Here are 10 reggae artists that you need to know, from the godfather of reggae to modern-day superstars.
Born Robert Nesta Marley in 1945 in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, to Norval Sinclair Marley and Cedella Booker, Bob Marley was a singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is considered one of the pioneers of reggae and his musical career was marked by fusing elements of ska, rocksteady and jazz. His recordings included the hits “I Shot the Sheriff”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Exodus”, “Buffalo Soldier” and “One Love”. Marley’s music was heavily influenced by social and political issues of his homeland. He died in Miami, United States on 11 May 1981 at age 36 from cancer.
Lee “Scratch” Perry
Lee “Scratch” Perry is a legendary Jamaican reggae and dub artist, who has been described as “one of the most innovative and influential artists of all time.” He is best known for his work with Bob Marley and the Wailers, as well as his own solo work. Perry’s career began in the 1950s, and he has been active ever since. He is credited with helping to pioneer the use of electronic instruments in reggae and dub music, and his unique production style has influenced many other artists.
Dub visionary. Innovator. Genius. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe King Tubby, one of the most important figures in the history of reggae music. Born Osbourne Ruddock in Jamaica in 1941, Tubby was a prolific studio engineer and producer who helped shape the sound of reggae in the 1960s and 1970s. He was one of the first producers to experiment with dub, a style of music that emphasized the rhythm tracks of reggae songs and added echo and other effects. Tubby’s work had a major influence on subsequent generations of producers and engineers, and his innovations helped make dub an integral part of reggae’s DNA.
Augustus Pablo (born Horace Swaby, 13 June 1954 – 18 May 1999) was a Jamaican reggae and dub musician, singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known for his melodious instrumental tunes, many of which were compiled on his 1971 album, East of the River Nile. His 1974 song “Java” was memorably covered by the Beastie Boys.
Pablo began his musical career playing the piano and organ in Kingston, Jamaica. He later switched to the melodica, which he played on many of his early recordings. His first release was “I Wah Dub”, recorded with Sons of Negus in 1970. He achieved international recognition with his 1971 album East of the River Nile, which featured the tracks “East of the River Nile”, “Cassava Piece”, and “Tribute to Bro Felix”.
Pablo’s style of playing the melodica gave birth to a new genre of music known as dub. His groundbreaking work with producer/engineer Scientist revolutionized the sound of Jamaican music in the 1980s. Among his many notable tracks are “Java”, “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown”, and “Dubbing in Africa”.
Pablo remained active until his death in 1999, releasing numerous albums and performing live shows around the world. His posthumous album, In Fine Style (2003), featured remixed versions of some of his classic tracks.
Burning Spear, originally named Winston Rodney, is a Jamaican singer and musician. He was a major force in the 1970s reggae scene, creating hits such as “Marcus Garvey” and “Slavery Days.” He has continued to be a popular live performer and recording artist into the 21st century.
Bunny Wailer, born Neville O’Riley Livingston, was an original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. A three-time Grammy award winner, he is considered one of the longtime standard-bearers of reggae music. He also had a successful solo career with hits like “Dreamland” and “Solomonic Singles 1-36.”
Yabby You was a Jamaican reggae artist who was known for his work in the 1970s. His music was deeply spiritual and often featured lyrics that were critical of the government and society. He released a number of successful singles, including “Conquering Lion” and “Deliver Me from My Enemies.” Yabby You died in 2010, but his music continues to be popular among reggae fans.
Barrington Levy is one of the most famous reggae artists in the world. He is known for his smooth, soulful voice and his ability to mix reggae, dancehall, and R&B. He has been nominated for Grammy Awards and has won numerous music awards.
Mikey Dread (born Michael Campbell, 1955 – March 15, 2008) was a Jamaican singer, deejay, fashion designer, and producer. He was an early pioneer of the reggae genre, and his unique style exerted a major influence on the development of toasting (a vocal style in which lyrics are recited over a rhythm track). He also helped popularize the use of dub techniques in reggae productions.
Jah Shaka is a Reggae artist from the United Kingdom who is renowned for his roots and cultural style of music. He started his career in the late 1960s and has been releasing music ever since. He is known for his own unique sound system which he has used to great effect in his live performances. His music is deeply spiritual and often aims to promote peace and love.