Music Tonight: Reggae music emerged in 1960s Jamaica, evolving from earlier Jamaican forms likes Mento, Ska and Rocksteady, and it didn't take long for artists from outside of its island birthplace to begin incorporating elements of the rhythmic style into their own material. American singer/songwriter Johnny Nash is credited with having the first Reggae-influenced hit in the U.S. with 1968's "Hold Me Tight," considered to be the first time most heard Reggae. From there, Reggae exploded and it eventually became almost commonplace on the charts, as Rock artists like Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton played around with the format and helped get U.S. ears primed for Reggae's first big global sensation, Bob Marley. Marley's 1973 major label debut Catch A Fire (which, oddly enough, incorporated Rock elements) took Reggae international and, ever since, artists worldwide have pushed forward the music's evolution.
From young punk rockers embrace of Ska and Reggae in mid-’70s England to occasional Reggae-tinged Pop and Rock hits to the influence of toasting on early Hip Hop (and Dancehall on later Hip Hop), Reggae has continued to have a presence in the music world at large. While never a particularly dominant format in a business sense, impressively, the music has continued to inspire young musicians, who often borrow the music's foundation but add their own personal variation.
Tonight at 20th Century Theater in Oakley, one of today's more well-known Reggae disciples, DC-based band SOJA, headlines an 8 p.m. concert with openers The Movement and Kids These Days. While respectful of Reggae's traditions (they would certainly please most purists), the band comes at the music with a more "Jam band" mentality. Though, really, Reggae already is "Jam band" music, with its loping, hypnotic rhythms. SOJA has gone over well when opening for the likes of Dave Matthews and O.A.R. (not to mention another modern Reggae torch-bearer, Matisyahu), enabling the band to grown a fanbase the same way those two acts did — putting on great, passionate live shows all over, frequently.
After years on the D.I.Y. train, SOJA is touring behind its recent release for the Dave Matthews-founded label ATO titled Strength To Survive. It's the first label with which the group has aligned itself, which is mind-blowing considering how much of a cult sensation they have become. Going into the deal with ATO, the band's YouTube viewing stats were over 20 million, its Facebook page boasts over half million friends and a legion of fans with Grateful Dead-like dedication to SOJA follow them across the globe. (Read more from this week's CityBeat here.)
SOJA is just the latest example of Reggae's strangely timeless and enduring appeal. The music's originators may not have known it then, but they truly tapped into something special back on that little tropical island a half century ago. Here's SOJA's video for the new album's tile track, "Strength To Survive."
Momentous Happenings in Music History for Feb. 16
On this day in 2004, Paul McCartney reportedly called U.K. tabloid The Sun after reading for the 15 millionth time that his daughter Stella and his new wife Heather Mills were at each others' throats, insisting that they both found each other perfectly delightful. In the call, he also asked the paper to stop what had become popular sport at the time — bashing Mills and painting her as an attention-craving gold digger. —-
Paul's noble efforts now seem wasted in light of what has happened since. As divorce proceeding began, the press ate up leaked documents that allegedly had Mills accusing McCartney of physical abuse and having problems with booze and weed. In a 2007 interview, Mills — who reportedly was awarded nearly $40 million in the divorce — blamed their split on Stella, whom she called "evil."
Did Sir Paul put on a big free concert for all British tabloid employees as an apology? Not quite. Last summer he told reporters he believed his phones were hacked by those papers, just as the case against News of the World was heating up. Mills just recently reiterated her claims that listening to messages on her phone from McCartney as they were in the midst of a huge fight was the only way the tabloids could have known some of the things reported.
It's OK, Paul — we all make mistakes. They can't all be Lindas!
Here's Paul from Sunday's Grammys show:
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers born Feb. 16 include R&B/Soul singer James Ingram (1952); Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins (1972); clever modern Hip Hop star Lupe Fiasco (1982); and pioneering pimp-turned-rapper-turned-actor-turned-reality-TV-star Tracy Marrow, known better as Ice-T (1958).
Although Ice is trying his best with his new reality series costarring his disfigured wife, Ice Loves Coco, he'll have to the show for a very long time before we all forget he was once a gifted, influential MC.