Jamaica is as well known for its vibrant culture as it is for it’s seductive natural beauty. The island’s many genres of music have influenced countless people around the world who strongly identify with its varied messages. As Jamaica’s 2012 Reggae Month draws to a close we continue our special 50th anniversary feature by taking a look at some of the most significant Jamaican artistes.
No other Jamaican artiste has risen to the worldwide fame attained by Robert ‘Bob’ Nesta Marley. Marley’s name remains synonymous with Jamaica to this day, 31 years after his death. This legendary reggae music icon put Jamaica on the map in the early 1970’s, spreading the Rastafarian infused lyrics of love and peace around the world. The upbeat pace and infectious lyrics of notably Marley’s most well known song One Love, infiltrated diverse cultures, eventually to be named Song of the Millennium by the BBC. In 1999 Time Magazine called the Bob Marley and the Wailer’s album Exodus the greatest album of the 20th century.
When in April of 1980 the former British colony of Rhodesia embarked on life as the newly freed nation of Zimbabwe, it is said that the first words spoken were ‘ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and the Wailers’. More recent effects of Marley’s music made global headlines in 2010 when Victor Zamora Burgueno, one of the 33 Chilean miners who after being trapped underground for 69 days, requested to hear Bob Marley’s 80’s hit Buffalo Soldier. Unlike other artistes who have come and gone, Bob Marley’s fame has propelled through the decades, making him one of Jamaica’s artistes of all time.
Jimmy Cliff helped to make reggae a worldwide phenomenon through his music and acting performance in the film “The Harder They Come”. This 1972 movie became an international hit, exposing all at once the superb talent of Jamaican musicians, actors and directors. The film gave Cliff great recognition as a reggae artiste with the success of “Many Rivers to Cross” from the film soundtrack. Many other reggae hits belong to Cliff including “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and his cover of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”. The Government of Jamaica honoured his contribution to Jamaican film and music in 2003 with the Order of Merit, the nation’s third highest honour. In 2010, Cliff, the only living musician to be awarded Jamaica’s Order of Merit, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Queen of Reggae and creator of the Electric Slide, the Honourable Marcia Griffiths is a living reggae legend. Marcia Griffiths began her music career in 1964 singing for Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. She later paired up with the great Bob Andy, a union which led to hits such as “Really Together” and “The Pied Piper”. In 1982 Griffiths released one of her most successful songs the Electric Boogie giving birth to the dance sensation still popular today, the Electric Slide. She went on to sing for Bob Marley, touring the world as part of the I-Threes alongside Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley. With decades of music experience under her belt Marcia Griffiths continues her career, performing at concerts in the United States, Caribbean and United Kingdom.
Credited as having recorded the first ever lover’s rock song, Gregory Isaacs joins the list of Jamaica’s greatest artistes of all time. The “Cool Ruler” became one of the biggest Jamaican performers, locally and internationally by the 1970’s. His popular hit “Night Nurse” reached #32 on the UK chart and continues to dominate in local dance halls. Isaacs’s music stays relevant, transcending the changing times and capturing the rhythm of a nation even after his death. Gregory Isaacs, who passed away in October 2010 has been hailed as ‘the most exquisite vocalists in reggae’.
Beres Hammond’s soulful voice paired with lover’s rock lyrics carries the sound of 1970’s Jamaica. He founded the record label Harmony Records in 1985 which later produced the hits ‘What One Dance Can Do’ and ‘Groovy Little Thing’. His career features numerous memorable hits including “Tempted to Touch’, ‘Putting up Resistance’ and ‘Is This a Sign’. With a distinct voice and style Beres Hammond has managed to capture the good feeling and Irie vibe that Jamaica is known for. As a result his music resonates with Jamaicans at home and abroad as the ultimate in lover’s rock music and the authentic sound of Jamaica.