Reggae first emerged as a mainstream genre of music in the early 1960’s. It first became popular in Jamaica, but borrowed musical styles from jazz, Jamaican ska, calypso, and rocksteady, which were derived from American R&B and doo-wop of the 1940s. Though it originated from such a familiar place, reggae music has one of the most unique sounds of any genre. Reggae is easily defined by its simple yet contagious groove. Played in common time, reggae relies on offbeat rhythms, commonly referred to as “skank”, which are emphasized by a small group of guitars, keyboards, drums, congas, and sometimes horns.
Most genres of music have at least several artists and pioneers that all hold equal recognition for the success of their genre. It is very rare that a single person gets all or most of the credit for the establishment of a major genre. Though there are plenty of artists who have helped pave the road for reggae music, such as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, and Ken Boothe, there is only one king: Bob Marley. And reggae would not be where it is today had he not existed, His breakout popularity began when he formed a band with Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso, and Cherry Smith called the Wailers. Their second album, “Burnin’” was their first major breakthrough, including the iconic song, “I Shot the Sheriff.” From then on, Bob Marley and the Wailers were headlining superstars, generating countless hits worldwide, and bringing reggae music into the mainstream world of music.
Since Bob Marley’s death, reggae has expanded and divided into multiple sub-genres, including roots reggae, dub, and lovers rock. Reggae is also thought of as “surfer music,” because of its tropical island feel and groove. The legacy lived on in artists such as Steel Pulse, Sublime, Iration, and Rebelution, to name just a few. Each of these artists have adopted their own styles, adding and subtracting from what was there to start. His sons Ziggy, Damian, and Stephen Marley also carried on his legacy, and now his grandchildren are even involved in making music. Bob Marley’s legacy is a perfect example of the power of music and how it can be shared with people of all kinds from all around the world.