Jamaican Music

Reggae Artists & Academics Pick Their Top 5 Bob Marley songs

Bob Marley

Black history is celebrated in February.  Bob Marley, King of Reggae Music birthday is February 6th. He would have been seventy four. Jamaicans.com asked several artistes, male and female, academic and literary to list their five favorite Bob Marley songs and why they chose these songs.  

Donna P. Hope

Donna P. Hope is Professor and Socio-Cultural Analyst in the Institute of Caribbean Studies She is Deputy Dean, Graduate Studies and Research Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica. Dr. Hope has authored five books. From Inna di Dancehall, a tome on Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica, to Man Vibes, facing, Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall she document and critique the socio cultural impact of reggae dancehall on Jamaican culture.

Donna Hope Top five choices:

(1) No Woman, No Cry – This is the first Bob Marley song that ever resonated with me as a young woman about 25.  I was standing in a dance at Club Jamaica in Linstead and the selector played this song and suddenly the entire weight of my life at that time just dropped down on me.  I cried.

No Woman, No Cry has remained my most favorite Bob Marley song every since.


(2)Redemption Song – my 2nd favorite because of its plaintive reflection on freedom which can be interpreted in so many ways – personal, political, racial, economic.


(3)War – my 3rd favourite because of the powerful words that Marley put to song.  I learnt the speech and sang the song as a black woman of African descent who understands the way that racist and racial hierarchies work on people like myself.


(4)Buffalo Soldier – as a young black woman I learnt the history of black people in the Americas and understood how we were involved in the struggles in the USA.  I found the song very catchy and full of historical meaning that resonated with me.


(5)Crazy Baldheads – this was one of my popular songs to dance to whenever it was played at parties.  The lyrics and beat provided a kind of sonic energy that I used to symbolically “chase” all kinds of negatives.  Still do.

Ed Robinson

Ed Robinson is a New York base reggae singer best is known for his reggae cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and, also his 2013 hit “Heroes”. Robinson says every one of his choices are personal and have a major story behind them.

Top five tunes:

(1) I Shot the Sheriff

(2) Chant down Babylon

(3) Exodus

(4) Africa Unite

(5)Satisfy My Soul


Sheila Hylton

Sheila Hylton- is a British reggae singer who spent most of her childhood in Kingston, Jamaica. She is best known for the singles “Breakfast in Bed” which peaked at no. 57 on the UK Singles Chart and “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” which charted on the UK Chart.

Top five tunes:

(1) So Much Trouble In The World

A track that was relevant to its time and with Bob highlighting certain atrocities all around… loved his casual opening request ….”A LITTLE MORE DRUMS” 😊 but beside all of that the rhythm had a special swing to it…Tyrone’s Keyboard plays really carry the flow…floating on top of the condensed rhythm…like icing on a cake….Sweet !

(2)Sun Is Shining

Listening to this track always speaks to me of JAMAICA and our indigenous clear blue skies weather. Having owned a SONY WALKMAN it was always packed in my tote bag for my scheduled flights as a Flight Attendant. … the favorite Marley Cassettes as well as my own favorites compilation from each of his albums that was total comfort on cold snowy layovers. I would resort to this lively rhythmic and sunny track to be transported for home weather and raw reggae RIDDIM even if it was in my mind’s eye.

(3)Concrete Jungle

I would like to think Bob was telling his story about living in Baltimore…with mention of slavery (NO CHAINS AROUND MY FEET BUT IM NOT FREE) and as we know the staunch changes leaving Jamaica and living in the US with rejection at least this is my interpretation of this track and lyrics…the title couldn’t be any better…the jungle aspect of it. Bunny and Peter the harmonies…DEAD OOON!!💕 riveting!! The Guitar extended solo is screaming pain and Bob shouting Confusion! Confusion! …and with his question “what do you got for me now? A plea for sure his track lyrics…Instrumentation …with his delivery pull HARD each time on my emotional heartstring.

(4)Punky Reggae Party

This was an ingenious move on Lee Perry’s part and thought a FUNK PUNK REGGAE infused track was a step out of the box with my thoughts a definite crossover for The Wailers and loved it the first time hearing it…Perry made sure Bob mentioned WAILERS will be there to jam with the CLASH the leading Punk Band of that era…smart move!!!💕with association with the Track. I have often dream and would love and welcome a one track production with the unconventional Lee Perry…On pure concept!!  Playing the repeated line “no old fart” “no old fart” will be there” had me dying with laughter… having witnessed Lee Perry at work a couple of times at Harry J Studio just being a person of a special kind which is what he would for sure say  or have Bob add to the lyrics. Bob’s Nursery like adlib for me really rock with the DEEP CORE STEADY BASE RIFF.

“New Wave” repeats pa da pa background vocals “Doh Rah Me Fah Soh Lah Tee Doh” what a concept!! Totally related to music…”A tip from a Gypsy …fighting from reality in a world of hypocrisy” Ah Bubble wi ah bubble 😍 just the PURE ESSENCE of vocals,lyrics..Rhythm and producer’s mixology. A Track that never fails to incite my work-out even when I really don’t feel like it!! 💗❤️

(5) Simmer Down

Wailers of course…with Bob’s sharp and out loud vocal delivery…💕💕

This song is ultra-special for me circa 1965 a little girl with two staunch genres in my household…Grandmother local 🎶… my Grandfather popular standards and Jazz🎶. The Apple 🍏 green vinyl 45 with black label and silver lettering was brought in the house by my Grandmother so intrigued I was with the clear green vinyl and the song and the pace of the rhythm added even more excitement having heard the relentless plays on Radio.


To me Bob was singing a Nursery Rhyme and I knew every word singing out loud with Mama and I dying with enjoyment and Papa shouting “turn it down that’s not music that’s noise” ignoring him we kept dancing and singing 😍


More than anything else it was that crystal clear Ska rhythm…when the horn solo came in..’ Mama and I was doing all the Ska dances of that time holding hands and dancing like two kids on a school playground.


This scenario seriously brings back indelible memories of me and my Grandmother and reach for the track when I need to revisit that special time 💕🌸


Wayne Armond

Wayne Armond founder of Chalice. With Chalice, wrote and recorded a number of hits including “I Still Love You,” “Good To Be There,” and “Revival Time.” After Chalice, Mr. Armond toured the world for six years as a guitarist with reggae icon Jimmy Cliff. He has also toured as a guitarist with jazz legend Monty Alexander

Wayne Armond- Top five tunes:

(1)Misty Morning-one of my favorite horn intros and the line “The power of philosophy flows thru my head…light as a feather…heavy as lead” says it all for me.

(2)Ride Natty Ride-Bob’s look at the apocalypse

(3)Running Away…..an introspection of having to leave Jamaica after the shooting

(4)Concrete Jungle…first time hearing a bluesy rock guitar in a reggae song

(5).Stir it up…..hard core sexual content poetically stated


Susan Cadogan

Susan Cadogan- reggae singer best known for her hit records in the 1970s.  Her biggest hit was “Hurt So Good”. The song charted at # five one UK Singles Chart. ” She performed on Top of the Pops, the British version of American bandstand.

She had this to say about her choices. Very hard to choose Stan-…I love them all!! All his songs are masterpieces …the band was something extraordinary!  Bass, and lead guitar, and drums… great melodies and relevant teaching lyrics… Marley just had a sound and he sang from his soul… not trying to show of vocal ability as it is nowadays. Great Reggae icons… He was one of a kind and there is no other like him yet….

Susan Cadogan Top five tunes:

(1) Who the Cap Fit… Just a great melody and speaks truth.

(2) Sun is Shining… (Just love the easy skank of this and the wicked bass… When outside it plays in my head hanging clothes on the line😁

(3) Rat Race (reminds me of this life and its challenges ….Marley’s life taught him a lot and he sang about it… his songs are in depth and so true. )

(4) Lively up Yourself (comes to me when feeling saggy and have to do a show…. Lively up! 😁Yeah love this! )

(5) Chances Are… My crying song… From the first chord of the guitar my eyes fill up… Just makes me sad but hopeful….


Nadine Sutherland

Nadine Sutherland early career was nurtured by Bob Marley. A child star and forty year veteran of the music business had big hits like “Action” w/ Terror Fabulous that peaked at # 43 on the Billboard Hot 100. Vibe magazine listed “Action” at #19 on its list of the fifty greatest duets of all time.] Other hits include “Wicked Dickie” with Buju Banton topped the charts in Jamaica and “Babyface”.

(1) I’m Still Waiting, although it’s the Wailers, don’t even know if he’s the lead, but I love the Impression styled doo wop harmonies.

(2) Haile Selassie is the Chapel

(3) Babylon System

(4) Who The Cap Fit

(5) Africa Unite


Dean Frazer

Dean Frazer– Jamaican saxophonist who has contributed to hundreds of reggae recordings since the mid-1970s. Frazer also recorded two instrumental albums of Marley songs: Dean Frazer Plays Bob volume 1. & 2, He was awarded the Musgrave Medal


(2) So Jah Seh

(3)Johnny Was

(4)Belly full,

(5) Talking Blues

Wayne Chen

Wayne Chen is the Chief Executive Officer of Super plus Food Stores, the largest retailer in Jamaica. He is Chairman of the National Gallery of Jamaica. Co-founder/ sponsor of the Super Plus Under 40 Artist of the year competition

(1)Simmer Down (1965) A classic of Jamaica’s Ska-era. Young Bob, Peter, and Bunny plus the Skatallites at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, showing great promise at the start of their careers.

(2) Trenchtown Rock’ (1971) One of his masterful collaborations with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry; equaled perhaps, but never surpassed.

(3) Concrete Jungle’ (1973) The first song on the first album of his Island Records era, and a new sound complete with rock guitar solo, aimed at a wider global audience.

(4)No Woman No Cry’ (Live 1975). The power of Bob’s live performance captured; it improved on the original record.

(5)Waiting in Vain’ (1977) A love song for the ages – simple, poignant, and resonant.


About the author

Winston Stan Evan Smith

Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator for Jamaicans.com