Back by rude boy demand, we give another round of big bad tunes from back in the day! Let’s take a walk down memory lane, through some of the tough streets of Kingston, Jamaica. Prepare yourself to enjoy the likes of serious classic hits, seen through the lens of the infectious reggae beat. R&B, By the late ’60s and early ’70s, soul, rock and even country music were being inhaled and exhaled by pioneers of rocksteady and reggae music. So put on your dancin’ shoes and pile into the dancehall! Selector… Come down…
12. Tomorrow’s Children “Bang Bang”
Cher is well known for her 1966 original, hippy-gypsy, and tambourine-banging version. This tune was written by then-husband Sonny Bono. Nancy Sinatra couldn’t lay her hands off of this track, and covered it that same year. Tomorrow’s Youth recorded their signature rocksteady version in 1967.
11. Alton Ellis “It’s a Shame”
Stevie Wonder co-wrote this tune with Syreeta Wright and Lee Garrett for The Spinners. This single was recorded in 1970 on Motown’s VIP Records. It was the first record Stevie Wonder produced for another artist. Not a bad first attempt as “It’s a Shame” made it to Number 3 on the R&B Singles Billboard chart. This was a natural cover for the Godfather of Rocksteady Alton Ellis, who launched his career singing in R&B style with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One.
10. Delory Wilson “It’s a Shame”
The studio Channel One, run by Chinese-Jamaican born, Joe Joe Hoo Kim, recorded Delroy Wilson’s version of “It’s a Shame” shortly thereafter.
9. Ken Boothe “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
Under the direction of Motown’s Artist’s Development department, Berry Gordy and Maxine Powell gave the Supremes an ultra feminine, sexy image. This strategy was revolutionary as R&B and rock stars were male dominated in the mid-sixties. Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson gave us “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in 1966 which hit Number 1 on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. At Studio One, Ken Boothe redirected this heat-seeking tune, by cooling down the tempo to make it his own.
8. Lloyd Parks “Kung Fu Fighting”
Let’s bust out the disco ball at the dancehall! Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting” is acknowledged as number 100 in VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders. This single sold over 11 million copies, which helped boost disco as the new club scene. Lloyd Parks released this black belt reggae cover in 1975 on his label, Parks. This singer/bass player had a brilliant career recording with early rocksteady and reggae groups like the Termites, Skin Flesh & Bone, The Revolutionaries and We the People Band.
7. The Connection “Love Theme”
Kick back, relax and enjoy this wonderful reggae instrumental of Barry White’s “Love Theme.” White’s 1973 song with the Love Unlimited Orchestra hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1974. It’s a rare chart topper that is purely instrumental, and the “Love Theme” is known to have helped sparked disco. Big up Barry White!
6. David Isaacs “Leaving on a Jet Plane”
Not even John Denver can hide for cover. Or at least from being covered by David Isaacs. Denver wrote this song, which was famously performed by folksy trio, Peter Paul & Mary in 1966. It was Peter Paul & Mary’s only number-one hit on Billboard.
5. Toots and the Maytals “Squeeze Box”
The Who put out “Squeeze Box” in 1975. Squeeze box is technically slang for accordion, but uh…we get it. Legendary reggae group Toots and the Maytals first formed in 1963 as a Ska band. “Toots” Hibbert and his crew made recorded their version so you can “play it all night cause the music’s alright.”
4. Phyllis Dillon “Love the One You’re With”
Queen of Jamaican Soul Phyllis Dillon makes us love fall in love with this song all over again. Phyllis played a big part in shifting Ska sound to the slower, soulful beat of rocksteady. “Love the One You’re With” was written and performed on Steven Stills 1970 solo release. Stills’ lyrics were inspired by organist Billy Preston’s mantra “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
3. Alton Ellis and The Heptones “Lovin’ You”
Minnie Riperton released this Number One Billboard chart topper in 1975. “Lovin’ You” is one of few Number One songs without percussion. Alton Ellis and The Heptones added a touch of percussion but didn’t attempt Ms. Riperton’s signature high “whistle register” notes.
2. The Paragons & Rosalyn Sweat “Blackbird”
Off the White Album, The Beatles recorded this song in 1968. Paul McCartney’s guitar figure is inspired by classical lute play of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bourrée in E minor. Look at that, no percussion and bird chirping!?! The Paragons introduced horns and organ into their interpretation. Love the three horn tweets at 1:40 that mimic a bird chirping.
1. Dawn Penn “No, No, No (You Don’t Love Me)”
This is actually a re-recording of the original song Dawn Penn first recorded in 1967 at Studio One with Mr. Coxsone Dodd. But… this is not the original. Ms Penn did not pen this song. “You Don’t Love Me” was released in 1961 by bluesman Willie Cobb. But… Mr Cobb borrowed some of the guitar riffs and lyrics from Bo Diddley’s song “She’s Fine She’s Mine.” Caught up in copyright issues, Willie Cobb’s song failed to hit the charts. Coxsone Dodd was paying full attention as he produced Dawn Penn’s original. After some success in the following years, Dawn left Jamaica (and her singing career) for two decades only to return again to re-record this hit. The return of “No, No, No” by Dawn Penn was produced by the duo Steely and Clevie in 1994 which became a forever dancehall classic.
[Photo: Getty Images/MCA]