Laurel Aitken was born on April 22, 1927 in Cuba under the name Lorenzo Aitken. The British label boss Gaz Mayall gave him the title 'Godfather of Ska' in the mid-1980s - and rightly so, as he is commonly considered one of the founders of ska music in Jamaica. The Aitken family moved there, to West Kingston in 1938.
There he came into contact with the then popular rhythm'n' blues from New Orleans via US F.M. radio stations. Favourites included Smiley Lewis, Louis Jordan and Amos Milburn. The combination of the cool sounds from New Orleans with Caribbean Calypso formed the basis for his particularly unique style, which later should conquer the world as Ska music. Initially, however, Aitken worked for the Jamaican Tourist Board and appeared as an entertainer in nightclubs. After first recordings, Chris Blackwell who was born in London in 1937, later founder of Island Records, produced Boogie in My Bones b/w Little Sheila, the first pop record from Jamaica that was also released in England.
In 1960 Aitken moved to Brixton in London and recorded fifteen singles for the 'Blue Beat' label before returning to Jamaica in 1963. With the Skatallites as his backing band, he made further recordings there, before returning to Great Britain, where he was able to further consolidate his position as a leading Ska musician. Besides the Caribbean inhabitants of London he was especially popular amongst mods, skinheads and other Ska fans. From the late 1950s until the 1970s Aitken was able to achieve a multitude of hits internationally. In 1970 he settled down with his wife in Leicester, England, and performed less frequently. In 1980 Ska experienced a renaissance, and finally he entered the British single charts for the first time with Rudi Got Married.
On 17 July 2005, Laurel Aitken died of a heart attack in his adopted hometown of Leicester. He is remembered as the artist who made Mento/Calypso, R&B, Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae his own thing.