“Reggae Get The Grammy.” All These Years Later… do you still feel happy?
“They nominate five ah we,” Yellowman chants over a bouncy Junjo Lawes riddim track. “Steel Pulse Black Uhuru and me / Peter Tosh and also Jimmy.”
On this exuberant cut from his classic 1985 album Galang Galang Galang, the cheeky albino DJ was celebrating the fact that Jamaican music had been recognized officially on the world stage. “Black Uhuru get the Grammy Award,” Yellow proudly proclaimed a quarter of a century ago. “Ah so you know say reggae music big and broad.”
Let’s jump back in time before “Reggae Get The Grammy.” Thirty years ago, Bob Marley was touring the world and Jamaican music was coming on strong. When Burning Spear sings “my way is long and the road is foggy” in this clip, he wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the 1978 film Rockers—Theodoros Bafaloukos’s playful update of Perry Henzel’s groundbreaking 1972 film The Harder They Come. Spear stole the whole movie with his hypnotic acapella performance of “Jah No Dead” against the soothing backdrop of crashing waves while he and his drummer Horsemouth share a spliff and lament the theft of a motorbike. Spear may have known that the world was watching him, but he could scarcely foresee that just five years later the militant roots group Black Uhuru would be sounding like thi… and then heading to Los Angeles to collect a little gold Gramophone trophy at the same ceremony as Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, and Cyndi Lauper.
1985 was the first year the Best Reggae Album category was introduced, and it was a cause for celebration. As the quarter century mark approaches, several trends have begun to emerge:
Of the 127 nominees, 33 are either sons or former bandmates of Bob Marley.
Of the 25 wiinners, 11 are either sons or former bandmates of Bob Marley.
In 2007 Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock” scored a second Grammy Award outside the Reggae category:
Of the 102 remaining nominees, 75 were traditional roots reggae and 27 were dancehall or “other.”
Of the 14 remaining Grammy winners, 9 played roots and 5 played dancehall
Shabba Ranks is the only dancehall artist to win the Reggae Grammy twice:
Shaggy scored with Boombastic, but not with the much bigger selling 2000 album Hotshot which sold over 10 million copies but was deemed “not reggae enough.”
Beenie Man scored his Grammy for an album that featured a sparkling Neptunes-produced remix of his classic “Girls Dem Sugar” featuring Mya.
and Sean Paul
And then there’s Matisyahu, who’s influenced by dancehall reggae but operates outside the core reggae market… wait a minute that describes half the biggest artists today. But that’ll have to wait for another post.
Enough bellyaching… WHAT’s BETTER THAN THE GRAMMY AWARDS? THE BOOMSHOT AWARDS
NOW’S YOUR CHANCE TO SUBMIT YOUR LIST OF ThE BEST 25 REGGAE ALBUMS OF THE PAST 25 YEARS.
Paste your nominations in the comment box below, and let’s see who really runs things.