Want to know about your favorite Reggae artists? Reggae is a form of music linked to the island of Jamaica, although the dub music is popular around the world. Characterized by a driving bass line, the music also has interesting harmonies and lyrics focused on the Rastafarian religious beliefs. Rastafarians use the ganja as an offering to celebrate life and their spirituality. Ganja, in case you've been living in a cave for the last 40 years, is hemp; marijuana; mary jane; weed. The music genre influenced decades of artists from the 1960s and some of the most popular groups, both old and new school, have released a tune or two inspired by the reggae beat. Some artists cross lines and release rock, folk and reggae music, while other reggae artists remain true to Jah roots and stick with the reggae music beat.
- Bob Marley and the Wailers. Bob and fellow Wailers are one of the best-known reggae artists. It's difficult to tell if his popularity comes from his music or from the fact that his most famous portrait features Mr. Marley with his dreads, hair braids, flying and his fingers featuring a giant ganja joint. Again for the uninitiated, that's a doobie, reefer or a spliff. Marley wrote songs, played guitar and sang. The group was backed up by his wife Rita, as part of the I Threes. The list of classic tunes from Marley and the Wailers fill several pages, but some of the most played include, "Get Up, Stand Up," "I Shot the Sheriff," "No Woman No Cry," "So Jah Seh" and "Small Axe." Marley died of cancer at age 36 in 1981.
- Toots and the Maytals, aka The Maytals. Toots, formally known as Frederick Hibbert, leads a group of reggae musicians known as the Maytals. Until Toots stepped out as the headliner, he was simply a member of the Maytals. The group started recording in the early 1960s and continues to rock the reggae world today. The group originally recorded with the backup group the Skatalites. The group's hits include "Do the Reggay," a tune that some say coined the official word for the musical genre. "Monkey Man," "Pressure Drop" and "54-46 Was My Number" were all hits for the group and others who re-recorded the songs.
- Jimmy Cliff., born James Chambers. Cliff started his singing career in Jamaica in the late 1950s and continues to perform today. His "Many Rivers to Cross," first recorded in 1969, has become an anthem of the reggae movement and have been covered by Joe Cocker in 1982, Percy Sledge in 1969, Annie Lennox in 2008, Lenny Kravitz in 2002, U2 in 1997 and dozens of others. Cliff covers also include unlikely reggae types Cher and Bruce Springsteen. Other charting popular songs by Jimmy Cliff include "The Harder They Come," a soundtrack tune.
- Desmond Decker. Another Jamaican artist with a list of tunes popular internationally, Desmond Decker is best known for the hits, "Israelites," "007 (Shanty Town)" and "It Miek." Decker started is writing and singing career in the 1960s and also recorded with the The Aces. Mr. Decker died in 2006, but his music continues to be played and recorded by other reggae groups.
- Burning Spear, the original group. The name Burning Spear with the addition of "Le Resistance" and also "African Teacher" may confuse some neophytes to reggae music, but the original Burning Spear started rocking audiences in the 1960s. With hair dreads nearly to his waist, Burning Spear, born Winston Rodney, started his musical career in the 1960s, and is considered one of the founders of the Jamaican reggae movement and proponents for the Rastafarian movement. Spear's most famous tunes include "Slavery Days" and "Marcus Garvey." Bob Marley mentored Burning Spear.