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60 Biggest Jamaican Songs since Independence in 1962. The third 10 years: 1982-1991

Updated: May 1, 2023

It has been long established that Jamaica’s music is regarded ss the most impactful aspect of the island’s culture. In fact, the music is largely responsible for positioning Jamaica among the top ten most culturally influential countries around the world, and 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 third installment with selection of our top 10 songs covering the period 1982-1991.

1982-Mad Over Me- Yellow Man Under normal circumstances, someone of Winston Foster aka Yellow Man’s background would have been confined to the dark rooms of social Jamaica as he was an albino. Renaming himself “Yellowman” he grabbed his gift of lyrical creation by the scruff of the neck and forced himself into the consciousness of Jamaicans as one oof the greatest deejays of the 1980. “Mad Over Me” was one of the songs that welded him into the psyche of Jamaicans and not only did it dominate the airwaves in 1981, it helped to establish him as the undisputed King of Jamaica’s Dancehall. 1983-Black Uhuru Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner The Waterhouse based Black Uhuru Reggae sing group was the most successful of the second-generation reggae bands coming out of Jamaica following the death of Bob Marley. In 1983 they penned the classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” which featured the creative mastery of the Riddim twins Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

1984-Broader Than Broadway: Barrington Levy In 1984 Barrington Levy had what could best be described as “a banner year” under the guidance of producer George Phang and working his voice on some of the most stupendous group of rhythms that Sly & Robbie had specifically made for the producer. He had several hits that year, but none was bigger than the ebullient “Here I Come” (Broader than Broadway). The song would break out of the Jamaican market and into the UK to 50 charts. I would also headline his album that year.

1985- Under Mi Sleng-Teng: Wayne Smith This song is perhaps the foundation upon which Jamaica’s Dancehall genre was built as it introduced the use of fully synthesized rhythms into Jamaica’s music. Created by Wayne Smith along with his friend, musician Noel Davy, the beat was taken from a pre-set “rock” pattern programmed into Casiotone MT-40 instrument owned by Davey. Realizing they had created something special; they visited several studios seeking to record the riddim but was dismissed by the studios as worthless. They journeyed over to Jammy’s studios and producer King Jammys loved the uniqueness of the riddim and was of the view that the dancehall audience would like it. The rest is history. Jammys added a few touches in the studio, then premiered “Sleng Teng” on his King Jammys Hi Power sound system. Sleng Teng commenced Jamaican music’s digital revolution and spawned numerous variations on the riddim.

1986-See Boops Deh: Super Cat Super Cat had been working the sound system setup form the late 1970s to early 1980s before joining Winston Riley’s Techniques setup in 1981. He produced several sides for the label, but none had the impact that his take on the philandering Jamaican man entitled “Si Boops Deh,” which took 1986 by storm. Super Cat’s lyrical guile and his deftness at riding the riddim made Boops a household name and spawned multiple responses for other artistes desperate to get a piece of “Boops.”

1987-Hol A Fresh: Red Dragon Red Dragon (Born Leroy May) had made his name on the local sound system circuit cutting scores of dub-plates (Specials) for various sound systems in the first half of the 1980s before moving on to recording for redistribution. In 1987 he did “Hol A Fresh” for Riley’s Techniques label in response to a single by Shabba Ranks entitled Fresh which was also released in 1987. Hol A Fresh was a monster hit in Jamaica, but its poor promotion stifled the record on the international circuit.

1988-Wild Gilbert: Lovindeer Lloyd Lovindeer had been on the Jamaican singing circuit since 1971 before having the biggest hit of his career with "Wild Gilbert" which was released in September 1988, within days of the passage of the hurricane. "Wild Gilbert" humorously describes the experiences of Jamaican during 1988's the passage of the hurricane and remains the island's biggest selling single with sales estimated at between 50,000 and 200,000 copies

1989- One Blood: Junior Reid Despite some degree of subsiding after the bloodletting of 1979-1980, the spate of murders had continued into the late 1980s. Junior Reid in 1989 used his recording microphone to issue a clarion call to Jamaican youth that despite their locational differences they were all “One Blood.” This call for unity resonated far beyond the island’s shores, driven by Junior Reid’s unmistakable vocals on a driving dancehall beat. “One Blood” has been sampled on rap hits by the Game and Wu-Tang Clan, and its opening lyric, a comparison of present-day killers with folkloric characters who subsist on blood, was used by New York band Vampire Weekend for an album title Modern Vampires of the City.

1990- Strive: Shinehead If ever there was a reggae tune that served to provide a motivational message, it was “Strive” from the London born and Bronx, NY and Kingston, Jamaica, raised Shinehead. He effortlessly combined his lyrical abilities with his huge vocals to produce a song that was on the lips of Jamaicans everywhere in 1990. The song easily crossed the Atlantic and made huge strides on both the US and UK charts where Shinehead urged the listener to “remove the doubt from out your mind and let good flow.” The song begins with an impressive U Roy–inspired toast, Shinehead delivers the song’s empowering lyrics while alternating between sung vocals, rapped verses, and DJ’d hooks.

1991- Hot Dis Year: Dirtsman Dirtsman was born Patrick Thompson and was the brother of DJ Papa San. He cut his teeth on his father’s Black Universe sound system based in the old capital, Spanish Town. Despite recording since the early 1980s, it wasn’t until 1991 that he hit paydirt with the single “Hot This Year” produced by New York based Phillip Smart. Dirtsman would pen a contract with the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) soon after, but his career was cut short when four gunmen took his life on 21 December 1993. Thanks for taking the time to read our blog, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we appreciate your feedback. We also invite you to check Sunday Scoops our Jamaican music streaming and commentary program every Sunday from 2-4pm on feel free to share with your friends. Check out our Reggaewear merchandise at: Reggae Clothing | Yardabraawd Gallery and Collectibles

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