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.
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!
In my opinion, I think these guys are indeed one of the many most forgotten reggae duos ever! Keith Barrington Rowe and Phillip Texas Dixon, or simply known as “Keith & Tex,” grew up and met in Kingston, Jamaica. They are most remembered for their massive smash hit “Stop That Train,” which was published in 1967 by Island Records. This was another one of many songs I used to hear my grandfather hum to himself all the time. It was strange because, most of the songs I heard my grandfather sing, I’ve usually heard him play before. But, I do not recall actually hearing this particular song until I got much older. I always thought he mistaken the song for Al Green’s “Back Up Train,” which coincidentally, was released in that same year. I stood corrected 😍
Although it appears that I can’t find any stats for “Stop That Train,” I do know enough that it was one of the most popular songs in Jamaica. This song was covered, dubbed, and sampled so many times back in the day; it was wonderful to read (when it comes to outside America), fans remembered them enough that after decades they are touring around Europe and Jamaica.
Keith & Tex Met As A Result Of Their Mutual Interest In Soccer!
How funny that a mutual interest in sports brought these two music legends together! They met playing in the soccer field and became close friends. Shortly after, they discovered they also had a strong mutual interest in music as well. Transitioning from sports to music sensations was not easy. Studios in Jamaica were very critical and judgemental. They had to practice with a vengeance, until everything finally paid off. For their first recording session, they performed “Stop That Train.” The studio loved it!
The second song the duo performed/recorded in the studio (which later became a hit as well), was called “Tonight.” The studio praised both songs, and the rest was history! Both enjoyed huge success at the young ages of about 16 & 17. Allow me to direct you to another great song they did. It’s a cover of one of the Temptations songs called “Don’t Look Back,” released in 1968.
Today, I’m writing about the works of King Tubby! Not sure how my blog fans feel about this guy; but I consider him one of the great forgotten reggae DJs. He produced some of the smoothest reggae beats, with the smoothest bass. I don’t consider Tubby’s music “dance floor” music per-say; they’re probably more closer to head-bopping music at best.
Real Name Was Osbourne Ruddock
Tubby’s real name was Osbourne Ruddock, and sound engineer was born in Kingston, Jamaican. Tubby had a passion for dub music; and his unique style changed the face of dub music in the 60s/70s era. Despite how much Tubby influence reggae instrumental dance music, he doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the charts. However, I have found small pieces of articles from back in the day, that mentions him in Billboard Magazine. Many of the articles were really promotions; or articles featuring artist’s music dubbed/arranged by Tubby. However, speaking from memory, I guess this sort of makes sense. You see, Tubby died in 1989, and Jamaican/reggae dance music really didn’t seriously explode in America until shortly after the 90s. I think.
The timing of his death was sad, because not only had he contributed so much to reggae music itself, he had several of his own record labels to prove it. “Firehouse” & “Waterhouse,” just to name a few. Yet the music business had completely forgotten about him. Tubby worked with so many artists, I can’t remember them all.
Jacob Miller & Augustus Pablo
However, I do remember that some of his most popular mixes has been from Jacob Miller & Augustus Pablo, just to name a few. To my understanding, just before the end of his life, he purchased a larger and more advanced studio to manage his labels, while also using it to tutor and mentor younger artists who wanted to get in the music business.
Some of my favorite dubs from Tubby are “Western Dub,” “Take Five,” “Me Come To Dub,” “Gaza Version,” and “Staga Dub.” I would like to end this article with an interesting fact. Usually, when an artist give themselves a name like “Tubby,” it’s not at all unreasonable to assume that he more than likely has a belly. However, to my understanding, he was never overweight. His name comes from his mother’s surname, Tubman.
I absolutely LOVE this reggae classic! My only problem is I wish it was longer than 2 minutes and 15 seconds. That is definitely not enough time for a reggae groove like this one! But, then again, two and a half minutes was about the average time for most songs back then. “Enter The Dragon,” was from an album called “Kung Fu Meets the Dragon,” by (then) called “The Mighty Upsetter.” This particular album was a special project inspired by martial arts; I found this very interesting and yet odd at the same time. Because in terms of people from Jamaica, West-Indies, etc; reggae music was still very highly political in the 70s, we just didn’t witness these types of albums (at least here in the states anyway). Although reggae musicians were inspired to sing about damn near anything, this album came out of left field for me 😜
The album was practically all instrumental, and if you ask me, I think this project was some of his best work I ever heard! The album “Dubstrumentals,” was digitally released in 2005, and it includes all of the musical works from “Kung Fu Meets The Dragon,” plus a lot of additional dubs I know you’re going to like. Just about all the music in “Dubstrumental” are smooth ska music. I recommend checking out a piece called ” Samurai Swordsman.”
This is probably my most favorite song from reggae legend, the late Gregory Isaac. The song is called “I Can’t Give You My Love Alone,” released in 1981 by African Museum Records (at least at the time I purchased my LP. In the streaming world, I see a number of distributors, so I’m still not sure if another company owns it). This is another one of those songs that I rarely hear that is both romantic and club danceable (or at least in a formal party danceable). I really love the instrumental/dub version of this song (on side B), but it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, unless you’re lucky enough to find the original LP. Gregory died on lung cancer in London on 2010.