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. It was a landmark for the reggae genre which has been a part of mainstream pop music since.
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."
"I Shot the Sheriff" was written by reggae legend Bob Marley. He said in interviews that the song is about justice. It was first released in a recording by Bob Marley and the Wailers on the 1973 album Burnin'. In 1974 Eric Clapton released his cover of the song on the album 461 Ocean Boulevard and it became a pop classic hitting #1 in the US and Canada and #9 in the UK. Eric Clapton's recording of "I Shot the Sheriff" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.
Neil Diamond wrote and recorded "Red Red Wine" in 1968. His original is a mid-tempo ballad about drinking wine to forget romantic difficulties. Released as a single it had a minor chart appearance climbing to #62. British reggae pop band UB40 recorded and released their reggae version of "Red Red Wine" in 1983 and it turned into a major worldwide pop hit for the group. It climbed to #1 in the UK and #34 in the US in 1984. A 1988 re-released of the song climbed all the way to #1 in the US ensuring the record's place as a reggae pop classic.
Ziggy is the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. He reached the pop top 40 with this uplifting anthem produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads. It's a beautiful reggae ballad with a theme of respecting the past and holding love in your heart.
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.
The Canadian reggae pop band MAGIC! was formed by Canadian songwriter and producer Nasri Atweh. The group came together after Nasri Atweh met guitarist Mark Pellizer in the studio. They worked on the song "Don't Judge Me" for Chris Brown and came up with the idea of forming a reggae influenced band. "Rude" is their first single and it has gone to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
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 soundtrack to the film Ready To Wear (Pret-a-Porter). "Here Comes the Hotstepper" hit #1 on the US 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 TV 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.