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).
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.
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.
Dave and Ansel Collins
People Get Ready
I Man Bitter
I Killed The Barber