So I’m listening to the radio and hear an old, love song I remember belting out (like there was no tomorrow) as a little girl. It brings back memories of holidays in the country, romping in the red dirt with my cousins, playing tic tac toe, telling Anansi stories by Home-Sweet-Home kerosene lamp and waiting for Mama (i.e. grandma) to come home from work to see if she bring bulla or cookies or anything else made from sugar, butter and flour.
Curious, I run to the internet to look for the song and the artistes and buck up the song’s release date: 1975.
Of course, mi chastise mi madda when she visits for the Christmas.
. “What were you thinking?! Eh? What were you thinking letting me listen to a song like that? I was 4 years old!” How could she??
In her dry way, without even batting an eyelash at me, she says, “Well, that’s what was playing on the radio.”
Both my mother and father were guilty of allowing me to listen to the likes of GQ, Ray Goodman and Brown, Percy Sledge, Eddie Kendricks, Four Tops, Spinners, and I could go on and on and on. These were the days of Capitol Stereo (RJR FM) when the music was played uninterrupted–me mean not one, so-so commercial.
Thanks to the radio being on in our home or car, I was exposed to many genres of music that would last me a lifetime. I don’t remember most of my life, but I remember the songs I heard, how I felt when I heard them and what stage of my life I heard them.
I heard generous doses of jazz, blues, mento, classical, big band, rock n roll, calypso, soul, country & western, disco, ska, rocksteady, reggae, you name it.
In Jamaica, we love music, and we love to dance, so much so that wi “invent” dance move very regula. But our dance pros will tell you there’s nothing new under the sun and our contemporary, homegrown moves have their roots in Africa.
While North America celebrates black history in February, we celebrate reggae in Jamaica. For the whole month. Yes. Sweet, right?
In case, you didn’t know, three of our greatest reggae singers were born in February:
**Bob Marley, a.k.a “King of Reggae” – February 6, 1945 (d. May 11, 1981)
**Bunny Rugs, former lead singer, Third World – February 6, 1948 (d. February 2, 2014)
**Dennis Brown, a.k.a “Crown Prince of Reggae” – February 1, 1957 (d. July 1, 1999)
As you can see, they’ve all passed on. However, their catalogues will stick to our ribs and our consciousness for eternity. You will get a mix of history, social commentary, dance, spiritual, likkle rebuke here an’ dere and even lovey-dovey softies (as Barry G “The Boogie Man” used to say).
Apart from these, there are many more reggae singers and bands that have been around since reggae was born in the late 1960s. If I was to start listing them today, I probably wouldn’t finish until next week . . . sometime . . . I think.
So, like I did for the foundation-music post (click right here), I’m going to attempt to pluck out a handful of songs (a heaping handful) that are on my virtual and virtually endless list of reggae favourites.
This selection will be purely from the reggae stalwarts. For me, they provided many of the mighty soundtracks that taxied me from childhood into adolescence and made landing into adulthood a little smoother. It’s the stuff I grew up hearing on the radio and seeing on TV from the days of Where It’s At (JBC TV) , 2 to 6 Supermix (JBC radio) and beyond. It’s the stuff that brings back a lot of nostalgia and makes me miss the days of racial pride, social consciousness and simplicity.
So, youngsters, no Chronixx, Raging Fyah, Protoje etc today. Will save these young-uns for a future post.
Okay, so here we go . . .
Oh, wait deh. This list is in alphabetical order (by artiste) and no other order. It is not a top 20 countdown or anything like that. It’s a simple list. Like di list whey yuh tek go shop or supermarket. If I was to ever try ranking my favourite reggae songs, it would be like trying to rank the hairs on my head. Yuh get mi?
Okay . . .
Wait deh again. One more thing.
So mi and yuh nuh siddung all day ah look pon list, I’ve restricted my selections to
10 (ahem) 15 artistes I could easily (an’ a mean easily) spend all day listening to. For each artiste, I’ve selected no more than two songs. You will find that a few are cover versions. Approximate year of release is in brackets.
Look them up, have a listen and tell me what you think. If none of your favourites are on this list, drop me a line, tell me a few of the ones that mek yuh rock an’ come een or jump up with a finger in the air, so I can listen to them too.
- A.J. Brown – “Father & Friend” (1997)
- Benjy Myaz – “Love You Higher” (1995) * “Lover’s Paradise” (1998)
- Beres Hammond – “No Disturb Sign” (1994) * “Groovy Little Thing” (1985)
- Bob Marley & the Wailers – “Coming in From the Cold” (1980) * “One Drop” (1979)
- Bunny Wailer – “Cool Runnings” (1981) * “Ball Room Floor” (1981)
- Chalice – “Good to be There” (1981) * “Revival Time” (1985)
- Dennis Brown – “Love Has Found Its Way” (1982) * “Sitting and Watching” (1980)
- Freddie McGregor – “Don’t Hurt My Feelings” (1987) * “That Girl/Groovy Situation” (1987)
- J.C. Lodge – “Someone Loves You Honey” (1980)
- Jimmy Cliff – “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” (1969) * “Reggae Night” (1983)
- Judy Mowatt – “Black Woman” (1980)
- Marcia Griffiths – “Peaceful Woman” (1977) * “Dreamland” (1977)
- Mighty Diamonds – “I Need a Roof” (1976) * “Identity” (1979)
- Rita Marley – “A Jah Jah” (1980)
- Third World – “Try Jah Love” (1982) * “Always Around” (1979)
Catch yuh next time!
Love and peace,
Interesting notes for you:
- Barry “Barry G” Gordon is one of Jamaica’s beloved radio personalities, with over 40 years in radio, hosting past programs like 2 to 6 Supermix during the 1970s and 80s. He is now on Mello FM, Montego Bay.
- Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), a government-owned entity, operated from 1959 to 1997.
- RJR is short for Radio Jamaica Limited
- Where It’s At was a weekly, performance show in the 1970s (I believe) which featured contemporary Jamaican music.
Image of ‘Tic Tac Toe Game’ courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Original image of ‘Turntable’ courtesy of Graur Razman Ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net