Top 10 Jamaican Musicians of All Time: Bob Marley, Sean Paul and More

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Sean Paul’s Upcoming Concert in Ocho Rios Got Us Thinking About Greatest Jamaican Musicians of All Time

Maybe it’s that deep, funky bass or those percussive rhythms that evoke visions of the Caribbean’s relaxed lifestyle, but you can tell Jamaican music from virtually any other genre coming from nearby regions. From reggae to dancehall, dub to 2 tone, you know you’ve swayed to the beats of these artists more often than not. Here are our top choices:

Bob Marley. While many musical genres can engage on agitated discussions about who sits alone at the top in terms of influence, relevance and popularity, few can argue that the absolute king of reggae is and always will be Robert Nesta Marley. After forming The Wailers in the early 60s, he went on to sell over 75 million records and preach his musical gospel until his untimely death in 1981.

Lee “Scratch” Perry. The legendary singer and songwriter is most famous for being one of reggae and dub’s most prolific producers, collaborating with anyone from Bob Marley to the Beastie Boys. Countless others have benefitted from spending time in the studio with Perry, still going strong at the ripe age of 80.

Peter Tosh. The controversial Tosh was a founding member of The Wailers until he grew tired of his sidekick status and decided to go solo. His lyrics were always heavily influenced by Rastafari culture, and his stances on politics and the legalization of cannabis were common themes until his murder in 1987.

Toots and the Maytals. Fronted by Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, this ska and reggae band has been a steady, dynamic presence in the musical scene since the late 1960s (with a brief break during the 80s). In fact they’re widely credited with coining the popular beat’s own name, via their 1968 single Do The Reggay.

Sean Paul. Few people have done more to revitalize Jamaican music than Sean, who has brought the hip hop attitude to the reggae roots of his homeland to come up with a bold, daring sound that has earned him worldwide success. Currently working on his seventh studio album, which will cement him as one of Jamaica’s most acknowledged performers. After a hugely successful 2016, Sean is setting out on a European tour this summer, but not before he brings his music back home to Moon Palace Jamaica Grande on April 1.

Burning Spear. The roots reggae legend (née Winston Rodney) has established himself as a highly-influential presence in music since 1969, and he remains a vibrant performer thanks to a slew of tastefully-arranged hits that include the Grammy Award-winning Rastafari anthem Jah Is Real.

Jimmy Cliff. While Bob Marley has always being considered reggae’s most popular figure, the worldwide dissemination of the genre can be traced back to the 1972 film The Harder They Come, a dub-opera of sorts with a soundtrack that sold millions of copies and also turned it’s lead, Jimmy Cliff, into a bona fide star. His soulful tenor and magnetic stage presence confirm him as one of reggae’s most engaging live acts.

Sly and Robbie. Prolific producers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have been lending their substantial talents to established and emerging musical outfits ever since the 1970s, and they haven’t confined themselves to reggae and dub. Sly and Robbie have collaborated as performers and producers with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Simply Red, No Doubt, Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, Carlos Santana and dozens more!

Gregory Isaacs. You have to be pretty special to earn a nickname like “The Cool Ruler.” The late Isaacs became a force to be reckoned with in the reggae scene during the genre’s 70s heyday, but kept releasing quality albums and conquering audiences with his terse vocal style until his passing from lung cancer in 2010.

Shaggy. A bit of a left field choice? You bet. But Shaggy IS a truly successful artist who also happens to be a lot of fun. Born in Kingston, raised in Canada, trained by the United States Marine Corps (wait… what?) and nicknamed after a character in Scooby Doo, the man born as Orville Richard Burrell has married reggae with pop in a string of worldwide hits like Oh Carolina, and the infectious Boombastic. Shaggy also got down at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Bunny Wailer, Black Uhuru, Culture, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Alpha Blondy, Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Desmond Dekker, OMI, Desmond Dekker, Yellowman, The Skatalites

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