I don’t know how many roots reggae fans actually read these posts and listen to all of the songs. For me, this is blogging at its most self-indulgent. But you know what — maybe there are more of you than I think! And if you’re not yet a reggae fan, maybe I can be your cultural and musical ambassador into the magnificent world of heavy bass and resounding riddim.
Reggae music isn’t all about the fall of Babylon, puffing the herb and praising His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I Jah Rastafari. Reggae and romance go hand in glove. So perhaps tonight, instead of just jamming to Jill Scott, Otis Redding, or Al Green (which I also recommend), you can skank with your schmoopie as well. Here’s 5 of my favorite romantic reggae jams. Some of these border on the obscure.
1. Ice Cream Love by Johnny Osbourne
Johnny Osbourne was THE MAN in the Seventies and early Eighties. Truths and Rights is a crucial album for any reggae fan to own, and most passing fans of dancehall music would instantly recognize the call-and-response echo of Buddy Bye. I have a soft spot for dessert metaphors and the sentiment of the song is just so… sweet. Love, warmer than chocolate fudge layered over a rhythm perfect for slow dancing reggae stylee.
2. I Can’t Wait by Sanchez.
Sanchez is one of the most honey-voiced singers in all of contemporary reggae. He made his name in Eighties-era lovers rock and covers of R&B songs. His best of collection, One In A Million, is a perfect soundtrack for a night of Jamaican-style romance. Now Sanchez has turned towards gospel reggae (I get my Sunday morning on to Praise Him), but he still can be relied upon to sing one for the ladies. I Can’t Wait isn’t a slow jam, instead it captures the ebullience true love can make you feel. That bubbly feeling you get when you can’t wait for your baby to come home. You know what I’m talking about?
3. I’d be extremely remiss to make any kind of romantic reggae playlist without including men like Sugar Minott and Gregory Isaacs. But instead I had to go with the late, great Dennis Brown. Have You Ever Been In Love?
He was the crown prince of reggae, Bob Marley’s favorite singer, a pioneer of lovers rock and an undisputed legend of reggae music. But he passed away in 1999 of cardiac arrest, rumored to be exacerbated by cocaine addiction. Someday I will write a tribute to Dennis Brown and bring back the Lost Ones series. But for now, I prefer to remember him young, talented, and with a bright future ahead. Like in the video above, shot in 1982. He had the voice of an angel, and I hope he’s singing among them right now. RIP, Dennis Brown.
4. Nubian Woman by Bushman
Bushman is one of those reggae artists so criminally slept on, his videos aren’t even on YouTube
. So I had to dig into my crates and upload this myself. Let me know how this imeem thing is working for you all, my Dad said he couldn’t hear the last song I embedded . (the song apparently was deleted. Is Imeem even a thing anymore??) I started an account just so I could upload songs like this one. It’s a crime how underrated Bushman is. Nubian Woman is just a lovely, bubbly Nineties reggae track. It’s perfect date music. “There is a place that we can go tonight, so pack your bags and lets just take a flight. We’ll catch some sparks and get some candlelight, it will be me and you tonight.” Doesn’t that sound perfect? Love me some Bushman. Get yourself Total Committment if you’re looking to get into Bushman. He’s got some great music and I hope to hear more about him (and see him live!) sometime soon.
It’s hard to choose just one jam by Beres Hammond. He is one of the undisputed kings of reggae love music, a legend on the scene since the Seventies. But I picked this song for personal reasons. Few songs speak as directly to my relationship with my husband than this song.
“They gonna talk, they gonna talk, they gonna talk,
They gonna say a lot of things about us.”
That’s been true over the almost-decade that we’ve been together. Being an interracial couple from such disparate cultural backgrounds hasn’t always been easy. In fact, quite often it will encourage people to spout a whole lot of opinionated diarrhea about you and your future together and your authenticity and what your kids will look like. When people see us together, I hope they notice not only our difference, but how happy we are. I figure if you’ve got space in your mind to hate on that, then you’re the one with the problem.
OK, off my soapbox. To sweeten the deal, here’s another Beres Hammond love song, a duet with former Afrobella of the Week, Marcia Griffith. Live On, bellas and fellas.
I hope you enjoy listening to this list as much as I enjoyed making it! Happy Valentine’s weekend to all of you!