Laurel Aitken Kicked the Bucket
SUNDAY 17th JULY 2005 – VERY SAD NEWS
LAUREL AITKEN – THE GODFATHER OF SKA DIED at 8am this morning of a heart attack in Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, England.
He was reported to be undergoing treatment for double pneumonia at a hospital in Leicester, England. Word from the family at the time said that his condition was serious and they did not expect Aitken, 78, to be able to perform or sing again.
Listen to Longshot Kicked the Bucket (Live)
Laurel Aitken was born in 1927 in Cuba and moved to West Kingston, Jamaica in 1938 with his family when he was eleven. He began his music career in the 40’s, singing songs in the Nat King Cole/Louis Jordan style of that time. – and then cut his teeth on the sounds of R & B, soul, calypso, mento – as well as his personal love: boogie.
Singing at the Glass Bucket Club and attending the roving sound systems provided stomping grounds where Laurel began to develop and hone his great talent for singing, dancing and generally attracting an audience. Laurel cut several singles in the 50’s, including in 1957, the R&Bish “Roll, Jordan Roll.”
Laurel’s big break came in a year later with the release of the “Little Sheila”/”Boogie in my Bones” double A sided single — the first single ever released on a new upstart label called Island Records, which was founded by Englishman Chris Blackwell. “Little Sheila” spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Jamaican charts, cementing his popularity with Jamaican music fans.
Island soon grew to become the the seminal force that introduced and promoted Jamaican music in the UK — and today retains its status as on eof the biggest supporters of Jamaican music. It is Blackwell’s influence in generating English interest in the Jamaican sound that left a mark on ska’s history in general and Aitken’s history specifically.
Laurel Aitken immigrated to England in 1960 and changed the face of ska music forever. Throughout the 50’s, wave after wave of Jamaican citizens left Jamaica to settle in post-W.W. II England, where job opportunities were there for those who wanted them. With Jamaican immigrants came a demand for Jamaican tastes in the UK and Laurel heard that he could make it big overseas. Despite gray skies and miserable weather, Aitken found the Jamaican community in the London neighborhood of Brixton welcoming.
A label in Britain had been releasing bootlegs of unavailable Jamaican recordings to meet the new demands — and when Laurel arrived, he had a stern word with the responsible parties. From that meeting, Melodic started a new label – Blue Beat – to cater to the Jamaican market. After several years with Melodic, Laurel moved on and recorded for EMI, Ska Beat, Nu Beat, Direct Records and Doctor Bird Records, among many others.
During this period, he cut such classic tracks as “Fire in Mi Wire,” “Bartender,” “Jesse James,” “Landlord and Tenants,” “It’s Too Late” and “Pussy Price.” Laurel was the only Jamaican star who regularly toured the UK and was very successful in doing so. Laurel Aitken has had a long and fruitful recording career that continues to this day. He has performed all styles of Jamaican music, including rock steady and reggae.
Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, ” Laurel waved the Blue Beat banner. When Jerry Dammer and company went about forging a British new wave ska festival at the end of the 70’s, it was the power of Laurel Aitken and Prince Buster that became Laurel continued to perform and record throughout the 80’s and 90’s (with such diverse ska stars as Japan’s Ska Flames, Germany’s Busters and America’s Toasters) – and to this day remains a dynamic live performer who always wows an audience.
Laurel Aitken has been deeply involved with ska music since its birth — and through every ‘wave’ of ska music. He has performed all over the world and despite being 72 years young, Laurel is ready to remind the new US ska crowd that he really is the “Godfather of Ska.During the 2-Tone era, Laurel played with The English Beat and toured with the mod band Secret Affair (and was backed by the punk/reggae band the Ruts!) — and his career was rejuvenated with the new found popularity of ska in the UK.
The classic “Rudi Got Married” was released during this period on I-Spy/Arista Records. After the demise of 2-Tone, Laurel kept his faith in ska music and recorded several albums and single with the brilliant British ska band, Potato 5 and even appeared in the mod film “Absolute Beginners” with David Bowie.