Rocksteady Pioneer Lynn Taitt Dies in Montreal

Rocksteady Pioneer Lynn Taitt Dies in Montreal
The key architect of Jamaica's rocksteady music has passed away. Guitarist Lynn Taitt had battled cancer for several years, passing away on Wednesday (January 20) in Montreal. Sources differ as to his age, but one source reports that he was 75.

Moss "Mossman" Raxlen, the music producer for this past summer's documentary, Rocksteady: The Roots Of Reggae, met Taitt in 2002 and comments, "It is truly a passing of a musical giant and sad knowing that will never get the full love and respect he truly deserved while he was alive."

Taitt was born in San Fernando, Trinidad and began playing guitar in the early '60s. He first went to Jamaica in 1963 for a gig booked by entertainment magnate and bandleader Byron Lee.

Taitt had a supporting role in the major ska ensembles of the period, including the Skatalites, the Sheiks and the Cavaliers. As ska turned into rocksteady in 1966, he and his band the Jets became in-demand session musicians. His fluid guitar style contrasted with the slow, rumbling tempo of the new music. He was largely responsible for the sound of Federal Studios during rocksteady's heyday, and is identified with eternally popular songs such as Hopeton Lewis's "Take It Easy," Alton Ellis's "Girl I've Got A Date" and Derrick Morgan's "Tougher The Tough."

The guitarist first came to Canada in 1968, and resided in Toronto for a few years before settling in Montreal. In Montreal, he recorded with ska band the Kingpins, and appeared at the city's jazz festival several times.

"His musical contribution was great not only in Jamaica and Trinidad but also all over the world" says Raxlen. "Here in Montreal, he never stopped working on music, whether it was for local calypso and reggae groups as a writer and arranger, or in the many bands that he worked and performed with."

Taitt appeared in the documentary, but according to Raxlen, "He was meant to be a big part of the Rocksteady project - in a many ways it was to be his swan song, but as fate would have it, it was not meant to be".

He was the subject of the documentary Lynn Taitt: Rocksteady in 2006, and another documentary, entitled Ruff N' Tuff, which and is scheduled to screen at the Reggae Film Festival in Kingston, Jamaica on February 25.