In 1972, Johnny Nash soared to the top of the pop charts with the classic I Can See Clearly Now set to a Jamaican reggae beat. Ever since reggae, and a few Caribbean variants, has been a part of the pop music scene. Here is our list of the Top 10 Reggae Pop hits of all time.
For more details on the reggae genre, check out the Reggae Guide.
Johnny Nash began recording pop music in the 1950's, but he didn't begin recording reggae-influenced music until the late 1960's after returning from a promotional tour to Jamaica. He recorded reggae-influenced covers of Sam Cooke's "Cupid" and Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" before releasing the smash hit "I Can See Clearly Now" in 1972. It spent 4 weeks at #1 on the pop chart and is instantly familiar for the line "I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way."
Somali-Canadian artist K'naan is clearly influenced by the sound and spirit of the legendary Bob Marley. However, he brings into his music African beats, rapping, and pop melody for an international sound that sent this song into the pop top 10 in countries around the world after it was chosen as an official song to help celebrate the 2010 World Cup.
In the late 1990's, Shaggy, nicknamed after the Scooby-Doo character, became the most popular dancehall reggae artist in the world. In this instant classic Shaggy dispenses questionable advice to a friend caught with another woman by his girlfriend over an irresistible Jamaican beat. "It Wasn't Me" reached #1 on the pop singles chart.
Born in Guyana, Eddy Grant had been producing and recording reggae for over a decade before "Electric Avenue" made him a worldwide star. The song actually spans a number of genres including a heavy slice of electronic funk in its musical blender. After it climbed to #2 on the pop chart, it seemed that everyone wanted to "rock down to Electric Avenue."
Ini Kamoze was just one of many practitioners of the Jamaican variant of dancehall reggae called ragamuffin, using digital music tracks to back live singing, until "Here Comes the Hotstepper" appeared. "Hotstepper" is Jamaican patois for a man on the run from the law. The song was used as a key part of the film Ready To Wear (Pret-a-Porter). The song hit #1 on the pop chart in 1995.
Originally recorded in 1987, the song "Bad Boys" didn't become a hit single in the U.S. until it was picked up as the theme song for the Fox network's reality show Cops. Despite its pop success, landing in the top 10, it remains a rather dark, stern warning about the consequences of coming up against the law. The skeletal dancehall beats lend an intoxicating aura of possible menace.
When these musically gifted Jamaican teenagers stormed the pop top 10 in 1983 they seemed like a Jamaican version of the Jackson 5. Despite the fact their signature hit was a barely reworked version of a Mighty Diamonds song extolling the virtues of marijuana (dutchie, meaning cooking pot, replaced kutchie, a word for marijuana, included in the original), the world was charmed. Unfortunately, success was fleeting, but this song remains a classic.