spear, as the Wikipedia entry below makes clear, is a man named Winston Rodney:
Rodney was born in Saint Ann’s Bay, Saint Ann, Jamaica, as were reggae singer Bob Marley and political activist Marcus Garvey who both had a great influence on Rodney’s life: Garvey in his philosophy, which Burning Spear greatly took to, and Marley in directly helping Burning Spear get started in the music industry (by some accounts) by introducing him to Clement Dodd. Rodney met Marley at the latter’s farm in 1969, and having told him that he wanted to get into the music business, Marley advised him to start at Dodd’s Studio One label. Reggae singer Larry Marshall claimed that it was he, while visiting St. Ann’s Bay with Jackie Mittoo, who was approached by Rodney, and gave him this advice, and arranged the introduction. Continue Reading…
The Skatalites, a long-standing Jamaican band play ska, which is a precursor to reggae. Wikipedia, believe it or not, has a lot to say on the topic:
Ska ( /ˈskɑː/, Jamaican [skjæ]) is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1930s, and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. It is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads. Continue Reading…
The band goes back to 1964. Here is the beginning of the bio from its site, which has some great autoplay music:
The Skatalites brought together the top musicians and styles of the time—fusing boogie-woogie blues, R&B, jazz, mento, calypso, and African rhythms—to create the first truly Jamaican music: ska. Throughout the mid-20th century, experience in big bands solidified the prowess of most Jamaican musicians; yet, the genesis for many of the great Skatalites goes back to a boys’ school established for the wayward. Continue Reading…
Above is Phoenix City. The Skatalites enjoy reinterpreting movie music. They do The James Bond Movie Theme (from Dr. No) and others. Below is The Guns of Navarone.
Tomorrow is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murder of Winston Hubert McIntosh, who was known as Peter Tosh. He was 42 years old when he died.
This is from a very nice bio at the musician’s website:
Tosh was the backbone and heartbeat of the Wailers as well the group’s most accomplished musician – and a constant in the band throughout the arrivals and departures of his musical brethren. His tireless guitar, keyboards, percussion and other instrumentation formed the foundation of the Wailers’ sound and essentially set the course of reggae music. He was also a prolific and powerful songwriter, his militant perspective offering a bracing contrast to Marley’s more reassuring tone. In a sense he played Lennon to his bandmate’s McCartney.
In July, 2011, Baz Dreisinger posted a very interesting piece at NPR that described a less than completely harmonious relationship between Marley and Tosh, or at least the two Wailers’ role in the marketing of the band:
Tosh left the Wailers in 1973, as the group was gaining international fame. He’s said to have griped about the starring role given to the lighter-skinned Marley by the group’s manager, Island Records chief Chris Blackwell. Steffens says that when Tosh recorded his first solo album in 1976, he sought an alternative source of funding in the U.S.
The tension seems to lead credence — perhaps in an unintended way — to the Lennon/McCartney comparison.
Toots and the Maytals is another great reggae band. Here is Pressure Drop, one of the hits from The Harder They Come, the landmark film that introduced reggae to the rest of the world. Jimmy Cliff sings the title track. Another song from the movie–it’s one of the great soundtracks ever–is By the Rivers of Babylon. This version was done much later by Cliff.
Peter Tosh, who had been a Wailer, had a hit with Don’t Look Back.