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The Story of Reggae – Pop Reggae

Written by on January 27, 2019

In the late-60s/early-70s sections of the British music press and BBC radio actively       campaigned to keep Reggae off the airwaves Millie Small’s "My Boy Lollipop" stunned  the music industry by being a huge hit in UK & US (1964). When Bob & Marcia had       their big UK hits, they came here to do Top Of The Pops and that they found out string sections had been added to the records. 10cc’s "Dreadlock Holiday" isn’t Pop Reggae. Or any other sort of Reggae…
Although Jamaican music has constantly commented on the social and political            situation on the island, first and foremost its job is to get people on the dance floor. It’s   therefore hardly surprising it’s made huge impressions in pop charts around the world - Shaggy, Althea & Donna, Prince Buster, Maxi Priest, Chaka Demus & Pliers,                Eddy Grant … summer wouldn’t be summer without the regulation big Pop-based        Reggae record. But then well-produced Reggae is so basically strong it can withstand  virtually any arrangement and still sound like Reggae. Indeed Reggae’s willingness to   take on outside influences goes back to the late-1960s when shrewd Jamaican            producers would send vocal and rhythm tracks over to the UK to have lush string          arrangements added before releasing  them into the British pop market. Orchestrated   singles like "Love Of The Common People", "Young Gifted & Black" and "Pied Piper"  were huge Pop hits, opening up the marker for the bouncy but rawer likes of "Double   Barrel", "The Liquidator" and "The Return Of Django". Which proved that Reggae had  real appeal beyond its core following, and reggae acts in both Britain and Jamaica eyed up the international mainstream. Ken Boothe ("Everything I Own"), Rupie Edwards ("Irie Feel-ings") and John Holt ("Help Me Make It Through The Night") all proved that,          provided you stay true  to your Reggae Roots, you can make exciting sophisticated      pop. Lessons learnt by Althea & Donna with "Uptown Top Ranking", Janet Kaye ("Silly Games") and Musical Youth ("Pass the Dutchie") and surely not ignored by Culture      Club…Part of pop reggae does include UK bands such as UB40 who took original         tracks and blended their own UK pop culture with Jamaican music.

Reggae’s pop sensibilities continued into Dancehall too, Smiley Culture and Tippa Irie  brought their    sound system culture to the pop chart with "Cockney Translation" and "Hello Darling",  Shabba Ranks teamed up with Maxi Priest for "Housecall" and Chaka Demus & Pliers  are pop chart regulars. But now it’s moved on even further with           Shaggy as one of the world’s consistently biggest pop acts, while No Doubt have felt    the urge to call on the dancehall deejays Bounty Killer and Lady Saw to add a little        Jamaican flavour to their last album.


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