Win 'Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae' DVD


Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae (Lightyear Entertainment)

Every year about this time, as days get longer and temps rise, I find myself reaching more frequently for my dub, ska, and reggae albums — especially "The Harder They Come," the 1972 soundtrack and veritable Greatest Hits of Reggae that accompanied the movie that introduced Jamaica to a wider world, gritty cinema that showcased the both the island's possibility and tragedy, music, crime, beauty, and poverty. Pretty much every human on earth knows about Bob Marley and what he did with reggae music in the '70s, and many music fans know about how Ska emerged as the first indigenous music of Jamaica in the early '60s and would later be revived worldwide over the ensuing decades. But not everyone knows about Rocksteady, the music that came between.

Rocksteady held sway over the island for only a few years in the mid-'60s, but was the bridge between the fast excitement of ska, the soundtrack of Jamaica's early years of independence starting in 1962, and the impact of ganja, rasta, and political unrest that led to Reggae's glorious peak in the '70s. Rocksteady was about slowing down the ska beat, bringing the dancers close, and heavily influenced by American soul music of the era — Motown, Curtis Mayfield's Impressions, Sam Cooke, New Orleans, and Stax/Volt. Rocksteady was love songs and gorgeous harmonies, and some nascent socially conscious messages, with the bass rising to the forefront and the drums beginning the turnaround of the beat that would come to be called One-Drop. Many of the most soulful singers in Jamaican history sang these songs, and some would continue on successfully into the reggae era, while others did not make the transition — not unlike American soul singers of the early '60s that struggled during our similar transition at the end of the decade. Stranger Cole, Hopeton Lewis, Ken Boothe, Derrick Morgan — these were the stars of Rocksteady, and back in 2009 all gathered in Jamaica for a reunion album and concert to commemorate this golden era. And that's what this film is about. With cinematography taking us thru the history of Jamaica, it's physical and spiritual beauty and the challenges of poverty and political disengagement, Stranger Cole narrates this story of the music, with interview profiles and studio performances from all these artists, plus Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, and Rita Marley, women who emerged during Rocksteady and would go on to careers in reggae and to become The I-Threes, Bob Marley's background singers after the original Wailers dispersed. Rita's recollection of her time with Bob and her tour of the Trenchtown ghetto of Kingston is perhaps the most powerful scene in the film, other than the sheer joy of seeing veteran musicians who haven't played together in 40 years reuniting and performing. In that sense Rocksteady is not unlike recent films like Buena Vista Social Club, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Wheedle's Groove (the story of the Seattle soul scene) or the Muscle Shoals documentary — there is a grace, dignity, and power seeing artists later in life appreciating their pasts and enjoying the present, soaking in the appreciation of a reunion concert.

While the movie hit the festival circuit in 2009, it's only now that it is being released on DVD. If you are fan of Jamaican music or just want to soak up the harmonies and vibe of the era, it's a great accompaniment to our days and nights of summer.

"Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae" DVD Giveaway

Use this form to enter The Current's "Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae" DVD Giveaway between 12 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, June 21 and 11:59 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, June 27, 2017.

Five (5) winners will receive one (1) DVD copy of "Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae." Three (3) back up names will be drawn.

Prize retail value: $15

We will contact the winner on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Winner must accept by 10 a.m. CT on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

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