This section consist of my favorite classic reggae tunes, from both legendary and lesser known reggae artists. Artists like: John Holt, Ken Booth, & Ken Parker.
Song: In The Midnight Hour
Artist: The Silvertones
The song “In The Midnight Hour,” was another one of many reggae favorites of my late grandfather and I. It was released in 1968, I believe in the U.K. It was a cover of Wilson Pickett’s 1965 version of “Midnight Hour.” Wilson’s version hit #21 on the Top 100. Despite Wilson’s song being almost 55 years old now, Spotify alone has it registered at over 34M plays. Grandpa and I used to listen to both versions all the time. I don’t believe he ever owned a Silvertone album, however, I remember hearing him play their song on his big reel2reel player. Back in the day, poor folk saved soooooo much money on music by taping each others albums. I don’t know what the stats are for Silvertones’s “In The Midnight Hour,” but streaming appears to be less than 60k plays. It certainly was a hit in my house growing up. Lost reggae legends indeed. Check out another favorite of mine, “Young At Heart.”
Song: Close To You
Artist: Maxi Priest
Album: Bonafide (1990)
This is one reggae artist that should not be forgotten. Maxi Priest is so underrated in my opinion. He is a great singer and a phenomenal songwriter. His rise to fame came when he released his massive hit “Close To You” in 1990. The song hit #1 and stayed number one for a week. It’s important to remember reggae artists like him, because he’s one of the few reggae artists that hit number one (at least once) on the American charts. This means their music appeals to a wider audience. In the 90s, Americans played a LOT of Jamaican music, but I can count on one hand artists that registered anywhere on the American Billboard charts. I encourage you to seek out some of his older music. Another well known hit he produced was called “Wild World,” from his album “The Best Of Me (1991),” featuring John Gallon. This was actually a cover of Cat Steven’s Wild World released in 1970. Maxi did a wonderful job reinterpreting this song!
Song: Hope Your Satisfied
Artist: Ken Parker
I have got to say that, Jamaican reggae singer Ken Parker, has got to be one of my most favorite old-time reggae legends, forgotten reggae legends! In my opinion, he made some of the most beautiful romantic reggae music. Ken grew up in the church, and started his career singing religious reggae music. I mostly gravitated more towards his love songs, such as “Hope Your Satisfied.” I also absolutely loved his cover of Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come.” Damn!! That’s a sweet reggae gem right there! It appears that a lot of his oldies have been digitally re-released, so I am unsure or the original publishing dates for these songs. Oooh, oooh, you’ve got to checkout another favorite classic of mine. He did a cover of a song called “Chokin’ Kind,” I believe it was originally performed by American singer Joe Simon. I love both versions of this song.
Song: Don’t Let Me Down
Artist: Marcia Griffiths
Album: Play Me Nice & Sweet (1974)
Wow! Talk about sweet reggae music? This is a great one right here!! I know I probably say this all the time, but, I think this is one of my most favorite reggae songs by a female. “Don’t Let Me Down” is both danceable and very romantic. I highly recommend this song for weddings/reception. Marcia has taken this 1969 Beatles song to a whole different level. Now, to be honest, I’m almost certain that most Americans don’t know anything about Marcia Griffiths. However, Americans may remember her for her smash hit “Electric Boogie (1990).” The crazy thing about this song is that, growing up, this song was almost a requirement to any Black party. I mean, before an end to every barbecue, someone will demand that song to be played. Almost every church function I’ve been to as a child played this song before the function was over. The dance to this song looked very much like “The Bus Stop.” Yet, the Top 100 Charts has this song positioned at #51! WTF??????????
You know, I am absolutely ashamed to find out that there exist people who don’t believe that there is a such thing as a female reggae legend. It’s kind of aggravating to know that (with the exception of female hip hop today (it appears)), there still exist sexist attitudes concerning women in music. As someone who consumes a lot of music since childhood, I emphatically disagree with this sort of mindset. Especially in the area of reggae love songs. Throughout history, no matter where you come from, it’s always been an unsaid standard that romantic songs came from men. But, I’ve heard some of the most beautiful reggae love songs from women. The late Cynthia Schloss was one of them, and she earned the right to be called a reggae legend in my opinion.
The Late Cynthia Schloss Is A Forgotten Legend Of Love Songs!
The late Cynthia Schloss was very beautiful, and had a smooth delicate singing voice. The first song I think I can recall hearing from her, was a song called “Send Me The Pillow (c. 1982).” The song was actually written by a guy named Johnny Tillotson sometime in the very late 50s. “Send me the pillow that you dream on. Maybe time will let our dreams come true.” Rarely have I heard lyrics like these, that are so sweet and genuine. There’s another song I think you should hear called “Looks Like Love (1983).” Both my late grandparents played this song A LOT!! Many of Cynthia’s music is probably far too mellow for today’s young listeners. However, they’re notable music that is part of both Jamaican and American unknown music history.
Today, I’d like to write about one of the biggest forgotten reggae legends! His name? The late John Holt. This man has made a lot of smooth reggae. Sweet, sweet reggae. He also used to be one of many Jamaican artists that loved to reinterpret American music; and let me tell you, many of them were really nice in my opinion. I didn’t like all his remakes, sometimes it sounded like his voice didn’t fit some of the songs he sang. But, there was one cover he did that I remember my grandfather listening to a lot on his reel2reel (I loved it too). This song was co-written by the late Brook Benton (along with two others), and recorded by the late Nat King Cole. The song was called “Looking Back (1958).” The song hit #2 on the R&B Charts.
However, John Holt’s version of “Looking Back 1972),” took the song to a whole different level. I LOVED how he put together that organ intro; it almost made the song immediately recognizable. It’s a beautiful song that talks about a man realizing his bad mistakes toward the one he loves, and he learned not to do them again. You know, I was saddened to discover that Holt’s cover version wasn’t even mentioned anywhere on Wikipedia. If I didn’t know it existed growing up, it would not be on my blog. I digress.. I tried adding him on Wiki, not sure if they’re going to approve it or not. I want you to check out two more amazing Holt songs. “A Love I Can Feel (1971),” and “If It Don’t Work Out,” also released in 1971. “If It Don’t Work Out,” is actually a cover of the Casinos’s song “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (1967).”Save an Extra 10% on Guitar Cases and Guitar Gig Bags: Use Code TOURGUITAR
For today, I planned on randomly digging up an album from my collection. But then I heard this classic masterpiece! It totally escaped my mind that there is a reggae cover of this song. How could I have forgotten? This made history in both film and music media. “To Sir With Love (1967),” starring Sidney Poitier, was an UK & USA mega cult classic, that I doubt any of today’s younger generation knows anything about. There’s no surprise that a talented reggae band would eventually reinterpret this song.
An awesome reggae group called Lynn Taitt & The Jets, done an instrumental cover of the theme song “To Sir, With Love.” Unfortunately, I’m having a bit of trouble finding their original release date, because all that seems to be available is the “digital release dates.” However, I don’t think that it could be younger than c. 1970. Island people of my age bracket are going to love this song (I think). It’s funny, listening to the way Lynn picks his guitar, reminds me a lot of an American group called The Ventures. You know, now that I think about it, it’s weird that as popular as the movie was, I never heard the complete sound track (after all these years). I guess I should look that up. Here is Lulu’s original version of “To Sir, With Love (1967).” Rent the movie if you haven’t already! It’s a tear jerker, but worth it.
Ok reggae fans out there! Do you remember legendary Owen Grey? Mr. Owen was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He grew up to be one of Jamaica’s most beloved vocal artists. The passion Owen has for all kinds of music shows in the variety of genres he played. From R&B to ska to gospel, I think it’s safe to say he just about did it all (with the exception of disco LOL).
His Biggest Hit Undocumented As Far As I’m Concerned!!
And of course, I’m already aggravated, because I can’t find any official stats on his biggest hit (U.S.) in 1996. “Don’t Turn Around,” with Dianne Warren singing background, was one of the most popular reggae hits from the mid 90s in the US. What’s even worse, I am dumbfounded that as popular as this song was, YouTube has very low streams for this song. However, collectively speaking his music streamed well on YouTube (considering no one plays really his music anymore as a whole). Billboard was absolutely useless to me 😠 . This is a damn shame! All I can do at this point, is share with you my memories.
Owen started his career at the age of 9, when he performed on his first talent show. People in the reggae industry took noticed, and his career eventually skyrocketed. From about 1958 until present, he’s produced a LOT of albums. I’d like to recommend some of my favorites. A cover of BJ Thomas’s “Always On My Mind,” “Confidential To You,” “The Game Has Just Begun,” a cover of Nat King Cole’s (written by Ivory Deek Watson) “Sentimental Reasons,” and finally a song called “Let’s Start All Over.” Enjoy!