Best Reggae Songs: Top 5 Tracks Most Recommended By Fans

Fewer genres of music can make one feel as calm and in touch as reggae. Influenced heavily by traditional mento, a type of Jamaican folk music, and even some jazz, rhythm, and blues, reggae has developed a sound all its own, so much so that it’s recognizable to the ears almost immediately. Originating in Jamaica in the 1960s with the single “Do the Reggay” by Toots and the Maytals, the genre of music not only coined its name but also started a sensation. By the 1970s, this sound and style had become an international hit, with more and more reggae artists rising from all over the world. Of course, reggae calls Jamaica home, with it still being their most prominent genre today. With such worldwide popularity, though, the music style has launched the careers of icons such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, to name a couple, all of whom created some of the best reggae songs of all time.

Of course, we aren’t the only species enjoying the elating sounds of reggae. According to a recent study out of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, along with folks at the Scottish SPCA, researchers found that reggae was one of the favorite genres of our canine friends. So, if treats or toys aren’t getting the job done when it comes to exciting your pooch, turning on the radio to your favorite reggae station might do the trick!

However, this style of music isn’t only making your dogs happier; it may also have calming effects. A recent study had researchers put together a playlist of the top 10 most calming songs for dogs, specifically to help soothe your pup on long car rides. And number two on the list had the honor of going to Bob Marley’s classic “No Woman, No Cry.” Of course, the Marley staple is a classic among reggae fans and, more recently, among canines! With two out of three dog owners saying their pets get stressed while traveling, it’s certainly good to know an easy fix could possibly be throwing on a reggae playlist. The steady rhythm and smooth melodies of these songs can help create a soothing environment for both pets and their owners. So the next time you hit the road with your furry friend, consider turning on some reggae tunes and enjoying a stress-free journey together.

But where does one start on their reggae journey? We here at StudyFinds know diving into any new genre of music can be a bit daunting, which is why we do a little thing around here called “the best of the best.” And today, we have researched multiple different expert sources to bring you the top five best reggae songs of all time. Disagree with our list? No worries! We would love to hear from you and your go-to reggae track in the comments below.

Bob Marley albums
Bob Marley albums (Photo by Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74 on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Reggae Songs, According to Fans

1. “One Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers (1965)

“One Love” is a timeless reggae track that resonates with people worldwide with its powerful and unifying lyrics that continue to be as prevalent today as they were in 1965. “Bob Marley is the undisputed king of reggae, and this iconic song will melt the heart of even the most hardened cynic. The lyrics call for unity, acceptance, and, of course, love among all humankind, and the relaxing melody fills you with hope and joy,” raves MusicianWave.

“Bob Marley is undoubtedly the king of reggae, and his title is well-deserved. Marley’s uncanny ability to churn out megahit after megahit popularized reggae for the masses. So, it’s no surprise that ‘One Love’ kicks off our list of the best reggae songs. The cheery melody and peaceful, bohemian lyrics make it easy to get lost in this reggae classic. So easy that many listeners often lose the deeper meaning behind the lyrics. While the chorus of ‘One Love’ talks about peace on Earth, Marley also warns of deep punishments for others who cause pain and suffering,” explains Music Grotto.

“Bob Marley and The Wailers’ classic hit, featuring the iconic message of unity, love, and peace, makes it one of the top reggae songs of all time. Its timeless appeal has inspired generations to embrace harmony through its simple yet profound message. With its engaging and soulful beats, ‘One Love’ remains a potent reminder that humanity thrives on compassion for each other,” adds SingersRoom.

2. “Legalize It” by Peter Tosh (1976)

“Legalize It” by Peter Tosh is an iconic reggae anthem that boldly advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana. This politically charged song not only explores the social and cultural significance of cannabis but also serves as a powerful call for justice and freedom for those who consume it. “The song ‘Legalize It’ really doesn’t need a translation. As a former member of the Wailers, Peter Tosh is well-versed in reggae tunes, so instrumental in spreading the message about the harsh reality of the marijuana penalties. The song is a smooth combination of pop and reggae and is both fun and meaningful,” says Music Industry How To.

“This reggae classic, sung by Peter Tosh, with its simple yet striking lyrics, makes it one of the most iconic and influential songs in reggae history. Tosh’s passionate vocals call for the end of prohibition, arguing that marijuana is a natural herb that should be used for medicinal and spiritual purposes. ‘Legalize It’ remains just as relevant today as it was over 40 years ago, highlighting the timeless message of this essential reggae track,” notes SingersRoom.

“The song was written in response to Tosh’s ongoing victimization by the Jamaican police. In 1977, Tosh backed his point, saying, ‘We are the victims of Rasclot circumstances. Victimization, colonialism, gonna lead to bloodbath’. The title track was banned when released in Jamaica in 1975, but attempts to suppress the song only catapulted Tosh to international fame,” writes MidderMusic.

3. “The Tide Is High” by The Paragons (1967)

“The Tide is High” by the Paragons is a classic reggae song that tells the story of a person who remains steadfast and confident in the face of adversity. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of someone standing tall like a lighthouse, even when faced with turbulent waves crashing against them. “While most music lovers will recognize this delightful tune from Blondie, who popularized the song in the 1980s, it was the reggae band The Paragons who first crafted this song in the 60s. This catchy song caught the eye of other bands besides Blondie; Atomic Kitten and a solo Debbie Harry also came out with their own versions of ‘The Tide Is High’. However, the original will always be the best, as it has its roots in authentic reggae music,” writes Music Grotto.

“Written by John Holt, ‘The Tide Is High’ was a perfect slice of rock steady when recorded by Holt’s consummate vocal group, The Paragons, in 1967. Holt’s determined voice gains an unlikely romantic twist thanks to that most unusual of reggae solo instruments: a wailing violin. Reggae elegance perfected,” raves UDiscoverMusic.

“‘The Tide is High’ is a classic reggae song and has become more well-known since Blondie released the song in a reggae style. This made reggae even more popular all over the world,” adds MusicianAuthority. The cover by Blondie would reach number one on the charts, but it’s the original by the Paragons that made it to our list. 

4. “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy (1982)

“Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy is a reggae anthem that showcases the power and influence of female artists in the genre. With its infectious rhythm and empowering lyrics, the song gained widespread popularity not only in the reggae community but around the world. “If you know anything about Jamaican or reggae music, then chances are you’ve heard of ‘Bam Bam’ by Sister Nancy. Released on her album titled ‘One, Two’, ‘Bam Bam’ is so famous that it is sampled to this day despite its release over thirty years ago. In a recent interview in 2017, Sister Nancy recalls how ‘Bam Bam’ was a bit of an afterthought used only to finish the album. Thankfully, she did,” notes Music Grotto.

“This classic reggae hit by Sister Nancy showcases her commanding voice and powerful lyrics over a catchy bassline. With its uplifting rhythms, ‘Bam Bam’ remains a fan favorite; from its initial release in 1982 until now, listeners can’t help but dance along to the infectious beat. Sister Nancy’s unique style and storytelling ability are on full display in this timeless tune,” adds SingersRoom.

“This popular reggae song by Jamaican dancehall artist Sister Nancy was inspired by a 1966 song of the same name. The phrase’ bam bam’ was introduced into the music scene first in 1966 and has deeply established roots in reggae and Jamaican culture. It’s hard to believe that for 32 years, Sister Nancy did not receive any royalties for this hit! She ended up with 50% of the rights, so it all worked out,” adds MidderMusic.

5. “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash (1972)

“I Can See Clearly Now” is a timeless hit by Johnny Nash that beautifully captures the euphoria of overcoming personal struggles. With its uplifting lyrics and infectious melody, this song serves as a beacon of hope for individuals who have faced adversity, inspiring them to persevere and embrace a brighter future. “Johnny Nash grew up in HoustonTexas, and began recording pop music in the 1950s, but he didn’t begin recording reggae-influenced music until the late 1960s, after returning from a promotional tour to Jamaica. He recorded reggae-influenced covers of Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Stir It Up’ before releasing the smash hit ‘I Can See Clearly Now.’ It spent four weeks at #1 on the pop chart and is instantly familiar with the line, ‘I can see clearly now the rain is gone; I can see all obstacles in my way,’” explains LiveAbout.

“‘I Can See Clearly Now’ was written and recorded by Johnny Nash in 1972. It was the lead single from his album of the same name and became a huge hit in the US and the UK. The song is a soulful and optimistic reggae tune with lyrics that express Nash’s joy after overcoming difficulties,” describes Smooth Radio.

“This positive and feel-good uptempo song is often covered by other artists. In 1993, Jamaican singer-songwriter Jimmy Cliff re-recorded the song for the motion picture ‘Cool Runnings.’ With his major influence on promoting reggae music to the mainstream, it is without a doubt that Nash’s song ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ is one of the best reggae songs of all time,” concludes Music Gateway.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer

Comments

  1. I do not agree with the list as there far better songs than some that’s on the list – Book of Rules is far better than Bam Bam

  2. Hey, Jill Hite!
    You are so on point 👉 👈 that Jamaica 🇯🇲 would be so proud of you! I am proud of you! Big up Uself!
    “Fewer genres of music can make one feel as calm and in touch as reggae. Influenced heavily by traditional mento, a type of Jamaican folk music,”

    “in Scotland, along with folks at the Scottish SPCA, researchers found that reggae was one of the favorite genres of our canine friends.” This is because Reggae is A Natural Mystic blowing through the air. This releases tension and pain, so when the legendary Bob Marley said “When the 🎶 🎵 music HITS YOU, YOU FEEL NO PAIN!”

    Therefore, Reggae is the healing of the nation! One Luv ❤️, Jilly Hite!!!

  3. This is probably the vaguest, least informed, disorganized article about Jamaican music I’ve ever seen. There were over 50,000 singles released in Jamaica in the 60s and 70s. And you chose these five???

  4. For me, Peter Tosh leads the board with hit albums BURIAL, LEGALIZE & IGZIEBIER. Bob Marley of course would follow with Jimmy Cliff bearing the third.

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