These days, reggae evokes images of hippies, dreadlocks, good ganja and good vibes, but the genre, which developed from ska, mento and R&B music in the 1960s, wasn't always a college dorm room staple.
Maybe it was Eric Clapton's 1974 cover of Bob Marley's “I Shot the Sheriff” that helped white people enjoy the laid back groove, but by the mid 1970s, it was getting promoted in the UK via John Peel's radio show, and the UK punk rock scene was drawing considerable influence from reggae music as well.
So in the classic tradition of the mainstream totally co-opting all that is cool and classical we give you the five most whitewashed reggae songs we know. (Whitewashed meaning, “the only reggae songs the masses have ever heard of, period.”)
5. “Here Come The Hot-Stepper” – Ini Kamoze
Most people do not
know Ini but surely have heard the song. To most the song defines
“gangsta” reggae and maybe the only song that is and will surely be
featured on VH1's One Hit Wonder list. The song not only has a catchy
beat but the lyrics are to die for. And to cap it off its a song that makes the masses swoon and get crazy.
4. Anything by Trevor Hall
Not only does he have a
faux “patwa” (Jamaican slang), his dreads are to kill for. His lyrics
are a bountiful and with classics like, “unity”, “lime tree” and “31
flavors”, man i thought i had seen the best of the worst.
3. “Red Red Wine” – UB40
Where does one start? As whitewashed as it is, it's a classic–probably the only reggae song made about red wine, a dub song featuring pop vocals, with the bonus of a little rapping in between. Who doesn't savor rapping and
reggae roots together? Man, let's get high.
2. “Boombastic” – Shaggy
Not only is the singer's name a custie giveaway, but as soon the song starts with the Marvin Gaye sample (“Let's get it on”), you know it's going to be a long night.
1. “I Shot the Sheriff” – Bob Marley
I'd bet that this is the most overplayed
song that any cover band–regardless of time zone or talent–has not
only covered but played. Flock to any reggae “joint” and chances are as
soon as the song is played, everyone will start singing at the top of
their voices, flocking to the dance floor while pretending to be in the
moment, while exalting praise to the man–Marley.