The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (2023)

musicians, composers andProducer Michael Goldwasser has been involved in the international reggae scene for decades, working with artists as diverse as Toots and the Maytals. Jason Mraz and Janelle Monáe. As co-head of New York's Easy Star Records and leader of the label's Easy Star All-Stars, he found a niche making reggae versions of classic albums by the likes of god(since 2006Radiofobi), Beetles'sergeant. black pepper(since 2009Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Voice Band), and Pink Floyd'sthe dark side of the moon(since 2003The voice of the moon).Easy Star's latest release is a stunning new tribute to David BowieZiggy Starbucks, featuring performances by iconic artists such as Macy Gray,Steel Pulse and Maxi Priest. We asked Goldwasser to pick his favorite reggae cover of all time. He compiles a roster that spans decades and provides unique insight into his experience making records and working with reggae legends.

I've been a huge fan and student of reggae for decades and from my first forays into Jamaican music I realized that cover songs played an important role in the development of ska, rocksteady and reggae. From the 1960s to today, Jamaican artists and producers love to put their own story on the great songs they hear from the US and UK. This list of my favorites contains a lot of R&B and soul originals, since black music in America is the basis of reggae and a lot of music from Liverpool. The one thing all these versions have in common is that the originals started out as great songs. Good covers start with compelling source material. The reggae artists below range from unknown to well known and I decided to only include one entry for each artist, even though some of them could have easily received multiple entries. This list doesn't include songs from popular artists like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and UB40, but I think you'll enjoy the more lesser known gems here.

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  • "Fix the Hole", en Easy Star All-Star-drift. Max Romeo (2009)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (1)

    i'm reggaeBeatles fans and fans, great fun at workEasy Star's Lonely Hearts Voice Band, his entire versionsergeant. black pepperalbum. I first discovered the original album in my aunt's record collection during a summer in Tel Aviv as a child, and became obsessed with the song, partly because I couldn't figure out what it was about. The Easy Star All-Stars version strives for perfection in reggae arrangements of "pop" songs - slower, with lots of delay and reverb, mournful vocals from classic artists and comfortable keys like clavichords and melodies complement heavy drums and bass. Max Romeo first made a name for himself as the muse of eccentrically gifted producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, and I have a feeling Sir Paul would appreciate his performance.

  • «The First Cut Is the Deepest», Norma Fraser (1967)

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    This disc hasThe classic sound of Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label represents a lot of Jamaican music, from ska to early reggae – heavy bass, drums playing a "drop" pattern in the mix, lively guitar strings. Fraser had a number of popular records in Jamaica in the 60s, including this Cat Stevens cover and her version of Otis Redding."Respect",But he is also a historically important figure, as he taught Rita Marley to sing. Fraser's singing style also set the example for British lover's rock, a slow, romantic style of reggae popular in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • "Sorry," Sly Brown (1989)

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    the ballroom is everythingMy rage came back when I started going to reggae clubs in New York as a teenager and the record sent the crowd into a frenzy every time it was played, calling out to the DJ to "come on again". Years before the rapper of the same name, Foxy Brown became one of the most popular Jamaican artists on the scene thanks to the popularity of the single and her cover of Chapman's song."Fast car,"Both were produced by Steely and Clevie, one of the hottest groups of all time. Their version of Sly and Robbie's "Unmetered Taxi" riddim is typical of what a lot of producers were doing in the late 80s, not just covers, but older era riddims, making them a more stripped down style with drum machines, synth bass division and sparse harmonic accompaniment. This has been the case throughout the history of Jamaican music, with artists adapting old ideas to their own era, and this is one of the reasons why cover songs fit so well into the reggae idiom.

  • "I Wanna Rock With You", Frankie Paul (1990)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (4)

    Frankie Paul isAnother frequent collaborator of mine on the Easy Star albumThe voice of the moon,Radiofobi, andEasy Star's Lonely Hearts Voice Band, he is undoubtedly one of the best harmonizers I have ever seen. He often brought out harmonies that I never thought would sound good when overplayed. Sometimes I thought it was Crosby, Stills and Nash all by himself. Born blind, Frankie is sometimes called the "Jamaican Stevie Wonder", more because of their shared vision problems than because of their similar voices. This track is another one that's always played live or recorded, and I've seen a lot of dances to it in clubs in the past.

  • "One in a Million", Sanchez (1988)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (5)

    finish thisAn early digital reggae/dancehall cover trio, Sanchez had many hits in Jamaica, including contemporary R&B and pop. For this song he went back a few years, thank god he didn't try to get into bass like Larry Grahaminitial silent storm... Sanchez sang the cover in a clear tenor voice with a strong digital step beat. Like the Foxy Brown and Frankie Paul tunes, the structure here is simple – just two chords and the harmonic passages in the original are ignored. I tend to use multiple harmonies in cover arrangements, but I appreciate his ability to simplify like this. It's a technique I'd like to try more.

  • "Keep On," Devon Russell (1984)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (6)

    Devon Russell is notAs famous as most of the names on this list, he made music from the mid-60s until his death in the late 90s. His debut album was produced by Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. Like many Jamaicans, Russell was a huge fan of Curtis Mayfield, but took it to another level with an entire album of Mayfield covers titleddarker than blueRecorded in the early eighties. This rendition of one of Curtis' favorite solos works so well as it uses the horns and bass lines of the original and is a perfect match for Sly Dunbar's heavy hitting and insistent tambourine binging, mirroring Mayfield's use of the conga in the larger Part of the. preparations. Mayfield's message of empowerment was very important in Jamaica and still is today. Is it time for another Curtis Reggae tribute?

  • "Sitting in the Park", Freddie McGregor (1979)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (7)

    I've been thinking about it for a long timeBilly Stewart's 1965 arrangement of Gershwin's cover vocals"somer"It may have influenced the mic style of early Jamaican DJ sound systems. of Stewart"I'm sitting in the park"An example of R&B perfection for me, all seventh chords, all major and minor, the harmonic foundation for some of the sweetest reggae and love rock. Freddie McGregor, whose career dates back to the early 60s, has long been one of reggae's most entertaining singers, and you can hear him on many of his other Deep R&B-influenced covers, such as"I don't want to be alone"It was a UK top 10 hit. This version of "Sitting in the Park" features an extended dub mix with delayed vocals, as if the listener is still sitting in that park, waiting for a spliff.

  • "Independence Day Ska," The Skatalites (1966)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (8)

    They are scatsGreat band from Jamaica in the early to mid sixties who basically created what we know today as ska music, a precursor to reggae. The band is made up of some of the best jazz musicians on the island and its members support most of Jamaica's top artists. The Skatalites covers a lot of covers that could make this list, but I chose this one for a few reasons. First, I think it's so cool that they chose to cover this particular Beatles tune (did you see it?hard day nightAt the movies, or heard the song on the radio, or picked up a copy of the Beatles LP? ) also covered a song called "This Boy""Ringos Temang"After the instrumental version of the film entered the charts in the USA. Speaking of the title, another reason I picked this song is that they renamed their version of "I Should Know Better" to "Independent Anniversary Ska". The fact that they released it to celebrate Jamaica's fourth year of independence makes the decision all the more remarkable. Instead of putting together an original Jamaican composition, they covered the songs of the former colonial band. Perhaps renaming songs from the biggest British band of the day and renaming them was their way of politely saying 'fuck off' to Britain.

  • "Loving You," Janet Kay (1978)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (9)

    This will stayIt would be futile for any singer to attempt to reach the vocal heights of Minnie Riperton, whose vocal range remains unmatched decades after her death. But Janet Kay did a great job of making the song her own, which helped establish her as one of the leading voices of the British lovelorn rock era (her 1979 song"stupid game"reached number two in the UK charts). One of the things I love about this cover is that they added instruments to an already great song. Riperton's original featured only an electric piano, acoustic guitar and ARP synth. Producer Alton Ellis decided to incorporate bird sounds into this reggae version, just like the original. I will do the same. Or do I use bubble water tubes instead of birds?

  • "The Lady in My Life," Easy Star All-Star feat. Christopher Martin (2012)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (10)

    this song isWritten by one of my favorite songwriters of all time, the late Rod Temperton. Although it's only one of two songsimpressive workIt wasn't released as a single, it remained a classic for me. when i work in this organizerEasy Star 的 Thrillah, I tried to balance the beauty of original melodies and progressive chords with hard reggae beats and dub effects. I asked Christopher Martin to sing on this because he is one of the few male artists whose vocal range is high enough to reach Michael Jackson's high notes, especially in the song's extended coda. I couldn't help but respond to Martin's passionate vocals on the melodica, one of my favorite instruments to use in productions.

  • "No Sunshine", Horace Andy (1973)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (11)

    first time i metWhen Easy Star licenses this coverhidden treasure, a collection of Sugar Minott tracks not available on CD at the time. Bill Withers' version is clean and simple, and like so many true classics, this reggae cover keeps it simple and solid, with strong drums and bass setting the mood in the mix and a healthy dose of delay and reverb. Horace Andy'sunique voiceIt led to his famous collaboration with Massive Attack in the 90s and still makes him popular today. his job"air bag"Fra YixingRadiofobiPerfect as an album opener, reassuring listeners that this isn't going to be your brother's Radiohead.

  • "I'm in Love", Jennifer Laura (1981)

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    i used to beEvelyn King Big synth disco fanThe originalOver the years for its powerful beats, funky synth bass, guitars and synths, catchy melodies and amazing chord changes. When I heard it on the radio in the early eighties, I thought it was like New York, a source of local pride. The song's producer, Kashief, is a New York legend who was a member of funk band BT Express as a teenager. I never heard this reggae version until Jason Mraz introduced it to me when we did his albumlooking for beautyyears ago. That's one of the great things about music: there's always more to discover, even for a reggae fan like me. As well as loving Lara's singing and vocals, I also appreciate that her version sounds different than what I expected from Studio One in the early eighties – more synth-filled and funky than the label's typical roots. Whoever made it must have had an ear for black music in the states at the time. I'm also glad I chose to change the title from "I'm in Love" to "I'm in Love" because Laura never sings the word "I" herself. Barry Biggs receives honorable mention for Kashief and King's covers"Love is coming."I love that too!

  • "Ready or Not", Johnny Osborn (1972)

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    most people areI know this song from the Fugees' 1996 version (the top of Ms. Lauryn Hill), but the original 1968 version by Delfonic has always been a hit in my house. Their producer/arranger Thom Bell, one of the architects of Philly Soul, was a big influence on me, his own music was a big influence. Singer Johnny Osbourne, like others on this list, got his start at Studio One and is still going strong. He was primarily known for his rich baritone voice, but on early recordings like this one he had a soft falsetto that echoed the sounds of the Delfonics, Stylistics and other Philly soul groups. Interestingly, Osbourne also incorporated another Delfonics hit, "Break Your Promise," into the 1979 song"yes promise"One of his greatest songs and another favorite of mine. The only reason it's not on this list is because it's not a cover per se, except for the chorus that's referenced in the original.

  • "Silhouette", Dennis Brown (1972)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (14)

    Dennis Brown isKnown in Jamaica as the 'Crown of Reggae', he actually often had bigger stars than 'The King' Robert Nesta Marley. Just ask any Jamaican since Marley's international fame in the 70s.BrunOne of my favorite singers, with his rich voice and amazing phrasing, he has recorded a surprising number of excellent covers, including a great Lionel Richie cover"Who you are"When he signed with A&M in the eighties. But I chose his version of the Rays ballad from 1957"The Silhouette"Because it clearly shows the influence of American doo-wop and early R&B on Jamaican music. I hadn't heard the original until I happened to see it on satellite radio last year. I'm so used to Brown's version that I was shocked to hear it different. But after listening to a few more, I realized that Brown didn't make much of a difference to the Rays' vocal arrangements. It's a fun tune to sing with a group of friends on a street corner. Try it!

  • "Natural Orgasm", Claudia Fontaine (1981)

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    Bloodstone 1973 Soulclassical"Natural High"is one of my favorite love songs of all time, and Claudia Fontaine's cover definitely is, especially with the beautiful harmonies in the chorus. Fontaine, who died in 2018 aged 57, may not be a household name to many readers, but as a member of London singing trio Afrodiziak she supported artists such as Howard Jones, Special AKA, Jam and Elvis Coster lo (she is with"I write this book every day"On this cover, Fontaine takes the lead in typical British lovelorn rock style - a sweet, understated vocal reminiscent of simpler times.

  • Don't Let Me Down, Marcia Griffiths (1969)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (16)

    beetlesAgain, this one makes the list, and for good reason. They are one of the few rock bands as deeply Jamaican in consciousness as many of the R&B and soul artists featured in this article. This rock version of one of John Lennon's most passionate songs comes from Marcia Griffiths, who had a stellar career as a solo artist and formed Bob and Marcia with Bob Andy The duo, then gained new exposure as one of the backing singers in Bob Marley's Seventies. singer. The tinkling rhythm guitar and drums take the song in a different direction than the Beatles. If Marcia and Co. he did it on the roof of Apple Corps (a laThe fantastic four), I'm afraid someone will jump off the edge.

  • Mighty Diamonds (1978) "I'm Throwing Rocks at My Head"

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    mighty diamondare an acclaimed harmony trio perhaps best known for their cover - their "Pass the Kutchie" became an international hit "Pass the Dutchie" for youth music in 1982. I've always wanted to work with them and finally got the chance to go to Easy Star'ssergeant. black pepperTribute to their achievement"He keeps getting better and better. "Even though their flight from Jamaica to New York was delayed several hours, my recordings with them went wellandThey lost their luggage on the way. This cover of one of Chicago superstar Chi-Lites' best songs was recorded at Channel One Studio, my favorite reggae studio in the 70's. The track is performed by Channel One band Revolutionaries, which includes future production titans Sly and Robbie. Not sure if Sly and Robbie play on this track. my copystay at your own discretion, the 1978 LP, "Stoned Out of My Mind," which also features drummer Santa Davis and bassist Ranchie McLean, but does not specify who played on which tracks. I especially like Chinna Smith or Dougie Bryan's jazz lead guitar (the title just says "Duggie" but I'm guessing it's Bryan). While reggae album titles are often lacking in detail, I prefer this approach to the disloyal way many listeners consume music in the digital age. Speaking of numbers, the 70s version of The Diamonds' "Stoned Out of My Mind" isn't available on any streaming platform except YouTube. Search for this song on Spotify or Apple Music and you'll hear a version that's so far less modern, you'll think I'm crazy for including this song.

  • "Put Down", en All-Star-bedrift af Easy Star. Toots and Metal (2006)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (18)

    Very muchThe artists on this list are no longer with us (Sugar Minott, Frankie Paul, Tabby and Bunny Diamond, Dennis Brown, etc.). Working on our track with the late Toots Hibbert (died 2020)computer godtax,Radiofobi, one of the highlights of my producing career. We recorded at Circle House, Miami's famous Inner Circle studio (the building may have been built by"bad boy"the subject of their TV showpolicyToots smokes more vanilla than anyone I've ever seen in one sitting as I try to help him understand a song more complicated than John Denver's."Take Me Home, Country Roads"His favorite covers that some might want to see on this list. Between the ska track and the Toots song, I think it's safe to say we at least ended up with something very different from the Radiohead original, and Toots was so happy with the final product that he played it over and over on his tour bus . Oddly enough, Thom Yorke was quoted as saying he preferred Radiohead's version of Easy Star. There is no greater praise than this!

  • "Moonage Daydream", Easy Star All-Star Feat. Naomi Cowan (2023)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (19)

    that's itMy favorite Bowie songjagged stardustChildren's albums. For our version, I decided to flip the original's script and replace the aggressive guitar stabs with a steady bass line, choosing smoothness over roughness. My goal was to create something hypnotic that at least worked for me because I thought I was in a trance when I dropped the bass. In homage to Bowie's classic, I've used a string quartet to emulate the original composition, which I've put more emphasis on in the dub version we've includedZiggy Starbucksalbum. As a tribute to Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, I had Alex Lifeson from Rush play a guitar solo at the end of the track. Singer Naomi Cowan's Jamaican-centric performance – a touch of accent and dialect – is just what we wanted.

  • "Can I Change My Mind," Alton Ellis (1969)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (20)

    Name Alton EllisEarly production work, also a respected singer from his ska days until his death a few years ago. I'm generally obsessed with his rock period from the mid-60s onwards, and while it's hard to choose between his many great covers, this one wins by a narrow margin. Ellis recorded the song more than once, which is a common practice among reggae artists. The version I'm most familiar with, Ellis, has a surprisingly low voice compared to the organ. When you think about the speed at which records were made in Jamaica back then, I don't think the producer was upset. every detail of the studio I did. But it fits the laid-back vibe of this record, which is much less driven and feels cooler than Tyrone Davis' original.

  • "Her Majesty," Jays and Ranking Trevor (1977)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (21)

    many Jamaican artistsPeople who started in the sixties and seventies told me that Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions was one of their favorite shows. The Impressions had several songs that were widely covered, most notably "People Get Ready", which the Wailers incorporated into "One Love"."The Bard and the Queen"Known as "Queen Majesty" in Jamaica, and while other artists' versions may be better known, I've always preferred Jays (a song group I don't know except for this song) and Ranking Trevor (a song I don't know) I don't even know DJ). Part of the appeal is the brilliant performances of the rebels recorded on Channel One. The rousing musical intro sounds like a royal fanfare, perfect for a song about a queen. And this version also shows the DJ chat style in an extended disco remix, which was crucial to the later development of dancehall.

  • "Everything's Alright," Sugar Minott (1984)

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    Lincoln "Sugar" MinotOne of reggae's unsung heroes, he helped launch many young singers and DJs in their careers. His sound system was even named "Youthman Promotion". Also known as the Godfather of Dancehall, he was one of the first artists to recycle old songs into new ones. I have had the privilege of working closely with Sugar from the beginning of Easy Star Records through his involvement inRadiofobiandEasy Star's Lonely Hearts Voice Band, until his untimely death in 2010, I knew he wanted his contribution to Jamaican music to be more recognized during his lifetime. Sugar enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight when his rendition of the Michael Jackson tune reached No.4 on the UK Singles Chart, placing him on the pinnacle of pop.I highly recommend checking out Sugar's videos and the musicians featured on UK TV. It brings me joy every time I see it.

  • "Money", Easy Star All-Star Game feat. Gary Nesta Pine og Doraman (2003)

    The 25 Best Cover Songs by Reggae Artists (23)

    when we firstStart with the Pink Floyd tributeThe voice of the moon, co-producer Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah) and I know we're finally going to have to face the fact that this Pink Floyd song has mostly7/4 times, a strange meter never before seen in reggae, perhaps never. Another reinterpretation of Dave Brubeck's reggae classic"tag fem"Convert the song's 5/4 time to standard 4/4 time. Eventually we cracked the code by having the drummer play a kick drum on every beat, which in reggae music is called a "step." We also plan to replace all of David Gilmour's guitar solos on the album with more "reggae" elements, in this case a chat from Grenada-born DJ Dollarman, who created a set that has become iconic for Easy Star fans. The verse is based on. But perhaps the most fun part of making this cover was figuring out how to replace the original cash register sound - I think we figured it out becauseΟι Rolling StonesCall it "Fantastic!"

  • "Baltimore," The Tamlins (1980)

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    this song isOriginally written and published by Randy Newman, but I'm sure Tamlins and producers Sly and Robbie based their version on Nina Simon Simone)let it flowHe recorded the tune in 1978. I've always liked the Tamlins version, although I never understood why they were singing about a town in America until I realized it was a cover. I finally realized that for them Baltimore was portrayed here as the rough and tough area of ​​Kingston. This track is pure drum and bass warfare and I love that the chorus changes the mood with some sweet harmonies before the singers and musicians take us back into the danger zone. The Tamlins provided backing vocals for a number of artists, including the aforementioned Dennis Brown and Marcia Griffiths, who collaborated extensively with Peter Tosh before covering a cover of one of Jamaica's biggest hits in the late seventies.

  • "Now We've Found Love", Third World (1978)

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    this is oneThe songs where the cover definitely overshadows the original, and not just for me. Like many of the tracks on this list I've heard over the years, it didn't even occur to me that this was a cover - it's just one giant third-world song. I mean huge. Whenever and wherever it was played, it brought crowds to the dance floor and topped the UK and US charts, a song performed in Jamaica was extremely rare at the time (actually, wait, it still is). The third world was (and is). ) ) are very good at incorporating R&B and soul into their sound. Their frontman, William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke, is a soul singer at heart and shows off his bagpipes to the fullest in this clip. I had the pleasure of meeting this band in the early 90's and playing with RugsEasy Star's Lonely Hearts Voice BandOnly a few years before his death in 2014. Third World went on to achieve a degree of crossover success throughout the 80s. Stevie Wonder is a fan, writing and producing for them, including their 1982 R&B hit"Try Jah Love."It was the only time he did this for a Jamaican artist. It would be nice to watch it in the studio.

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