July 17, 2005 – Laurel Aitken/Lorenzo Aitken (the Godfather of Ska) was born in Cuba of mixed Cuban and Jamaican descent on April 22nd 1927. His family settled in Jamaica in 1938 and he went on to become Jamaica’s first real recording star.
His first recordings in the late 1950s were mento tunes such as “Nebuchnezer”, “Sweet Chariot” and “Baba Kill Me Goat”. Progressing to a pre-ska shuffle, his 1958 single “Little Sheila”/”Boogie in My Bones” was one of the first records produced by Chris Blackwell, who founded his Island Records label that year, and the first Jamaican popular music record to be released in the UK.
Other rock and roll singles from this period include “Low Down Dirty Girl”, “Drinkin’ Whisky” and “More Whisky”.
Laurel moved to Brixton, London in 1960 and recorded for the Blue Beat label, releasing fifteen singles before returning to Jamaica in 1963.
He recorded for Duke Reid, with backing from The Skatalites on tracks such as “Zion” and “Weary Wanderer”, before once again returning to the UK, where he began working with Pama Records. He recorded hits such as “Fire in Mi Wire” and “Landlord and Tenants”, which led to a wider recognition outside of Jamaica and the UK.
This cemented his position as one of ska’s leading artists. He gained a loyal following not only among the West Indian community, but also among mods, skinheads and other ska fans. He had hit records in the UK and other countries in the 1950s through to the 1970s.
He died of a heart attack on July 17, 2005 at the age of 78.