Song: Grooving Out On Life
Artist: Hopeton Lewis
Album: Grooving Out Of Life (1973)
Genre: Sweetest Reggae
Actually, this entire album is an extremely rare gem. I doubt a whole lot of people have this album, and that includes myself. I’m sorry to discover that Mr. Lewis passed away not too long ago. He was truly a sweet reggae legend in my opinion. I first written about him on my old blog a few years ago. You may remember the late Mr. Lewis by one of his hit songs used in a travel commercial (don’t remember what company), the song was called “Take It Easy (1967).” Man, that tune was so catchy, it was stuck in my head for awhile. LOL Something interesting, I discovered that there are two different versions of “Take It Easy.” This album has a much mellower version. I personally prefer the faster one, which was used in the commercial.
This Album Is A Must Add To Your Streaming Library!
Today’s song “Grooving Out Of Life,” for some reason reminds me a lot of a song called “Girl Watcher (1968),” performed by The O’Kaysions. Remember that song? That was some great music too. Not sure what notes exactly reminds me of the song. Anyway, “Grooving Out Of Life” did not get that many plays. However, it makes sense, since reggae was not huge at the time in America. Shit, even with the major success of Bob Marley, reggae still didn’t scratch the surface (in my opinion). But, “Grooving Out Of Life” is an awesome song in my opinion, an unheard gem indeed!
Lewis had some very nice covers on this album. I think it’s worth listening to his cover of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” Although Tina had many people cover this song, I don’t recall ever hearing a reggae version. Lewis took me off guard with his rendition, but I think it sounds really good. Another cover I think is worth listening to is Express Yourself, which was originally done by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. The last cover I think you should listen to is “Love Is A Beautiful Thing.” I don’t remember the original group that sang this, but my earliest memories was a group called The Rascals. Lewis performed it nicely. This could have been a huge Motown like hit if America was more receptive to reggae artists back then.
Song: Mystic Man
Artist: Peter Tosh
Album: Mystic Man (1979)
Not too many American people know about Peter Tosh, however, in my opinion, I’d say he was a legend. Although Spotify indicates that Tosh’s album “Mystic Man” was released on 2002, that was the digital release. The actual release of the album was 1979. All of the songs on this digital album have been remastered, and additional songs have been added. You guys know how I feel about remastered songs. I’ve heard far too many “remastered” hit songs that sound like they’ve been recorded from a karaoke bar. But, in this case, I’m happy to say that the sound engineers have kept the album as close to the original sound as possible! I’m so grateful for that.
Digital Album Has Bonous Material.
Now, I have to be honest, this wasn’t my most favorite album of Peter Tosh, but it has some nice grooves on it. Like many reggae artist of his era, many of his albums (including this one) were very political. This isn’t an album you can use to twerk to. In my opinion, the golden song on this album is “Mystic Man.” In essence, this song is basically list of things he didn’t do anymore, in order to stay on a clear bath. The only other song that got some brownie points from me was “Crystal Ball.” Like I said, this wasn’t my favorite album, but for nostalgic purposes, it was great listening to this album again.
Having said that, that doesn’t mean that Peter was not a legend in his own right. He managed to get two songs registered on Billboard’s Top 100 Chart, they were “(You Got To Walk And) Don’t Look Back (1978),” which reached #81, and “Johnny B. Goode (1983),” which reached #84. I didn’t care too much for “Johnny B. Goode,” because I felt it was similar to Eddie Grant’s music, in that Tosh produced “American safe” song. Then again, I guess the reality was, we really couldn’t blame them. There wasn’t really a whole lot musicians could’ve done, when the music labels could literally tell you how to perform your art under contract back in the day.
When I think about situations like that, I always think back to Bob Marley. He really paved the way for reggae in America. If it wasn’t for Bob, I think the vast majority of Americans, perhaps the world, would have heard very little of reggae music and it’s culture. Anyway, some of my favorite Tosh songs I’d like you to check out are “Legalize It,” he probably was high when he sang this song! As a child I thought it was hilarious, personally. Check out “Downpressor,” “Oh Bumbo Klaat,” which is another hilarious song, maybe it’s because I remember my late grandpa saying that on a few occasions. 😂 Two more you should check out is, “400 Years,” and “Hammer.”
Song: Johnny Too Bad
Artist: The Slickers
Album: Johnny Too Bad (1971)
Genre: Sweet Reggae
Ok… I know, in general we shouldn’t judge people. But, I’m betting almost any amount of money that, unless you’re an old school Jamaican, or West-Indian (with age, or “seasoned” as we used to say), it’s likely you don’t know this group at all. The even sadder part is, there is so little written about this obscure group that there is little chance of discovery, unless you come from a family connected with reggae history. The Slickers was a Jamaican group that performed mostly rock-steady style of reggae. The Band’s career in music was extremely short (around 10 years give or take).
Only Well Seasoned Folk Would Know About This Group!
It’s unclear to me why they disbanded. It’s a shame because their song “Johnny Too Bad,” literally catapulted their career in ways we could not imagine. I mean, they were in fact talented, there was absolutely no reason why their career could not continue. I couldn’t even find an original album for this song. Almost every work I found from the group have all been released as singles. Now, this could also be possible that if there were more albums, they may have been released only in the UK.
If after listening to this reggae gem, you still can’t remember, or figure out where you’ve heard this song from. “Johnny Too Bad,” was on the hugely successful soundtrack to the movie called “The Harder They Come (1972),” starring legendary singer Jimmy Cliff. You know, I’ll share with you something interesting about the movie soundtrack. Growing up, I’ve always assumed that Jimmy Cliff was the only artist that sung “Many Rivers To Across,” just because I never recalled anyone else covering it. However, while searching for more of The Slickers’s music, Lo’ and behold, they have an UK album called “Many Rivers To Cross (1976).” Wow, it was strange listening to someone else sing this song. I really like the Slickers’s version of “Many Rivers To Cross,” but, I don’t know, if felt a more emotional connection to Jimmy Cliff’s version. Maybe I’m just a little bias ’cause I love Jimmy’s music. What you guys think?
Song: It Hurts To Be Alone
Artist: Bob Marley & The Wailers
Genre: Reggae Love Songs
Unless you come from the Islands, most of those that profess their fanhood for Bob Marley, know nothing of this song right here! Now, I know that “It Hurts To Be Alone,” is a sad song, but it’s a very true song, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it. You know, I think I’ve mentioned this before; in my opinion, Bob Marley was what Lionel Richie was to the Commodores; meaning in terms of overall fandom, it’s always been just Bob Marley. It’s a shame that America could not comprehend his brilliance, until after he passed. Just my opinion. Almost immediately after Bob’s Death, I remember people breaking their necks trying to buy as many Marley albums as possible, as we all knew there would be a price hike like never before!
I was reminiscing on some old music, and thought of Bob Marley, and then remembered “It Hurts To Be Alone.” This was one of many sweet classic reggae songs my late grandpa used to play. You know it’s interesting, because when I heard people talk about the late Bob Marley growing up, the conversation was almost always about his political lyrics, and how he was educating everyone about apartheid, poverty, things that were happening that America was totally oblivious to. But, Bob performed a lot of sweet reggae love songs too. He was quite diverse. Check out their song called “I Need You,” released in 1965. Also, check out “And I Love Her,” released in 1966. And oh yeah, shame on myself, for almost forgetting his most successful love song “Waiting In Vain (1983).”Elton John tickets starting at $18!
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??????????