The island of Jamaica is approximately the size compared to many countries in the world, but in terms of reggae music, the nation is a towering giant. When people hear the name Jamaica, Bob Marley immediately comes to mind. The iconic artist is credited with bringing reggae to the world.
It’s confounding to reggae artists and fans of the genre that there aren’t more Jamaican songs that become hits. A wide range of reggae songs have crossed over established genre lines to ultimately became international hits. The following are the top 11 songs that have achieved that distinction.
My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small
Considered by many to be the first Jamaican crossover song, “My Boy Lollipop” was the title track of her album of the same name. Also released as a single in March 1964, it made the Billboard Hot 100 and charted for 18 weeks in countries worldwide. The song was featured in the 1998 film “Spice World,” “Riding in Cars with Boys” in 2001, “The Big Tease” in 1999, “Slappy and the Stinkers” in 1998, and a “Miami Vice” TV episode.
Housecall by Shabba Ranks and Maxi Priest
From the album “As Raw as Ever,” it was released as a single in Aug. 1991 where it spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was released again in Aug. 1993 as a remix. The album received a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1992.
One Love by Bob Marley
The song was released by Bob Marley & The Wailers as part of their 1977 album “Exodus.” The 1984 version charted for 11 weeks and it charted again in 1991 for three weeks. The song was featured in the film “Marley & Me,” was performed by Antonio Banderas for the “Shrek Forever After” animated film in 2010, “Evan Almighty” in 2007, “Chain Reaction” in 1996, in the TV series “Glee,” and in a 2005 Gap commercial. “One Love” was named Song of the Millennium” by the BBC.
Get Busy by Sean Paul
Released in March 2003, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in May 2003, charted overall for nine weeks, and was performed live on “Saturday Night Live.” It was used in the video games “DANCE! Online,” “Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2,” and “DJ Hero 2.” It appeared in an episode of “The Wire,” “The Office,” and “Bad Education,” along with the films “Chasing Liberty” in 2004, the “Grind” in 2003 and “Baby Mama” in 2008. It was also used in a trailer for the 2015 film “Home” and in a Carl’s Jr. restaurant commercial. The song was on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 decade-end chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 all-time chart.
It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy
Included on the album “Hot Shot,” it was released as a single to radio stations in July 2000 and in the U.S. in Nov. 2000. The song spent 30 weeks overall on the charts in multiple countries. It made the US Billboard Hot 100 decade-end chart. Shaggy and Sting performed it in a bit for the 2018 Grammy Awards with talk show host, James Corden. It was also featured in a 2021 Super Bowl commercial.
No Letting Go by Wayne Wonder
Included on the 2003 album “No Holding Back,” the single was released in Jan. 2003 and charted in multiple countries. It made the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Hot 200, and Billboard U.S. Dance Club Songs chart at No. 1. The song charted in multiple countries for eight weeks.
Many Rivers to Cross by Jimmy Cliff
Released as a single in 1969, the song was featured in the 2013 film “Rush,” the 1972 film “Harder They Come,” and the TV shows “Daredeveil,” “Falling Skies” and “Wilfred.” Rolling Stone rated it one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Now That We Found Love by Third World
Released in 1978, it charted for 12 weeks in countries around the world. It made the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Dance Club Play list. The group released it again in 1985 where it charted at No. 22.
Bad Boys by Inner Circle
The iconic theme song for the TV series “Cops” and the “Bad Boys” film franchise charted for three weeks in countries worldwide when it was first released in 1978 on the album “One Way.” After its re-release as a single in 1993, it made the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard’s Top 40 Mainstream, and U.S. Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart. A parody of the song was used in in an episode of the TV series “Fresh Off the Boat.”
Cheerleader by Omi
Recorded in 2012, the song reached No. 1 and charted in countries worldwide for a total of 64 weeks. The remix made in 2014 was named Song of the Month by Sony in 2015. The track debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the longest-running single by a Jamaican artist. The song can be heard in the 2017 animated film “The Emoji Movie,” in a Toyota C-HR commercial, and is an exclusive for the Just Dance 2016 video game. It made the US Billboard Hot 100, US Billboard Adult Contemporary, US Billboard Adult Top 40, US Billboard Dance/Mix Show Airplay, and US Billboard Mainstream Top 40. It also attained the US Billboard Hot 100 decade-end chart and US Billboard Hot 100 of all time chart. Billboard named it the No. 1 Song of the Summer in 2015.