The entire world knows that reggae music comes from rocksteady. What most people don’t know, however, is that although rocksteady started in Jamaica, it was started by a Trinidadian. The creator of rocksteady is Lynn Taitt from Trinidad and Tobago.
Today the bassline and guitar riffs of rocksteady are still prominent in dancehall and reggae music.
Taitt made his name as a prolific session musician during the 1960s, playing on countless hit songs by Hopeton Lewis, Desmond Dekker, Johnny Nash, Alton Ellis, and The Melodians.
It was while leader of The Jets that Taitt helped fashion a new beat. The song that transitioned ska to rocksteady was Take It Easy by Lewis, and it was recorded at Federal Records in 1965.
“When I went to Jamaica and started playing with Baba Brooks and those guys, everything was fast, but in Trinidad they had fast calypso and slow calypso,” Taitt said in a 2003 interview with a Jamaican tabloid. “So that day I told Gladdy AKA keyboardist Gladstone Anderson to slow the tempo and that’s how Take It Easy and rocksteady came about. Rocksteady is really slow ska.
Born in the San Fernando region of Trinidad as Nerlin Taitt, he came to Jamaica in 1962 to play in a band celebrating Jamaica’s independence. The first hit song he played on was Chang Kai Shek, an instrumental by Brooks’s band that has driven numerous hits.
Taitt also recorded early on with The Skatalites, playing on several of their outstanding songs, including Guns of Navarone, Confucius and Gun Fever.
His signature riffs can also be heard on Nash’s Hold Me Tight, Alton Ellis’s Girl I’ve Got A Date, Desmond Dekker’s Israelites and 007 (Shantytown), The Melodians’ You Have Caught Me, and Keith and Tex’s Stop That Train.
On many of the sessions played Taitt, he was accompanied by The Jets. His bandmates were Anderson, saxophonist Headley Bennett, guitarist Lynford Hux’Brown, organist Winston Wright, and bass player Brian Atkinson.
Nerlin “Lynn” Taitt, who was never recognized for his contribution to Jamaican music, died in January 2010 in Montreal, Canada, at age 75.