Artists: A Variety
Genre: Ska & Rock Steady
Since playlists are so incredibly important, I decided to do another one this week. Today, I want to focus on a forgotten music label called Trojan Records. Coming from a family of heavy music lovers and performers, growing up, I can safely say that Trojan Records for reggae artists was the equivalent to Motown for Black American artists. In terms of the hits they pumped out, and the tremendous contributions they’ve made to Black music in general. I really don’t think, not just Americans, but other countries around the world would have ever known what reggae was, if it were not for labels like Trojan Records.
Trojan Played A Pivotal Role In Reggae Music!
Like Motown, Trojan employed many hit makers such as Toots & The Maytals, Bob Andy, Peter Tosh, John Holt, Marcia Griffiths, are just a very small fraction of the very talented people they had on their raster. Trojan is actually a British label, that was formed some time in 1968. As far as I know, the label has strictly dedicated itself to ska & rock steady type of reggae. To be honest, I can’t even recall ever hearing calypso from Trojan (at least when I was a young boy anyway). Today I’m not really sure if the label is producing new music. I can’t really find a whole lot of new stuff, with the exception of re-releases of their old music. Traditional reggae is such beautiful music! It just hurts my heart that it’s become “an old fad” in America. Almost never to be listened to again, as if it ran its course. Huh! Again, just like Motown! When Berry Gordy sold Motown, when last have you heard any advertisement for anything Motown? They had no interest in keeping the memory of Black music, only to own the value of it’s name.
Trojan Is Actually A British Label!
Trojan is now under Sanctuary Records. It doesn’t appear that Sanctuary has produced a lot of (or if any) new reggae under their name either. Please think about this for a moment. Trojan was affiliated with more than 30 other Black reggae labels (which I’m sure Sanctuary also owns or have license to), and I’m having difficulty finding new Black reggae music from them. However, they’re offering imports of their old music for extraordinary amounts of money. Another reason why music streaming is so important! So that poor people who can’t afford that kind of money for those rare reprints/originals, still have another way to access our history for practically free!
Reggae Music From Trojan Records Almost Feels Extinct!
Ok, a little about my new hand-picked playlist😄! The process of putting together this playlist was sort-of difficult. Because it is not an American label, I can’t find chart information as easily as I’d like. Most if not all don’t even have chart information. I had to really rely on my childhood memories, my mom’s vinyls and my late grandpa’s reel2reel tapes and vinyls, and pretty much start diggin’ through several hundred music streams 😜. Out of about 800 Trojan tunes I’ve curated, I’ve narrowed them down to 40 treasures for this playlist. I really think people from the Island around my age will enjoy this list most definitely; and hopefully it will jar some memories for you too! Yes?
After Hours & Hours Of Listening, I Made The Perfect Classic Trojan List!
Soooo, some of the great artists I have on this list includes the great Desmond Dekker & The Aces, with their hit called “Shing A Ling.” This wasn’t Dekker’s biggest hit, but I loved this song anyway. You’d probably are more familiar with one of his bigger hits, such as “007 (Shante Town) (1967).” By the way, I wish I was able to find more information about the above photo with Dekker in it. I noticed the sign in the photo mentions Byron Lee (not pictured (although I’m sure it’s the guy with his head turned the other way, but I’m not certain)). My late grandfather absolutely loved Byron Lee. Byron was HUGE in the reggae world. In my opinion, he was like the reggae version of Tito Puente 🤣. Speaking of Byron Lee, he was also on the Trojan label. One song by Byron my late Grandpa used to play a lot was called “Only A Fool (with Sparrow)(1977).” Ahhh, this was such a beautiful record. Byron also had another huge hit called “Tiney Winey,” and I believe it was released in 1984. Now, I know I said early in this article that I hadn’t heard any calypso music out of the Trojan label. But here’s the thing, with songs like “Tiney Winey,” artists often change labels, sometimes labels get taken over, sometimes they’re also under sub-labels that specialize in a specific genre. It’s really hard to know what’s what.
Byron Lee Was Almost Like A Reggae Version Of Tito Puente!
Next, I have the legendary Millie Small, who many Americans would be shocked to find out she was actually from Jamaica! Unfortunately I never considered her to have a really talented voice. However, she exploded in the music scene when she released her one massive hit “My Boy Lollipop (c.1964).” The song hit #2 on the top 100 American Billboard. Unfortunately, Millie past away in early 2020, at the age of 72. A lot of famous artists on the Trojan label also made some awesome covers of American music. “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” by John Holt; “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” by my girl Marcia Griffiths; “Don’t Play That Song For Me,” by Derrick Morgan; and plenty more on this playlist. I hope you enjoy!!
Song: Try Jah Love
Artist: Third World
Album: You’ve Got The Power (1982)
I can’t even attempt to find the words to explain how much of an impact this album has made around the world. How many Americans even remember the group Third World? You’ll probably think long and hard for a good half our thinking about their name, until you hear this song! This song is so unique, I still have trouble figuring out an appropriate category. You know it’s has a Caribbean element to it, yet some times it sounds more like American club music. Some might even dare to say it borderlines disco. Maybe this is one of the many complex mysteries of what makes this song not only so awesome, but attract so many people of all walks of life!
This Awesome Song Was Co-Written With Stevie Wonder!
Kind of by accident, I found out that the song was co-written along with Stevie Wonder. Stevie was inspired to write this song shortly after the heartbreaking death of the late Bob Marley. The song became an instant hit. Without knowing any stats, there is no doubt in my mind this turned out to be the biggest global hit of Third World’s career! It truly put them on the map. Probably, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it made them the most famous in America, in terms of reggae bands are concerned (next to the Wailers, and even then, most American people remember Bob Marley, and never think about the band playin’ in the background). Now, unfortunately, I think Billboard is tryin’ to charge $10 a month for Billboard Chart info (not gonna happen with me). So, as far as Wikipedia is concerned, “Try Jah Love,” supposedly reached #42 in the UK and #101 on the Top 100 Chart. That sounds wrong to me, I remembered that this song was just too popular in the Black community for those numbers to be right. Black clubs played this all the time, I heard this song throughout the streets of NYC. Those numbers can’t be right.
Again, I don’t mean to hop on this all the time, but it’s true. I’ve heard very few professional reggae performers or bands, were able to fuse their reggae culture with other styles of music and come out successful like this. If never before, this song certainly immortalized them, don’t you think? It’s a shame Spotify doesn’t have this original album, it has some good stuff in it!! If this album doesn’t spark any one of your memory cells, perhaps you’ll remember them for another hit about 4 years before called “Now That We’ve Found Love (1978).” Man…………….. If you don’t at least move your hips to either one of these songs, you’re just a deadbeat dancer. Straight up deadbeat. 🤣
Artist: Midnight Star
🤣 I can’t stop laughing at this album cover! It’s like watching one of those old 70s magazine ads for wigs! 😜 You gotta love the eighties! We’ve done some crazy stuff to ourselves in the name of “style,” yet in reality all we did was copy other people. We may not want to admit it, but many Black styles from the eighties WERE in fact inspired by Prince (for the most part). It’s so weird because listening to this type of music now, synth music, somehow sounds older than what it actually is for some reason. Is it me? Or perhaps I was listening to too much music! 🙄
Listening To Their Music Now Makes Me Feel So Ancient!
You know, now that I think about it, it must be that unique “space age sound” that indirectly makes it sound older. I mean, when I hear it, it kind of reminded of movies like the first Star Wars and earlier movies. Let me tell you, Midnight Star was a pretty huge 80s group back in the day. They sang all kinds of music, but I think it is safe to say that they’ve been best known for their almost disco infused dance music. Now, I’m having some trouble finding their information on Billboard. However, from what I can tell eyeballing the various streaming services, I estimate that the song “Midas Touch (1986)” was their biggest hit. The song was ok… Mind you, I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t my favorite song by them.
In fact, I don’t remember hearing it a lot (at least in my neighborhood). The huge money maker for me was their song “Freak-A-Zoid (1983).” I absolutely loved this tune. Unfortunately, I don’t remember if this was a “barbecue favorite,” but I do remember a lot of people playing it. Although the lyrics were naughty, the overall song itself was an easy song to dance to for the whole family. Another song I enjoyed was their hit “No Parking (On The Dance Floor) (1983).” I really do feel that this classic group is worth searching for. Every member of that group can sing. Although they didn’t have many hits (relatively speaking), I think you’ll still enjoy some of their albums. It appears that they’re still performing. However, the last album I found was released in 2002.
Song: Kiss And Say Goodbye
Artist: The Manhattans
Album: Kiss And Say Goodbye (1982)
You know, The Manhattans were such a major popular group in the seventies, I didn’t even realize they only had a couple of hits during their entire career. This amazingly talented group was born in NJ, about 1962. An interesting fact I never knew about The Manhattans, was that each and every one of them joined the armed forces. To my understanding, the pretty much formed the group almost immediately after they were discharged.
They All Listed In The Armed Forces!
Their signature song “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” reached popularity beyond all expectations. I can’t even begin to find the words as to just how popular this song was. I don’t think I can describe to even if I tried. This song cemented their names in music history. It appeared that almost every house party we had growing up, had to end with that song playing. Almost every person of color had this album, or the 45rpm (bear minimum). If you didn’t own this album back in the day, people would look at you in total shock! Yet, at the same time, this was one of those weird things I never understood about my elder generation. Because this is really a breakup song, yet people danced to this as if it was a happy romantic song. Maybe it was all in the rhythm? I have absolutely no idea! 🤣
“Kiss And Say Goodbye” reached #1 in 1976 on the Top 100, and stayed on the charts for about 25/26 weeks. The song also hit #1 on the R&B category, #1 in Canada, and #1 in Netherlands, and #4 in both Australia and the UK. That’s how significant this song was, everyone from every age and walk of life responded to this amazing song! Their next and last huge hit was a song called “Shining Star (1980).” The song peaked at #5 on the Top 100, #2 in New Zealand, #6 in Canada.
Song: Various Songs
Artist: Various Artists
Wow, I didn’t realize it’s been ages since I’ve put together a playlist for you guys. Well, this album was pretty much inspired by “The Big Chill Movie Sound Track.” Remember that movie? Let me tell you, “The Big Chill (1983),” not only became a cult classic, the sound track was amazing! The sound track was jammed packed with the most popular classic sounds!! The music that was chosen for this movie was so good, when I first watched this movie, I almost couldn’t pay attention to the movie, cause all I could think about was the music I didn’t hear for a long time! 🤣
I have the original sound track on cassette, but I didn’t know about what appears to be some sort of second “extended” album? It’s called “More Songs From The Original Soundtrack Of The Big Chill 15th Anniversary (1984).” Keep in mind that the Internet wasn’t even widely known about back then. So, as far as I knew, I had the one and only sound track on cassette. By the way, there are a lot of great hits on that album as well!
Many of the songs on today’s featured album are truly indeed obscure by today’s standards I guess. However, to people from my age group this music still feels like yesterday! In total, my playlist consists of 12 amazing original recordings. Unfortunately, about half of these Motown recordings have been forgotten. However, in this particular case, I think they’ve been forgotten not because the music was mediocre; I actually think it was because other huge hits these same artists had over shadowed the music on this album.
Some of those forgotten gems include “The Happening,” by The Supremes. To my understanding this was actually #1 Top 100 Chart in 1967. Another forgotten gem is by Mary Wells, called “You Beat Me To The Punch.” That was an amazing song by her, unfortunately, I think her other hit “My Guy” was so huge, it just destroyed people’s memory of “You Beat Me To The Punch.” And then there’s “Hitch Hike (1963),” by Marvin Gaye. When it comes to Marvin Gaye’s music, “Hitch Hike” is as obscure as it comes. I doubt a whole lot of people remember it. Well, I hope you guys enjoy this playlist. it’s one of my favorite classic albums. Just FYI, one of the songs on this sound track was not by Motown. Can you guess which ones? 😄 If you want to hear the first original sound track, it’s here.
Song: Leaving Me
Artist: The Independents
Album: Discs Of Gold (1974) (2010)
This is an extremely rare and obscure group, and I recommend that you research them out. Unfortunately, they’ve only made a couple of albums. They did stay with each other long. Believe it or not, they broke up after being together professionally for only 3 years! Their only biggest hit was a song called “Leave Me (1973).” Although it only reached up to #21 on the Top 100 Chart, it hit #1 on R&B. The song sold over a million single copies, and has won the Gold Award. Because they’ve only stayed with each other for barely 3 short years, almost nothing is written about them. This is so sad that a talented Black group such as this one had become lost. Also check out their unknown song “In The Valley Of My Own World,” it’s instrumental melody reminds me of “Love Jones,” by Bright Side Of Darkness, a lot. This whole album was nicely done actually. They harmonize beautifully. I think most oldies fans will enjoy listening to them!
Song: Strawberry Letter 23
Artist: The Brothers Johnson
Album: Right On Time (1977)
Wow! These guys were some talented brothers back in the day. This is another of many group that used to confuse me. The reason being, back in the day Ray Parker Jr. used to have a group called Raydio, and I perceived a couple of their songs had very similar styles to The Brothers Johnson (or vise verse). However, there was no doubt that The Brothers Johnson had their own brand and identity.
These Guys Were Pretty Popular In The 80s!
Although they’ve had quite a few big hits, I think most people remember them for “Strawberry Letter 23,” off their 1977 “Right On Time” album. The song hit #5 on the Top 100, and #1 on the R&B charts. What an odd name for a hit song tho. 🤣 You also may be familiar with another huge hit of theirs called “I’ll Be Good To You (1976).” This song hit #3 on the Top 100 and #1 on the R&B charts. However, I think my second favorite was their hit called “Stomp (1980),” off their “light Up The Night” album. This was a big disco hit in many of the NYC clubs back in the day.
Unfortunately, I was shocked to read that Louis E Johnson recently passed away about 5 years ago. He was 60 years old. I also learned that Louis was responsible for laying down that sick baseline we heard in Michael Jackson’s cult classic “Billie Jean.” I always seem to find out about these amazing things after these celebrities die. We’ve lost a legend indeed!
Artist: Checkmates, Ltd.
This is an EXTREMELY rare, obscured indeed! The Checkmates, Ltd., to my understanding was a group discovered by the late Nancy Wilson. This was a very talented group in my opinion, it was such a shame that they broke up just barely a year after forming the group. Their biggest hit was a song called “Black Pearl (1969),” which was written and produced by the infamous Phil Specter. The song reached #13 on the pop charts. The also had some success with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” BTW, no….. Everybody assumes this was Tina Turner’s original, it’s not. Around 2008, Universal Studios suffered a major fire, and many original recordings were completely destroyed. Unfortunately, that included almost all works by the band, and many more artists as well. Check out this lost treasure album, I think it’s really nice piece of forgotten history.