In 1962 Jamaica gained her independence from the UK. From this independence a world-renowned sound emerged from this small island in the Caribbean. Reggae’s birth initially began in the ’50s and early ’60s with “Bluebeat”, “Ska”, and “Rock Steady”, all of which evolved from Jamaican “Mento” as well as a heavy dose of American Soul, Jazz, and R&B. By the late ’60s, studios like Studio One began recording artists with a slower rhythm and more bass. This new sound, known as “Reggae,” quickly came to dominate Jamaican radio and dance halls.
Deeply rooted in R&B, many Reggae artists have recorded dozens (if not hundreds) of covers of popular Billboard hits. Many of these artists and producers took the liberty to mash up their own signature sound with the original, giving it a new twist. Let’s start with some of the oldies but goodies.
Gwan… Shock out to these 12 “original” Reggae covers!
12. The Silvertones, “Midnight Hour”
Let’s start with the one of the true soul standards. “Midnight Hour” originally was recorded in 1965 by the soulful Wilson Picket. By 1968 the Silvertones with Tommy McCook made it their own as the cover trend began to catch fire. Love the Treasure Isle label.
11. Horace Andy, “Ain’t No Sunshine When She Gone”
Bill Withers record “Ain’t No Sunshine” on his album Just As I Am in 1971. This track was produced by legendary, Booker T. Jones. Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” went on to win the 1972 Grammy for Best R&B song. Horace Andy got behind the mic to pay high grade homage to this forever R&B classic, produced by Bunny Lee.
10. The Heptones, “Suspicious Minds”
Even the King of Rock, Elvis Presley, was recognized by the Heptones 1971. “Suspicious Minds” was originally recorded by the writer of the song, Mark James in 1968. One year later, Elvis found himself back on the top of the charts with his version. Didn’t take long for The Heptones to record their version at Studio One.
9. Susan Cadogan, “Fever”
Who gives you “Fever? Your temperature will rise listening this cover featuring the seductive voice of Susan Cadogan. The original tune was first recorded by Little Willy John in 1958. Peggy Lee’s jazzy, steamy version from 1959 will make you melt as well. Many artist have covered this song. Beyoncé gave us all a slight “Fever” in 2007 cover version.
8. King Tubby, “Take Five (Dub)”
Here’s another Jazz influencer to Reggae artist. King Tubby, the dub master, flaunts his skills in the studio with his “Take Five” rubba-dub-dub track. Be sure to mellow out to the Dave Brubeck Quartet original (1959) written by Paul Desmon and produced by Teo Macero.
7. Joyce Bond, “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”
As Reggae was catching fire in the UK, Paul McCartney wrote this tune as a tribute to the new, popular sound coming from Jamaica. On the first line “Desmond has a barrow in the market-place,” Paul is referring to Ska/Reggae artist Desmond Dekker. Almost like a echo, Joyce Bond recorded this memorable uptempo version in 1969.
6. Peter Tosh, “Here Comes the Sun”
The Fab Four recorded “Here Comes the Sun” in 1969. Trench Town native Peter Tosh rolled up a nice version of his own within a year of the original. This record was difficult to find until it was repressed on the 2004 album Can’t Blame the Youth.
5. Dennis Brown, “Black Magic Woman”
The late Dennis Brown blessed us with Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” which he recorded in 1972. This song was written by Peter Green. “Black Magic Woman” was originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1969 before it became famously known by the group Santana.
4. Al Brown, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”
Memphis’ blues-soul Bobby “Blue” Bland laid down the original “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” in 1974. Al Brown recorded many covers, but really does this song justice. He even throws in his own line adding “too much guns around.”
3. Al Brown, “Here I Am Baby”
Al Brown strikes again with his take on Al Green’s “Here I Am Baby.” This was released in 1974 on the Trojan label in the UK. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer recorded the original in 1972 on his masterpiece soul album, Call Me.
2. Marcia Griffiths, “Don’t Let Me Down”
The last time the Beatles recorded a live show was on January 30, 1969 when the group climbed on the rooftop of Apple Records in London. Few curious onlookers from the street level couldn’t believe their ears with Billy Preston jammin’ on the keyboards. As the Beatles were falling apart, John Lennon wrote this tune to express his love for wife, Yoko. The Empress of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths laid down her version which can be found on the album Put a Little Love in Your Heart: The Best of Marcia Griffiths 1969-1974.
1. Bob Marley and the Wailers, “Sugar, Sugar”
Break out the bubble gum! Bob Marley and the Wailers chewed on this chart bursting track “Sugar, Sugar” by the fictional TV group, The Archies.
Worth seeing the original from the 1969 TV cartoon show, Archie.
[Photo: Getty Images/CBS]