This documentary chronicles the coming together of the surviving vocal stars and studio musicians of Jamaica's Rocksteady era to record an album of their greatest 1960s hits, to perform at a reunion concert, and to tell their story.
The Rocksteady era is considered the golden age of Jamaican music because it gave birth to Reggae, a musical force which swept the world and whose greatest ambassador, Bob Marley, became a global, cultural icon. From Rocksteady originated the prominent bass pulse, sweet and soulful vocals and socially conscious lyrics that gave Reggae its power. The 1960s was a roller coaster decade in Jamaica, which was transformed politically, socially, economically and culturally. Rocksteady singers gave voice to these events becoming like "newspapers" on the island. In Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, legendary artists, including Rita Marley, Stranger Cole, Leroy Sibbles, Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe, Judy Mowatt and Derrick Morgan tell stories about life and music making in Jamaica at that time. In 1962, the island gained its independence from Great Britain. There was celebration, optimism, economic growth and opportunity. Recording studios popped up all over Kingston, competed for the best artists and produced an astounding number of songs, many of which became hits there and overseas. The best known, "You Don't Love Me Anymore, No No No", "Tide is High" and "Rivers of Babylon" - as well as 13 other famous songs, are performed in the film. By 1968, Jamaica's economic bubble had burst and unemployed youths fought with police for control of the streets. As poverty, violence and political upheaval spread, Rocksteady songs became less about romance and more about the country's social problems.