Bob Marley is the king of reggae because of his charisma and the fact that he was deemed “more marketable” by those who grew up under colonialism. The truth is, however, there are many reggae artist who are more talented than Bob, below we list 13 of them. Let us know if there are any on the list that you think should not be there of if there are any artist you think should be on the list.
1. Queen Ifrica: Queen Ifrica, began her career in 1995 after shining at a local talent contest in her hometown of Montego Bay, Jamaica. This eye-opening experience eventually led to major stage performances in her country including the esteemed Reggae Sumfest as well as a union with Tony Rebel’s Flames Crew in 1998. With roots firmly secured in the Rastafarian faith, she blossomed as one of the top cultural artists in reggae, swarming the airwaves with hits like “Randy”, “Jus My Brethren”, “Below the Waist” and “Daddy” and stealing the stages at major festivals and stage shows around the world (Summer Jam in Germany, Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Bob Marley Festival, Reggae on the River in California and Reggae Sundance Festival in Holland). As an active community leader, Ifrica is involved in several outreach programs for children in Jamaica’s inner-city and charity shows where proceeds are donated to the cause.
2. Peter Tosh: In 1964 Tosh helped organize the band The Wailing Wailers, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer, Tosh was critical to the band because he was a self-taught guitarist and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band members to learn to play. The Wailing Wailers had a major ska hit with their first single, “Simmer Down”, and recorded several more successful singles before Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith left the band in late 1965. Marley spent much of 1966 in Delaware in the United States with his mother, Cedella (Malcolm) Marley-Booker, and for a brief time was working at a nearby Chrysler factory. He then returned to Jamaica in early 1967 with a renewed interest in music and a new spirituality. Tosh and Bunny were already Rastafarians when Marley returned from the U.S., and the three became very involved with the Rastafari faith.
3. Dennis Brown: During his prolific career, which began in the late 1960s when he was aged eleven, Dennis Brown recorded more than 75 albums and was one of the major stars of lovers rock, a sub-genre of reggae. Bob Marley cited Brown as his favorite singer, dubbing him “The Crown Prince of Reggae”, and Brown would prove influential on future generations of reggae singers.
4. Gregory Isaacs: One of Jamaica’s most beloved vocalists who was as pertinent in dancehalls as he was in bedrooms, Gregory Isaacs’ career stretched over 30 years. From the heady days of reggae through lovers rock, a genre he virtually invented, his talent reached into the modern age. Born in the Fletcher’s Land area of Kingston, Jamaica, on July 15, 1951, Isaacs arrived in the music business via the talent show circuit, a tried and true formula for many of the island’s budding singing stars. Byron Lee was the first in the industry to spot his talent and brought him and Winston Sinclair into the studio to record the duet “Another Heartbreak” in 1968. Sadly, it went nowhere, and Isaacs decided to try his fortunes with a new vocal trio, the Concords. They set up home at Rupie Edwards’ Success label, and over the next couple of years released a number of singles, including one with Prince Buster, but none caught the attention of the Jamaican public.
5. Jimmy Cliff: International reggae star Jimmy Cliff, born James Chambers on April 1, 1948, in St. James, Jamaica, began making music as a child. In his adolescent years, he began releasing singles and finding fame in Jamaica. As a result of his role as a troubled musician in the film The Harder They Come, Cliff burst onto the international music scene, where he remained for years to follow. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2010.
6. Alton Ellis: Alton Nehemiah Ellis, better known as Alton Ellis, was born on September 1, 1938, in the Trenchtown area of Kingston, Jamaica. He was a prominent singer, songwriter, producer and concert promoter, referred to by many as the “Godfather of Rocksteady,” a romantic, R&B-styled Jamaican music genre.
7. Sizzla: Emerging during the latter half of the ’90s, the enormously prolific Sizzla was one of the leaders of the conscious dancehall movement. Along with Buju Banton and Capleton, he helped lead dancehall back to the musical and spiritual influence of roots reggae, favoring organic productions and heavily Rastafarian subject matter. A member of the militant Bobo Ashanti sect, he sometimes courted controversy with his strict adherence to their views, particularly his aggressive condemnations of homosexuals and white Western oppressors. Yet overall, his music was generally positive, advocating faith and compassion for poor black youth, and respect for women. He remained something of an enigma to the public at large, rarely granting interviews and keeping his concert appearances to a minimum.
8. Beres Hammond: One of the most underappreciated reggae artists of his time, Beres Hammond was something of a throwback during his ’90s heyday: a soulful crooner indebted to classic rocksteady and American R&B, one who preferred live instrumentation and wrote much of his own material. Hammond specialized in romantic lovers rock, but he also found time to delve into light dancehall, conscious roots reggae, hip-hop fusion, and straight-up contemporary R&B. He was born Hugh Beresford Hammond on August 28, 1955, in Annotto Bay, in the Jamaican province of St. Mary. Hammond grew up listening to his father’s collection of American R&B (Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, etc.) and jazz, and also fell in love with native Jamaican music during the ska and rocksteady eras; his primary influence was Alton Ellis, and he also listened to the likes of Peter Tosh, the Heptones, and Ken Boothe.
9. Buju Banton: Banton released early dancehall singles in 1988 but came to prominence in 1992 with two albums, Stamina Daddy and Mr. Mention, which became the best-selling album in Jamaican history upon its release. He signed with major label Mercury Records and released Voice of Jamaica the following year. By the mid-1990s, Banton had converted to the Rastafari faith, and his music undertook a more spiritual tone. His 2010 album Before the Dawn won Best Reggae Album at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards.
10. Steel Pulse: Steel Pulse are a roots reggae musical band, from the Handsworth area of Birmingham, England, which has a large number of Afro-Caribbean, Indian and other Asian migrants. They originally formed at Handsworth Wood Boys School – composed of David Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals), and Ronald McQueen (bass); along with Basil’s brother Colin briefly on drums. Steel Pulse were the first non-Jamaican act to win the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
11. Garnet Silk: One of the most exciting young talents to arise out of the ’80s dancehall scene, Garnett Silk began his career as a child toaster, but ended it as one of Jamaica’s most astonishing singers; with a rich and emotive voice, he took the nation by storm. He seemed destined for international stardom, when his career was cut cruelly short by his death in 1996.
12. Desmond Dekker: Often cited as the first superstar of reggae. He made his recording debut in 1963 (with a single titled “Honour Your Mother And Father”) and made his international breakthrough with “007 (Shanty Town)” in 1967.
13. Capleton: Capleton is a Jamaican reggae and dancehall artist. He is also referred to as King Shango, King David, The Fireman and The Prophet. His record label is called David House Productions. He is known for his Rastafari movement views expressed in his songs.