1960s Reggae Music: The Best of the Decade

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


1960s reggae music was a melting pot of various influences, from ska and rocksteady to R&B, jazz, and African music. The best of the decade is represented here in this list of essential 1960s reggae tracks.

1960s Reggae Music

Reggae music originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term reggae was first used to describe the new music style in 1968. Reggae is a rhythmically based music style which evolved from earlier genres such as ska and rocksteady.

The 1960s was the decade that saw the birth of reggae music and the genre became very popular in Jamaica and overseas. Reggae artists such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Toots & The Maytals became international stars and their hits were heard all over the world.

There are many great reggae songs from the 1960s, but here are ten of the best:

1. “Simmer Down” by The Wailers (1964)
2. “One Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1977)
3. “The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff (1972)
4. “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1975)
5. “ Exodus” by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1977)
6. “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1973)
7. “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff (1972)
8. “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1980)
9. “Nobody Knows” by Toots & The Maytals (1966)
10. “Pressure Drop” by Toots & The Maytals (1970)

The Best of the Decade

The 1960s were a decade of change, and that was reflected in the music of the time. Reggae music was no exception. The best reggae of the 1960s was a mixture of the old and the new, the traditional and the innovative.

Bob Marley and the Wailers

While other reggae artists were putting out great music in the 1960s, Bob Marley and the Wailers released some of the best and most influential reggae music of the decade.

The group’s debut album, “The Wailing Wailers,” was released in 1965 and featured a mix of ska, rocksteady, and traditional Jamaican mento influences. The album didn’t make much of a splash outside of Jamaica, but it did establish Marley as a local star.

The group’s next album, “Soul Rebels,” was released in 1970 and featured the now-classic song “Simmer Down.” The album was a huge success in Jamaica and helped to launch Marley’s international career.

Over the next few years, Marley and the Wailers would release a string of classic albums that would solidify their place as one of the greatest reggae bands of all time. These albums included “Catch a Fire” (1972), “Burnin'” (1973), “Natty Dread” (1974), and “Exodus” (1977).

If you’re looking for some great 1960s reggae music, then you can’t go wrong with Bob Marley and the Wailers.

The Skatalites

The Skatalites are a Jamaican ska and rocksteady group. Founded in 1964, they played a major role in the development of these genres. They also played on numerous hits by other artists and groups, including “Simmer Down” by the Wailers and “Don’t Throw Stones” by Toots & the Maytals. They disbanded in 1965, but re-formed in 1983.

The band has been credited with introducing the world to ska music and helping to launch the careers of many Jamaican musicians, including Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Toots & the Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Ernie Smith.

The Skatalites were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2018, Billboard magazine ranked them among the 55th greatest musical artists of all time.

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff, OM (born James Chambers; 1 April 1948) is a Jamaican ska and reggae musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer and actor. He is the only currently living musician to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievement in the field of music. Cliff is best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as “Sitting in Limbo”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “Harder They Come” from the soundtrack album of The Harder They Come (1972), which helped popularize both reggae and the eponymous film.

Cliff was born in Somerton District, St. James, Jamaica. He began writing songs while still atschool in Mona, St. Andrew. By the early 1960s he was already being recognized as Jamaica’s best upcoming talentand had started to produce hits such as “King of Kings”, “Dearest Beverly” and “Miss Jamaica”. His international career took off when he teamed up with American record producer Leslie Kong, who had him tour with American R&B star Jimmy Riley. For a short time he was one of Kong’s stable of young recording artists known collectively as The Wailers or The Classics which included Toots Hibbert, Delroy Wilsonand Marlene Webber. Cliff signed to Island Records in 1962; his debut album was Hurricane Hattie later that year produced by Kong. It failed commercially in Britain but received some good reviews and sold well in Jamaica despite its low budget production values – unlike many other Ska albums it included full vocal harmonies rather than being simply instrumental tracks with occasional shouts or chants by Cliff.”

Toots and the Maytals

ReggaeLegend Toots Hibbert and his band the Maytals were one of the most important and successful artists of the 1960s. They popularized the genre with hits like “Do the Reggay” and “Pressure Drop,” and their 1968 album Sweet and Dandy is considered one of the greatest reggae albums of all time.

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