The Playlist Special: Top Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10

Jimmy Cliff: Lost Reggae Classics

"I've always had an ear for great Jamaican songs that the world hasn't been exposed to," says the reggae legend. "As a matter of fact, there was one point in time about ten years ago when I was thinking to do an album re-recording all those classics. I picked these songs because they have universal themes – they could be great in any era."






Listen: Jimmy Cliff's Top Lost Reggae Songs

  • 1.
    "Book Of Rules" | The Heptones, 1973

    If a well-established artist picked up this song, it could become a huge hit.

  • 2.
    "I Need You Tomorrow" | The Kingstonians, 1969

    This is a song about teenage love. Jackie Kingstonian, the main writer in this band, was a great songwriter who's been overlooked.

  • 3.
    "Grooving Out On Life" | Hopeton Lewis, 1971

    "I'm just grooving/Grooving out on life..." Very powerful and positive lyrics, great melody.

  • 4.
    "Sweet Sensation" | The Melodians, 1976

    A wonderful love song for any age. "You got love and devotion/And I won't forget your charm..."

  • 5.
    "Birds In The Tree Top" | Ras Michael, 1975

    A beautiful song about nature and praise. It's one of the great classics of the Nyabinghi form, which is sacred music using drums and voices. Ras Michael is one of the best Nyabinghi drummers there is, and he added electronic bass, vibraphone and guitar – it's a unique piece of music.

  • 6.
    "The Liquidator" | Harry J Allstars, 1969

    This is an instrumental with such a great rhythm. The melody was by one of the best organ players in Jamaica, Winston Wright, who's passed away now. He's really the architect of the song.

  • 7.
    "Carry Go Bring Come" | Justin Hinds and the Dominoes, 1963

    "Carry Go Bring Come" is a typical Jamaican phrase. It's about somebody who makes trouble – another way to put it is, beware of the dog that brings the bone.

  • 8.
    "Ten Commandments" | Prince Buster, 1967

    "Ten commandments from man given to woman, through the inspiration of I, Prince Buster." He goes on and on – it's the beginning of rapping. Really funny.

  • 9.
    "Song My Enemy Sings " | Joe Higgs, 1975

    Joe Higgs was one of my favorite artists in the world. He played this song for me on his guitar before the recorded version. It's one of those songs, if you're feeling really down, it will lift you right up.

  • 10.
    "It's A Pity" | Tanya Stephens, 2004

    Tanya Stephens is in my view the best female poet I've heard come out of Jamaica. In this song, she's saying, "Rude boy, it's a pity you already have a wife" – it's something anyone of us might say at one point in time.

  • 11.
    "I Am In Love" | The Techniques, 1965

    Slim Smith, the frontman of the Techniques, is one of the only singers that I've said, "It's possible this guy can sing better than me." He had a great tenor voice.

  • 12.
    "Dancing Mood" | Delroy Wilson

    It's about dancing, because Jamaican music was created by the lower economic class of people. Middle and upper-class people can catch a flight to Miami or New York and do some shopping – but in Jamaica, dance is all that we know.

  • 13.
    "Rock Steady" | Alton Ellis

    When Aretha Franklin made a song called "Rock Steady," most people didn't know that the phrase was coined by us. It came from Jamaica – the spirit of the people slowed down, and the music slowed down, too.

  • 14.
    "Dancehall Queen" | Beenie Man, 1997

    Dancehall is the last evolution that reggae has made up to now. It's come back to a faster pace: Just give me a fast beat and let me dance and forget my troubles.

  • 15.
    "Money In My Pocket" | Dennis Brown, 1972

    Dennis Brown was such a great stylist – the Crown Prince of Reggae. "Money in my pocket, but I can't get no love..." It's just like the Beatles said in "Can't Buy Me Love," but it's a completely different song.