Reggae Revolution


Pass that right over when you're done. K?

Pass that right over when you're done. K?

It’s amazing that so much great music came out of such a fucked up little island. For much of the ’70’s it was an epicenter of revolutionary soul. I’ve always thought the music covered a lot of ground.  It’s angry and political, yet sweet; it’s rockin’ dance music, but relaxing; it has religious overtones, yet is secular humanist; It’s fun and serious.  I’m hooked.

I hate what passes for music coming out of Jamaica these days, not that I’ve heard much of it,  what little Dancehall I’ve been exposed to left me cold. Reggaeton? I don’t even care if I spelled it right. It’s monotonous and ugly music.

I’m not sure what happened, but I suspect it had to do with cocaine replacing weed as the drug of choice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the CIA had something to do with it. Their adventures in Nicaragua and other regions have been well documented. I’m not into delving too deep into conspiracy theory as it is a road to madness.

I will admit to being a total sucker for the music of the ’70’s. I was, of course, turned on by Bob Marley when a roomate played “Rastaman Vibration” (1976) over and over, but it goes deeper than that. “Israelites”, Desmond Dekker’s 1969 US hit got a lot of airplay, and I was listening. I didn’t have the slightest idea he was Jamaican, black, or what the song was even about, but I liked it. “I Can See Clearly Now” (1972) by Johnny Nash is still a favorite of mine. I remember seeing him on the Mike Douglas Show talking about the great scene in Jamaica. I’m pretty sure the Wailers were his backing band on that lp (the credits are minimal, but half the songs were written or co-written with Bob Marley).

Best album cover in town

Best album cover in town

Johnny must not have spent too much time in Trenchtown, which by all accounts is a very dangerous place. I thought about making this post a tribute to murdered reggae stars. King Tubby, Jah Lion, and Jacob Miller are all unsolved homicides.  My affection for this music runs so deep, the whole blog could easily turn into a Reggae site.

Great album.  "Dreamland" features Bob and Peter.  The original Wailers.

Great album. "Dreamland" features Bob and Peter. The original Wailers.

I’m still surprised that after actively collecting the music for over 30 years and 40 years since first hearing “Israelites”, I still find great songs I’ve never heard.  What I’ve collected here are some of the songs I can’t live without and you shouldn’t either.
Some are old favorites, and some more recent discoveries.  Some were hits, and some remain obscure.  Regardless, it’s barely scratching the surface of this vital, important, and rockin’ music.

Desmond Dekker
Double Barrel
Dave and Ansel Collins
Sugar Sugar
Big Youth
People Get Ready
Errol Bailey
I Man Bitter
Country Living
The Eagles
I Killed The Barber
Dr. Alimantado
Dreadlocks Dread
Bunny Wailer

3 thoughts on “Reggae Revolution

  1. Hello,
    I’ve been waiting to comment on this post because I’m afraid of the police finding out that I’m a way big stoner. I’m sure this is being monitored by the Man. Well I guess I love the Reggae Music especially heavy dub. I have a guitar shop and one of my favorite guys in town is kind of a Dumpster Diver. A couple weeks ago I was stunned when he showed up with a mint copy of U-Roy’s Dread In A Babylon in a clear plastic sleeve…it was some kind of industry copy with a bunch of promo stuff inside the jacket. Beautiful. I ain’t kidding.
    I needed it right then and there! I asked him how much and he said “$3.00.
    I couldn’t help myself…I gave him $15.00. I went back into the shop. My friend the Dog Collar Dude nextdoor had given me a giant bud earlier in the week and well, you know the rest. I smoked the LP and spun the bud. This is the shit of ephemeral genius…innocent and wicked all at once…spiritual and gutteral.
    All things to all people. You have to be an idiot not to be able to understand what’s happening here…okay, now that the idiots are long gone, let’s get down to brass tacks. This music breathes, it has the most natural kind of transcendent,
    discorporate and, if you can believe it, “life ain’t so bad in the ghetto if we all figure it out” kind of vibe that no other music contains. Sorry but I’m a big fan.
    If you ain’t never heard a record by The Lone Ranger called M-16, get it.
    The guy can’t sing but man he’s got a message like no one else.
    Great post as usual! Now lets get busy with a fatty!
    P.S. I was on tour with the Minutemen in ’85, we wound up in D.C. We were playing a theater that was across from the alley from Ford’s Theater. We walked downstairs to the basement to find the other act of the night smoking J’s rolled in newspaper. The whole basement was filled with smoke and you could barely see across the room.
    These joints were about 10 inches long and about two inches in diameter. It was fucking amazing! This guy handed me one and I couldn’t say no. How could I? These motherfuckers were THE BAD BRAINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. U-Roys cover of the Wailer’s Soul Rebel, “Natty Rebel” surpasses the original in my book. It says something that the only newish reggae I’ve been able to stomach came from the joint of Bob: “All Night”, son Damian’s reworking of Lionrock’s “Rude Boy Rock”, and “Mind Control” by son Stephen. For many years, I searched in vain for “Message from the Meditations” in any format. Finally found it a NYC vinyl shop. Wept copious tears of thanks to the shop man, who thought I was bonkers. Had to fly to frickin’ England to find Ijahman’s “Tell it to the Children” in Brixton. Kiddus I’s “Harder” was hard to find.
    But I digress..

  3. Pingback: Jamaican Holiday | now that's what I call bullshit

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