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Jamaican Reggae Artists|
5 Reggae artists that have paved the way

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jamaica_bob_marley_singing.jpgJamaican Reggae Artists|Bob Marley

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer 

Music is the heart of Jamaica. Through music, the people of this small island express themselves, share their history, pass on stories and so much more. Reggae music, which started around the 1960s right here in Jamaica, is the genre of music that the island is most widely known for internationally.

But reggae music wouldnโ€™t be what it is and where it is now without some amazing artists. Here are 5 of the top Jamaican reggae artists.

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1. Bob Marley

Letโ€™s kick off the list with this Icon. Robert Nesta Marley, better known as Bob Marley, was born in St. Ann, Jamaica, on February 6, 1945. His first two recordings, which he made solo, were made in the 1960s. After releasing solo albums, Robert Marley joined the Wailers in 1974, and the group was then known as Bob Marley and the Wailers.

He was well-liked all over the globe thanks to songs like "I Shot the Sheriff," "No Woman, No Cry," "One Love," "Jamming," "Three Little Birds," and "Redemption Song," which had a significant influence on the Rastafarian/Natty Dread movement there. He established reggae on the global stage by producing the first worldwide reggae album.

He fell sick in 1978 and was given a cancer diagnosis. He battled the illness for almost eight months, but ultimately lost the fight; he passed away on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. Prior to his death, he was also awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit, the country's highest honour. Robert Nesta Marley was laid to rest in his Jamaican hometown of Nine Miles St. Ann. Robert Marley's career covers more than twenty years.

2. Peter Tosh

On October 19, 1944, in Grange Hill, Jamaica, Winston Hubert McIntosh was born. He started his music journey in 1960. He played a key role in the Wailers' formation as well. Bunny, Bob, and Tosh made up the Wailers. His debut single, "Simmer Down," was co-written and performed by the Wailers.

Tosh departed the Wailers in 1974. His solo career, which he began in 1976 with the publication of his debut album "Legalize It" for CBS Records, was subsequently launched as a result. Later, he created "Word, Sound and Power," his own reggae ensemble. The year 1978 marked singer Peter Tosh's major break onto the world stage. His second album, "Bush Doctor," which he published after being signed to "Rolling Stones Record," was then.

In 1987, upon his return from the United States, he was stopped by three armed individuals who demanded payment. Tosh was killed by gunfire when their requests were not fulfilled.

3. Dennis Brown

Born in the Kingston district on February 1st, 1957, Dennis Brown quickly developed his performing abilities because his family was already very involved in the arts. Dennis also lived not far from downtown Kingston's Orange Street, also known as "beat street," which served as the centre of the recording business in the 1960s and 1970s.

At the age of thirteen, Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd, a well-known music producer and artist manager, heard him perform with a band. He then invited him to his studio after noticing his ability. As the world took to Dennis' songs like wildfire, his notoriety increased.

In the latter half of the 1960s, Dennis Brown inked his first recording deal with Clement Dodd. "No Man Is an Island," his debut single and record, sold a remarkable amount of copies. Before collaborating with other studios for his musical creations, he made another album with Dodd, "If I Follow My Heart". While collaborating with Niney "the Observer" Holness, several groundbreaking songs, including "Westbound Train," "Cassandra," and "Africa," were released, earning them international notoriety.

On July 1, 1999, Dennis Brown passed away at the University Hospital of the West Indies due to breathing issues.

4. Burning Spear

Burning Spear was born in St. Ann Jamaica in March 1945 and was given the name Winston Rodney. Burning Spear is a well-known Jamaican reggae musician who is well-known for his Rastafari movement messages.

His songs have urged listeners to combat oppression in all of its manifestations, to work on bettering their own lives, and to think about how their actions will affect others from the beginning. Nine of his more than 25 albums have received Grammy nominations, and โ€œCalling Rastafariโ€, released in 1999, won the award for Best Reggae Album from the Academy. He is also one of the few original reggae musicians who is still active and has an impact on society today.

5. Desmond Dekker

Desmond Adolphus Dacres is a reggae performer who was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica. Desmond was a musician and vocalist who performed rocksteady, ska, and reggae music. The reggae singer started to record in 1963 with Kong and his first success was "Honour Your Mother and Father", then "Sinners Come Home" and "Labour for Learning".

His next success, "King of Ska," elevated him to the status of one of the island's biggest stars. He recorded music for more than 40 years and had a number of significant successes, but his music gradually shifted from a respectable to a rude boy style. He was the first Jamaican musician to experience significant success in the UK and other developed nations. 

His "Israelites" album debuted at the top of the UK charts. It was the first reggae song to do so, it peaked at #1 and returned to the charts in 1968. Dekker recorded his album "Black and Dekker" at the close of the 1970s, which included a number of his earlier hits. With the song "Israelites," he entered the top ten of the Belgium Chart. Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers To Cross" and "Book of Rules" were the next two songs on the list.

Dekker died of a heart attack on May 26, 2006.

The list of Jamaican reggae artists is probably never-ending, many of which are spectacular. However, these five artists have made their stamp in reggae music both locally and internationally and are definitely among the best Jamaican reggae artists.

What is your all-time favourite reggae song? Head over to this page to see if it made our list of top 10 reggae songs.

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References & Sources For Jamaican Reggae Artists

  1. Bob Marley - Reggae Musicโ€™s Legend. (2023, February 24). Dancehall Reggae World.
  2. Reggae singer Peter Tosh. (2023, February 24). Dancehall Reggae World.
  3. Dennis Brown. (2021, January 14). The National Library of Jamaica.
  4. Burning Spear age, hometown, biography | (n.d.).
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