60 Biggest Jamaican Songs since Independence in 1962. The second 10 years: 1972-1981
Updated: Oct 9, 2022
Jamaica’s music is best described as the most impactful aspect of the island’s culture and is largely responsible for positioning Jamaica among the top ten most culturally influential countries around the world. In the last 60 years, Jamaica has produced some of the most influential music styles including Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae, Dub, and Dancehall. As Jamaica celebrates its Diamond Jubilee (60th year) Independence, I believe that Yaawd Media would be remiss to allow the occasion to pass without acknowledging some of the most impactful pieces of music produced by Jamaicans over the period. To this end, I have selected 60 songs (one for each year) since Independence in 1962. These selections were made based on the impact the recording had on Jamaica and the world in the year that the disc was produced. Yaawd media recognizes that there were many pieces of music that may have had great impact in particular years but may not have been released in the year of impact. It is therefore important to keep in mind that we are looking only at the year of release. Here is the second selection of 10 songs.
covering the period 1972-1981.
1972-The Harder They Come- Jimmy Cliff Jimmy Cliff had been drafted by Perry Henzell to play the lead role in a movie that he had planned to film. As filming progressed, Henzell requested that Cliff come up with a title for the movie and Cliff suggested “The Harder They Come." Henzell reportedly liked it and asked Cliff to write a song based on the title and thus came “The Harder They Come," which was written for the film’s soundtrack. It was released with the movie in 1972 and became a massive hit both at home in Jamaica and overseas. It has been covered by many artists and was ranked number 350 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
1973- S90 Skank- Big Youth Big Youth hit the Jackpot with his S-90 Skank, a song born out of a literal accident after he along with his pillion rider was hit from his motorcycle on Industrial Terrace in Kingston while returning from Federal Records where they had gone to purchase copies of a record. The following week he came up with the line ‘man if you ride like lightning yuh crash like thunder’ and around which the song was built. Producer Keith Hudson took an actual motorcycle into the studio and roared the engine into the recording and the rest was history. S-90 Skank became Big Youth’s first #1 tune and Big Youth never looked back.
1974- Everything I Own- Ken Boothe This song was originally written by British songwriter David Gates and performed by his band, Bread after he had lost his father. In 1974 Ken Boothe revisited the song under the direction of producer Lloyd Charmers. Ken Boothe’s majestical and sincere vocals welded the lyrics into his listeners and rocketed the record up the Jamaican and British charts where it reached number 1.
1975- Marcus Garvey- The Burning Spear In 1975, Winston Rodney aka The Burning Spear broke his hiatus from the music business and teamed up with Ocho Rios, Jamaica based Jack Ruby. The association immediately produced “Marcus Garvey” a special for the Jack Ruby sound system. The powerful lyrics blew across the island and established Rodney as the voice of Garveyism in Jamaica and the song as an anthem at home and abroad.
1976-Culture-Two Sevens Clash. Joseph Hill & Culture had been chipping away at the attention of Jamaican music listeners for a while before teaming up with Joe Gibbs in 1976. The partnership produced a clutch of songs headed by the prophetic Two Sevens Clash built around Marcus Garvey’s prophesy that on July 7, 1977, two sevens would clash, and the oppressed would revolt against their tormentors. Although recorded in 1976, the song was not released until 1977 and became an instant classic.
1977- Althea & Donna- Uptown Top Ranking This song marked the successful penetration of the downtown culture penetrating Jamaica’s gilded uptown communities as Athea and Donna took deejay Trinity’s reworked Joe Gibbs recut of the Alton Ellis’ rock steady classic “I’m Still in Love with You Girl” titled “Three Piece Suit and Ting” and reworked this into what became one of the biggest records of 1977.
1978- My Number One- Gregory Isaacs G regory Isaacs aka The Cool Ruler’s “Number One” underlined a career that had been teasing his audience for more than a decade. Producer Alvin Rangling sought out the genius of Sly Dunbar and the Revolutionaries to produce this masterful track which underlined Gregory Isaacs’ reputation as one of the islands’ best crooners of the 1970s.
1979- Armageddon Time- Willie Williams Willie Williams had been singing for a while with the Clive and Randy Chin outfit before doing this prophetic single for Clement ‘Sir Coxsone” Dodd. Drawing on the 1968 Real Rock rhythm, the song marched into the consciousness of listeners and became a big hit for Studio One. It would later be covered by the UK group The Clash as well as spawning multiple versions.
1980-Redemption Song-Bob Marley This was one of the last songs written by Robert Nesta Marley around 1979 following his cancer diagnosis. According to Rita Marley, "he was already secretly in a lot of pain and dealt with his own mortality, a feature that is clearly apparent in the album, particularly in this song." The acoustic recording of Marley singing and playing an acoustic guitar was released in 1980.
1981-Sitting & Watching-Dennis Brown
It was only a matter of time before Dennis Emanuel Brown, arguably one of Jamaica’s best voices would have joined forces with the magic of Sly Dunbar and the Taxi connection. The result was the classic hit “Sitting and Watching.”
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