UK REGGAE HISTORY
No.1 UK Pop Chart Hits
For Black History Month 2020 Reggae Fraternity UK (RFUK) celebrated the ‘Outstanding Reggae Music Achievements’ of artists from the Caribbean, the Windrush Generation and their descendants who’s songs scored number one hits in the UK Official Charts. These songs achieved UK national chart success despite significant sales from specialist reggae record shops not being included in the count.
DESMOND DEKKER & THE ACES
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 APRIL 22, 1969
"Israelites" is a song written by Desmond Dekker and Leslie Kong that became a hit for Dekker's group, Desmond Dekker & The Aces, reaching the top of the charts in numerous countries in 1969. Although few could understand all the lyrics, the single was the first UK reggae number one and among the first to reach the US top ten (peaking at number 9). It combined the Rastafarian religion with rude boy concerns, to make what has been described as a "timeless masterpiece that knew no boundaries".
Dekker composed the song after overhearing an argument: "I was walking in the park, eating popcorn. I heard a couple arguing about money. She was saying she needs money and he was saying the work he was doing was not giving him enough. I related to those things and began to sing a little song: 'You get up in the morning and you're slaving for bread.' By the time I got home, it was complete." For Black History Month 2020 Reggae Fraternity UK (RFUK) celebrate the ‘Outstanding Reggae Music Achievements’ of artists from the Caribbean, the Windrush Generation and their descendants.
DAVE & ANSEL COLLINS - DOUBLE BARREL
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 MAY 1, 1971
"Double Barrel" is a 1970 reggae single by Dave and Ansel Collins It was the second reggae tune to top the UK charts, two years after Desmond Dekker's number 1 ska breakthrough hit "Israelites". The record reached number 1 on the UK Singles Chart for the first two weeks in May 1971, selling 300,000 copies, after only 33 radio plays. In the U.S., "Double Barrel" peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 7 August 1971 and number 4 on WLS on 28 June 1971, two years to the week after "Israelites" made a nearly identical climb to peak at the same position on the same chart. It also reached number 1 in Mexico on October 23, 1971. It peaked at number 8 in Australia.
Double Barrel was originally composed and produced by Ansel Collins. Producer Winston Riley, former vocalist of The Techniques, later addded the vocals of Dave Barker, who had been recording in Jamaica for around five years, principally for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and Lee Perry. This song marked the first appearance on record by Sly Dunbar, later of Sly & Robbie fame, on drums. He was just 18 at the time.
KEN BOOTHE - EVERYTHING I OWN
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 OCTOBER 26, 1974
Jamaican artist Ken Boothe's reggae version of the song "Everything I Own" in 1974 was featured on his Trojan Records album release of the same name, entitled Everything I Own. Boothe first heard Andy Williams' version of the song in Canada, and included the song in his album as he needed extra songs for the album. The song was recorded at the Federal studios in Kingston, Jamaica and reached No. 1 in Jamaica when it was released. It was then picked by Trojan Records for release in the United Kingdom. It reached No. 1 in the UK Singles charts on October 26, 1974, and stayed at the top of the charts for three weeks. Although the song was a success, Boothe did not receive royalties because Trojan Records went bankrupt in 1975.
"Everything I Own", written by David Gates, was given a sympathetic light reggae feel and it received airplay and an appreciative audience in the West Indies and was regularly played on the radio stations of the UK due to its "crossover" appeal. David Gates' own group, Bread, had had a minor UK hit with the song in the spring of 1972.
JOHNNY NASH - TEARS ON MY PILLOW
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 JULY 12, 1975
Born in Houston, Texas, United States, John Lester Nash Jr. was one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica. "Tears on My Pillow" was a popular song for Johnny Nash. Written by Ernie Smith and produced by Ken Khouri and Johnny Nash, "Tears on My Pillow" was the sole number-one single in the UK Singles Chart for Nash, spending a single week at the top of the chart in July 1975.
Nash recorded several hits in Jamaica, where he travelled in early 1968, as his girlfriend had family links with local TV and radio host and novel writer Neville Willoughby. Nash planned to try breaking the local rocksteady sound in the United States. Willoughby introduced him to a local struggling vocal group, The Wailers. Members Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh introduced him to the local scene. Nash signed all three to an exclusive publishing and recording contract with his JAD label and financed some of their recordings, some with Byron Lee’s Dragonaires and some with other local musicians such as Jackie Jackson and Lynn Taitt. None of the Marley and Tosh songs he produced were successful.
ALTHEA & DONNA - UPTOWN TOP RANKING
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 FEBRUARY 4, 1978
"Uptown Top Ranking" is a song and single by the Jamaican teenage singers Althea Forrest and Donna Reid, recorded when they were 17 and 18 years old respectively.
Released in 1977, the song comprises the girls ad-libbing to deejay track "Three Piece Suit" by Trinity. The song was initially recorded as a joke. The record was played by accident by BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, resulting in numerous requests for additional plays. With early championing by Peel and a performance on Top of the Pops, it soon became a surprise hit, reaching number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1978. The track spent a total of 11 weeks in the charts. It was produced by Joe Gibbs, using a re-recording of the riddim of the 1967 Alton Ellis song "I'm Still in Love", which had already been re-popularised in the 1970s by Marcia Aitken's cover "I'm Still in Love With You Boy", and "Three Piece Suit" by Trinity, to which "Uptown" was an "answer record". The single's UK release was on the Lightning record label. The lyrics were written by the duo and Errol Thompson. Althea & Donna became the youngest female duo to reach the number 1 place of the UK chart.
MUSICAL YOUTH - PASS THE DUTCHIE
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 OCTOBER 2, 1982
"Pass the Dutchie" is a song produced by Toney Owens from Kingston and the British Jamaican reggae band Musical Youth, taken from their debut studio album, The Youth of Today (1982). It debuted at #26 on the UK chart and rose to #1 the following week. In February 1983, it reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the USA. The song also scored the #1 position in five other countries, eventually selling more than five million copies worldwide.
Following a shouted intro taken from U Roy's "Rule the Nation" with words slightly altered, the track combined two songs: "Gimme the Music" by U Brown, and "Pass the Kouchie" by Mighty Diamonds, which deals with the recreational use of cannabis (kouchie being slang for a cannabis pipe). For the cover version, the song's title was bowdlerised to "Pass the Dutchie", the new word being a patois term for a Dutch oven, a type of cooking pot. All obvious drug references were removed from the lyrics. Musical Youth became the first black artists to appear in a studio segment on MTV. Musical Youth earned a Grammy Award nomination before disbanding in 1985 after a series of personal problems.
EDDIE GRANT - I DON'T WANNA DANCE
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 NOVEMBER 13, 1982
"I Don't Wanna Dance" is a 1982 single by Eddy Grant. It went to number one on the UK Singles Chart and held there for three weeks in November 1982. It was later released in the United States, but only reached No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1983. It was later reissued as the B-side of Grant's "Electric Avenue".
The song expresses Eddy's farewell to Britain being a land of class and colour divisions. Grant explained to the Daily Telegraph on June 27, 2008: "I Don't Wanna Dance can mean that you don't want to go out on the dancefloor or it could mean that you don't want to go along with an idea. That's how I try to write: you take it how you want, but I am basically a writer of protest."
Written and produced by Grant, it was the most successful of his solo singles in the United Kingdom, and his first number one since "Baby Come Back" by The Equals in 1968. Eddy Grant founded the Equals with John Hall, Pat Lloyd, and brothers Derv and Lincoln Gordon, and they were noted as being "the first major interracial rock group in the UK" and "one of the few racially mixed bands of the era".
BORIS GARDINER - I WANNA WAKE UP WITH YOU
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 AUGUST 23, 1986
"I Wanna Wake Up with You" is a song written by Nashville songwriter Ben Peters. It was first recorded by American country music artist and actor Mac Davis and released in March 1980 titled as "I Wanta Wake Up With You".
In 1986, veteran reggae artist Boris Gardiner covered this song as "I Want to Wake Up with You" (or sometimes titled as "I Wanna Wake Up with You"). Gardiner's version went to No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in August 1986. It was the third best-selling single of 1986 in the UK. It also reached number 1 in Australia and number 3 in South Africa, spending 18 weeks on the charts. The music video for the song was filmed at various locations in West London, including Westbourne Park tube station, and Holland Park. Gardiner is also seen riding in a taxi along the Westway.
Jamaican singer, songwriter and bass guitarist Boris Gardiner was a member of several groups during the 1960s before recording as a solo artist and having hit singles with "Elizabethan Reggae" (in 1970), "I Wanna Wake Up with You" and "You're Everything to Me" (both 1986).
ASWAD - DON'T TURN AROUND
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 MARCH 3, 1988
Don't Turn Around" is a popular song written by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren. It was originally recorded by Tina Turner as the B-side to the single "Typical Male" in 1986. British reggae group Aswad heard Luther Ingram's version and recorded a cover of it which was released on the 10th February 1988, it went to number one on the UK Singles Chart in March 1988. It also reached number 45 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs in the US that same year.
Formed in west London in 1975, the band’s original members were Angus Gaye; Brisnley Forde; Donald Griffiths; George Oban and Courtney Hemmings. Following the departure of Hemmings in 1976, Tony ‘Gad’ Robinson joined the band. Griffiths and Oban left the following year, and so Aswad (which means ‘black’ in Arabic) became fronted by Angus, Tony and Brinsley. It was this triumphant trio that went on to perform at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute concert at Wembley Stadium; perform with Stevie Wonder; produce the powerful instrumental Warrior Charge which featured in the iconic British film Babylon; score commercial success with hits including Shine and Don’t Turn Around and in 2000 receive a MOBO Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
SHAGGY - OH CAROLINA
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 MARCH 20, 1993
Oh Carolina" is a 1958 song by John Folkes released by the Folkes Brothers in 1960 and recorded by Jamaican musician Shaggy and released as the lead single from his 1993 debut album, Pure Pleasure. Produced by Sting International, it became an international hit. In the United Kingdom, it became the first of Shaggy's four chart-topping singles, spending two weeks at the summit of the UK Singles Chart in March 1993. The song fared less well in the United States, peaking at number 59 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song received major crossover airplay on American alternative rock radio, and as a result the song peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. Shaggy's version also appeared on the soundtrack of the 1993 film Sliver.
Tom Ewing from Freaky Trigger noted that Shaggy's take on the song "acknowledges its debt to the past right away – sampling the intro from the Folkes Brothers' 1960 original. Not just a nod of respect, it's a canny move, as the crackling, wheezing shanty-town piano sounded like nothing else on 1993 radio, giving "Oh Carolina" instant cut-through." Dave Sholin from Gavin Report called it "an exciting original creation which can't help but bring excitement to radio."
CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS FT. JACK RADICS - TWIST & SHOUT
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 JANUARY 8, 1994
Chaka Demus & Pliers are a Jamaican reggae duo who enjoyed more commercial success with mainstream pop fans after their collaboration began in the early 1990s than either had in their previous solo careers. Their cover of the Top Notes' "Twist and Shout" featuring Jack Radics and the Taxi Gang topped the UK Singles Chart in January 1994, the duo becoming the first Jamaican act to have three consecutive top five hits in the UK singles chart.
Both artists were established musicians when they teamed up in 1991 after performing together in Miami, both having worked as solo artists, and Pliers as a duo with Pinchers. Their early hits together included "Gal Wine", recorded for producer Ossie Hibbert. They went on to work with a string of producers, including Ranking Joe, Jah Screw, Prince Jammy, and Mafia & Fluxy, with several of their most successful single tracks included on their debut album Gal Wine (1992).
SHAGGY - BOOMBASTIC
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 SEPTEMBER 23, 1995
"Boombastic" is a song by Jamaican musical artist Shaggy from his third studio album, Boombastic. Released on June 5, 1995, the single achieved commercial success in many countries, including Ireland, UK, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia, where it topped the singles charts. It spent a week at number one on the US Billboard R&B chart, and a similar stint atop the UK Singles Chart. It also reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
A reviewer from Music Week rated the song four out of five, adding that it is being used in the latest Levi's ad, "guaranteeing the Shagster another UK smash with this slo-mo pop ragga which samples Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On." A music video was produced to promote the single and was later published on Shaggy's official YouTube channel in March 2009. It features him performing in and outside an old house, surrounded by dancing females and flickering lights. The video has amassed more than 162,3 million views as of October 2021.
SHAGGY FEAT. RIKROK - IT WASN'T ME
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 MARCH 10, 2001
"It Wasn't Me" is the first single from Jamaican reggae musician Shaggy's fifth studio album, Hot Shot (2000). The song features vocals from Rikrok. The lyrics of the song depict one man (Rikrok) asking his friend (Shaggy) what to do after his girlfriend caught him cheating on her with "the girl next door". His friend's advice is to deny everything, despite clear evidence to the contrary, with the phrase "It wasn't me."
"It Wasn't Me" was released to contemporary hit radio on 7 November 2000 and has been regarded as Shaggy's breakthrough in the pop market. It is his highest-charting song to date, topping the charts in Australia, Austria, Flanders, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was the best-selling single of 2001 in the UK, selling over 1.15 million copies that year and over 1.42 million as of 2017.
SHAGGY FEAT. RAYVON - ANGEL
UK OFFICIAL CHARTS POSITION: No.1 JUNE 9, 2001
"Angel" is a song by Jamaican reggae artist Shaggy featuring additional vocals from Barbadian singer Rayvon. Containing samples from Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" and the Chip Taylor-written "Angel of the Morning", it was released to radio on 9 January 2001 as the follow-up to Shaggy's international number-one hit, "It Wasn't Me". "Angel" also proved to be successful, reaching number one in 12 countries, including Australia, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The song debuted at number 81 on the US Billboard Hot 100 on the week ending 30 December 2000. The song first entered the top 40 at number 39 on the week ending 20 January 2001. It peaked at number one on the chart week of 31 March 2001, for one week. Angel was the second song to reach number one without a retail release, after Aaliyah's "Try Again" (2000), although physical formats would later be issued in the United States on 24 April 2001. "Angel" was the 17th-most-successful song of 2001 in the US and has sold 1,494,000 digital copies in the US as of April 2016.