Top 10 Reggae Pop Songs

Kaya Fest
WireImage / Getty Images
of 10

Johnny Nash - "I Can See Clearly Now" (1972)

Johnny Nash I Can See Clearly Now
Johnny Nash - "I Can See Clearly Now". Courtesy CBS

Johnny Nash grew up in Houston, Texas, and began recording pop music in the 1950's, but he didn't begin recording reggae-influenced music until the late 1960's after returning from a promotional tour to Jamaica. He recorded reggae-influenced covers of Sam Cooke's "Cupid" and Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" before releasing the smash hit "I Can See Clearly Now" in 1972. It spent 4 weeks at #1 on the pop chart and is instantly familiar for the line "I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way."

Johnny Nash was one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica when he visited in the late 1960s. While he was in Jamaica, local TV and radio host Neville Willoughby introduced him to a struggling vocal group called Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers. He signed them to the label he co-owned named JAD. In 1972 Bob Marley, now signed to CBS Records, toured in the UK with Johnny Nash. The final top 40 pop hit in the US for Johnny Nash was a 1973 release of his cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up."

Watch Video

of 10

Eric Clapton - "I Shot the Sheriff" (1974)

Eric Clapton I Shot the Sheriff
Eric Clapton - "I Shot the Sheriff". Courtesy RSO

"I Shot the Sheriff" was written by reggae legend Bob Marley. He said in interviews that the song is about justice. It was first released in a recording by Bob Marley and the Wailers on the 1973 album Burnin'. In 1974 Eric Clapton released his cover of the song on the album 461 Ocean Boulevard and it became a pop classic hitting #1 in the US and Canada and #9 in the UK.  Eric Clapton's recording of "I Shot the Sheriff" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. Rapper Warren G covered the song in 1997 and took "I Shot the Sheriff" back into the pop top 20.

In 1992, when controversy erupted over rapper Ice-T's song "Cop Killer" and the alleged inciting of violence against the police, Ice-T's supporters frequently cited the embrace of "I Shot the Sheriff" to point out hypocrisy in the complaints.

Watch Video

of 10

UB40 - "Red Red Wine" (1983)

UB40 Red Red Wine
UB40 - "Red Red Wine". Courtesy Virgin

Neil Diamond wrote and recorded "Red Red Wine" in 1968. His original is a mid-tempo ballad about drinking wine to forget romantic difficulties. Released as a single it had a minor chart appearance climbing to #62. British reggae pop band UB40 recorded and released their reggae version of "Red Red Wine" in 1983 and it turned into a major worldwide pop hit for the group. It climbed to #1 in the UK and #34 in the US in 1984.  A 1988 re-release of the song climbed all the way to #1 in the US ensuring the record's place as a reggae pop classic. It has sold more than a million copies overall in the UK. Neil Diamond has stated that UB40's version of "Red Red Wine" is one of his favorite cover versions of one of his songs. He has performed the song in UB40's reggae style in concert.

UB40 are one of the most commercially successful of all reggae pop artists. They have earned four Grammy Award nominations for Best Reggae Album. In 1993, they returned to #1 on the US pop singles chart with a cover version of "(I Can't Help)" Falling In Love With You." Elvis Presley's version released in 1961 hit #2 on the US pop singles chart. 

Watch Video

of 10

Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers - "Tomorrow People" (1988)

Ziggy Marley Tomorrow People
Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers - "Tomorrow People". Courtesy Virgin

Ziggy is the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. He reached the pop top 40 with this uplifting anthem produced by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads. It's a beautiful reggae ballad with a theme of respecting the past and holding love in your heart. The song is included on the album Conscious Party which won Ziggy Marley his first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. He won the Best Reggae Album Grammy Award twice more in 1990 and 1998.

Ziggy Marley formed Melody Makers with three of his siblings Stephen, Cedella, and Sharon, at the request of their father. Their first recording was the song "Children Playing In the Streets" released in 1979. It was a charitable single with all royalties given to the United Nations to celebrate the International Year Of the Child. The first Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers album appeared in 1985 and was titled Play the Game Right.

Watch Video

of 10

Shaggy - "It Wasn't Me" (2000)

Shaggy It Wasn't Me
Shaggy - "It Wasn't Me". Courtesy MCA

In the late 1990's, Shaggy, nicknamed after the Scooby-Doo character, became the most popular dancehall reggae artist in the world. He first hit the pop mainstream in the US in 1995 with two top three pop smash hits "In the Summertime" and "Boombastic." The album Boombastic earned a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. Shaggy returned to the top of the charts in 2000 with "It Wasn't Me," an instant classic dispensing questionable advice to a friend caught with another woman by his girlfriend over an irresistible Jamaican beat. "It Wasn't Me" reached #1 on the pop singles chart and also reached #1 on the UK pop singles chart and in many other countries around the world.

"It Wasn't Me" was followed by another #1 pop smash "Angel." Shaggy earned four more Grammy Award nominations for Best Reggae Album. He returned to the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US in 2014 with the song "I Need Your Love." It was certified gold for sales.

Watch Video

of 10

Magic! - "Rude" (2014)

Magic Rude
Magic - "Rude". Courtesy SME

The Canadian reggae pop band MAGIC! was formed by Canadian songwriter and producer Nasri Atweh. The group came together after Nasri Atweh met guitarist Mark Pellizer in the studio. They worked on the song "Don't Judge Me" for Chris Brown and came up with the idea of forming a reggae influenced band. "Rude" was their first single and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as in many other countries around the world including the UK. "Rude" also reached #1 on the adult pop and adult contemporary radio charts as well as crossing over into both dance and Latin pop radio charts. The group's follow up single "Let Your Hair Down" failed to reach the pop charts in the US.

In 2016 Magic! released "Lay You Down Easy," a collaboration with Sean Paul, as the first single from their second album. It failed to make an impact on the US pop charts. When the album was released, it only climbed to #124. 

Watch Video

of 10

Sean Paul - "Temperature" (2006)

Sean Paul Temperature
Sean Paul - "Temperature". Courtesy Atlantic

Sean Paul hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a second time with this aggressively romantic dancehall hit. The song spent a full 17 weeks in the pop top 10 and reached #1 in Canada as well.  It is one of three top 10 pop hits from the album The Trinity. "Temperature" earned an MTV Video Music Award for Best Dance Video.

Sean Paul was born in Kingston, Jamaica and became both a singer and a rapper. Sean Paul played for the Jamaican national water polo team from ages 13 to 21. He first gained international recognition as a musician with the release in 2002 of his second studio album Dutty Rock. It hit the top 10 on the US album chart and included the #1 charting pop hit single "Get Busy." The album won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.

Watch Video

of 10

Ini Kamoze - "Here Comes the Hotstepper" (1995)

Ini Kamoze Here Comes the Hotstepper
Ini Kamoze - "Here Comes the Hotstepper". Courtesy Columbia

Ini Kamoze was just one of many practitioners of the Jamaican variant of dancehall reggae called ragamuffin, using digital music tracks to back live singing, until "Here Comes the Hotstepper" appeared. The song samples music by Isaac Hayes, Taana Gardner, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick among others. "Hotstepper" is Jamaican patois for a man on the run from the law. The song was used as a key part of the soundtrack to the film Ready To Wear (Pret-a-Porter). "Here Comes the Hotstepper" hit #1 on the US pop chart in 1995. Despite a major label recording contract, Ini Kamoze became a one hit wonder after he failed to return to the mainstream pop charts in the US.

Watch Video

of 10

Musical Youth - "Pass the Dutchie" (1983)

Musical Youth Pass the Dutchie
Musical Youth - "Pass the Dutchie". Courtesy MCA

When these musically gifted Jamaican teenagers stormed the pop top 10 in 1983 they seemed like a Jamaican version of the Jackson 5. Despite the fact their signature hit was a barely reworked version of a Mighty Diamonds song called "Pass the Kouchie" extolling the virtues of marijuana (dutchie, meaning cooking pot, replaced kouchie, a word for marijuana, included in the original), the world was charmed. They received a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist. Unfortunately, success was fleeting for the group. Their only other chart single in the US was "She's Trouble" which reached #65." The group disbanded in 1985 but reappeared as a duo in 2001.

Musical Youth was formed by the fathers of group members Kelvin and Michael Grant and Frederick and Patrick Waite in Birmingham, England. The group quickly secured gigs in the Birmingham area. After appearing on BBC Radio 1's evening show with John Peel, the group gained even further recognition and earned a recording contract from MCA.  

Watch Video

of 10

Inner Circle - "Bad Boys" (1993)

Inner Circle Bad Boys
Inner Circle - "Bad Boys". Courtesy Big Beat

Originally recorded in 1987, the song "Bad Boys" didn't become a hit single in the U.S. until it was picked up as the theme song for the Fox network's reality TV show Cops and used in the soundtracks for the movies Bad Boys and Bad Boys II. Despite its pop success, landing in the top 10, it remains a rather dark, stern warning about the consequences of coming up against the law. The skeletal dancehall beats lend an intoxicating aura of possible menace. "Sheriff John Brown" mentioned in the lyrics is a reference to the song "I Shot the Sheriff" performed by both Bob Marley and Eric Clapton. 

The group Inner Circle originally formed in Jamaica in 1968. They first appeared on recordings in 1971. The group's lead singer during much of the 1970s was Jacob Miller who was more popular than any other artist in Jamaica excepting Bob Marley. On March 23, 1980, Jacob Miller died in a tragic car accident. That forced the group to rework their approach to music sales and growing the band's popularity.

Watch Video