55 Best Reggae Songs Ever (All-Time Hits)

Reggae music is a genre that embodies the spirit of Jamaica and the long history of the people who live there. For many, it’s a calming and mellow type of music. But for others, it’s a powerful movement advocating for change. The best reggae songs flawlessly combine both of them, bringing together elements of spirituality and history with ease. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 55 best reggae songs of all time.

1. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Three Little Birds (Official Music Video)

Three Little Birds is probably the one song you’ve heard before, even if you’re entirely unfamiliar with the reggae genre as a whole. It’s one of the most famous tracks of all time in general. Bob Marley and The Wailers released it as a single in 1980, but it first appeared on the Exodus album in 1977.

Often thought to have other names like “Don’t Worry About A Thing” or “Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright,” it has become one of the most covered songs of all time as well. For him, it was an international hit single, rising to within the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart and peaking at number three on the Spanish charts. 

Recommended: Best Bob Marley songs

2. Kingston Town – UB40

UB40 - Kingston Town (Remastered 2009)

Kingston Town originated as a 1970 song by Lord Creator. In 1989, English reggae group UB40 recorded a version of the track for their album Labour Of Love II. After releasing it as the second single from the album, it reached number four on the UK Singles Chart and number one in both France and the Netherlands. A couple of re-issues over the next few years even helped land this one a top-three place on the Australian charts. 

3. Redemption Song – Bob Marley

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Redemption Song (Official Music Video)

Redemption Song was the final track on Bob Marley’s Uprising album, released in 1980. Several lines in the track were directly lifted from a speech by Pan-African orator Marcus Garvey that was titled “The Work That Has Been Done.”

Marley had been diagnosed with cancer by the time he wrote this song, and that confrontation with mortality was on display in the composition of the track. It’s been placed on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time despite not charting as a radio single. 

4. I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash

Johnny Nash - I Can See Clearly Now (Official Audio)

I Can See Clearly Now is another song that most people are going to be familiar with on our list. It was written and recorded by Johnny Nash for his 1972 album of the same name and turned out to be a big hit. It topped the Hot 100 and Cash Box charts in the US while also reaching the pinnacle of the South African and Canadian charts. The reggae influences in the track came from his collaboration with Bob Marley in earlier years and were meant to mimic the reggae style of the Jamaican songwriter.

5. One Love – Bob Marley

One Love (Official Fan Made Music Video) - Bob Marley

There’s a reason Bob Marley is featured for a third time in our first five songs on this list. He’s undeniably the king of the reggae genre, helping popularize it on an international level and consistently producing hits. His music was meant to bring people together, and no track was more representative of that mission than One Love.

It’s easy to get lost in the melodies of this happy song, but it delivers important messages about peace and punishments waiting for those who cause others to suffer. Like the rest of the tracks before it, it’s the epitome of what reggae music is supposed to be. 

6. Red Red Wine – UB40

UB40 - Red Red Wine (Official Music Video)

Red Red Wine is probably the more famous UB40 song of the two within our top 10. It was originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1967 and appeared on his album Just For You. They recorded their cover version in 1983 and scored a big hit single.

Rather than a somber ballad about needing wine to forget their woes, their version was a lighter, reggae-style song that added verses. It rose to number one on the UK Singles Chart, and a rerelease of the track in 1988 made it to number one on the US Hot 100

7. Baby, I Love Your Way – Big Mountain

Baby, I Love Your Way

Peter Frampton originally wrote and recorded Baby, I Love Your Way as an arena rock song in 1975. It appeared on several of his albums and was the quintessential easy rocker of the 1970s that most people are familiar with from films and other media.

In 1994, American reggae and pop band Big Mountain released a cover of the track that appeared in the film Reality Bites. That version rose to number six on the Hot 100 and number two on the UK Singles Chart. It was later used in the film Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and its sequel.

8. Legalize It – Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh - Legalize It (Audio)

Legalize It served as the title track of one of Peter Tosh’s solo albums after leaving The Wailers. It came out in 1976 and combined both pop and reggae influences into a political song advocating for the legalization of marijuana. He produced the album himself, ensuring a harsh tone against the brutality of police officers in Jamaica. But even with the political angles of the track aside, it’s a peaceful and mellow reggae song that’s infinitely catchy. 

9. The Tide Is High – The Paragons

John Holt first wrote The Tide Is High in 1967 as a rocksteady song, a precursor to the reggae genre. It was performed by the Jamaican group The Paragons with Holt as the lead singer. It was popular in Jamaica and the UK, but it was in 1980 that it received international recognition. Blondie recorded their more popular version of the track in 1980 as a reggae hit that served as the lead single for their Autoamerican album. It was their third number-one single on the Hot 100 and also topped the UK Singles Chart. 

10. Hold Me Tight – Johnny Nash

Hold Me Tight was the title track of Johnny Nash’s 1968 album. Both it and the B-side single found great chart success that year. It reached number one on the Canadian chart, number five on the US Hot 100, and number five on the UK Singles Chart. Its B-side, Cupid, made it to number six on the UK Singles Chart. 

11. I’ve Got to Go Back Home – Bob Andy

BOB ANDY "I've Got To Go Back Home" Garance Reggae Festival, France 2012

I’ve Got To Go Back Home became something of an anthem for Jamaicans in the 1960s. It was a smash hit for Bob Andy. His reggae style was hugely influenced by his time as part of The Paragons, with his hands being involved in several other incredible reggae hit songs. 

12. No Woman, No Cry – Bob Marley

Bob Marley - No Woman, No Cry (Official Video)

No Woman, No Cry was recorded in 1974 for Bob Marley’s Natty Dread album, and it was one of the most personal songs he ever penned. It wasn’t saying that without a woman, there are no tears; it was asking a woman to not cry. The track was dedicated to a friend of his named Vincent Ford who ran a soup kitchen in Kingston, Jamaica, where Marley grew up. Royalties from the song ensured that the kitchen would always stay open. 

13. Israelites – Desmond Dekker and the Aces

Israelites was a massive hit in 1969 for Desmond Dekker and The Aces. It topped numerous international charts that year and was at least partly responsible for the introduction of reggae music in mainstream markets in the US and the UK. A masterpiece of a track, it ended up being the first reggae song to top the UK Singles Chart and one of the first to break into the top 10 of the Hot 100. 

14. Master Blaster (Jammin’) – Stevie Wonder

Master Blaster (Jammin')

Master Blaster (Jammin’) was the lead single of Stevie Wonder’s 1980 album Hotter Than July. It was a huge hit in the US, spending five weeks at number one on the R&B Singles Chart and number five on the Pop Singles chart that year. Meant as an ode to reggae legend Bob Marley, the song contains quite a few references to Marley’s work and life.

15. Pass The Dutchie – Musical Youth

Musical Youth - Pass The Dutchie

British-Jamaican band Musical Youth produced Pass The Dutchie in 1982. At the time, all the members of the band were still school students. In reality, it was a rewording of a song titled Pass The Kouchie by Mighty Diamonds. The Musical Youth track ended up reaching the top of the charts in five countries, including the top of the UK Singles Chart.

16. Wild World – Maxi Priest

Maxi Priest - Wild World (Official Video)

Wild World was originally written by Cat Stevens for his 1970 album Tea For Tillerman. That version rose as high as number 11 on the Hot 100. In 1988, Maxi Priest recorded a cover of the song for his self-titled album. That one rose to number 25 on the Hot 100 and was a top-10 hit single across most of Europe. 

17. Many Rivers to Cross – Jimmy Cliff

Many Rivers To Cross

Jimmy Cliff wrote Many Rivers To Cross in the 1960s, and it was inspired by the difficulties he faced trying to break into the UK music scene. That frustration found an outlet with this song and produced one of the most iconic reggae hits in history. Artists like John Lennon and Cher eventually covered the track, and it has found a place on several prestigious lists of the greatest songs of all time.

18. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy (Official Music Video)

Bobby McFerrin released Don’t Worry, Be Happy in 1988 and produced one of the most iconic songs of all time. It was the first single to come from his album Simple Pleasures and was the first a cappella track to reach the top of the Hot 100 in history. In 1989, it took home the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. 

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19. Pressure Drop – Toots and the Maytals

Pressure Drop - Original

Pressure Drop was recorded in 1969 for Toots And the Maytals’ 1970 album Monkey Man. It was the song that took their career beyond Jamaica, and it appeared in the 1972 film soundtrack of The Harder They Come, helping introduce reggae to the world as a whole. It’s a song about karmic justice and turning the other cheek when someone does you wrong because the pressure will drop them instead. 

20. Everything I Own – Ken Boothe

Everything I Own (7'' Mix)

Everything I Own was originally recorded for David Gates’ soft rock band Bread. Their version reached number five on the Hot 100 and was one of the best songs of 1972. Ken Boothe recorded a reggae version of the track in 1974 that rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart. You can also hear this one in the 2023 film Beau Is Afraid

21. Buffalo Soldier – Bob Marley

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Buffalo Soldier (Official Music Video)

Buffalo Soldier was a song that was reserved until after Bob Marley’s death, as it didn’t appear on an album until the 1983 posthumous release of Confrontation. Despite its late arrival, it became one of his best-known tracks. It mainly refers to the Black US cavalry regiments that fought in the Native American Wars after 1866. 

22. Ghost Town – The Specials

The Specials - Ghost Town [Official HD Remastered Video]

Ghost Town turned into a huge hit song for The Specials in 1981. It spent three weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart that year. Today, it is mainly remembered for its popularity during riots occurring in British cities, and it discusses themes like urban decay, deindustrialization, unemployment, and violence in inner cities. 

23. My Boy Lollipop – Millie Small

My Boy Lollipop started out as a song for the 1950s doo-wop group The Cadillacs. Jamaican singer Millie Small eventually picked the track up in 1964 and put a ska and reggae spin on it that provided mass appeal. It’s one of the songs that helped introduce the world to the ska and reggae genres of music but was able to keep much of the original track’s rhythms in doing so. 

24. Food For Thought – UB40

UB40 - Food For Thought

Food For Thought was UB40’s debut single and was released in 1980 from their album Signing Off. A song that’s often misinterpreted, it didn’t stop much of the world from loving it and helping them to begin an incredible career. It eventually peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart. 

25. Uptown Top Ranking – Althea & Donna

Uptown Top Ranking (Remastered 2001)

Uptown Top Ranking was originally recorded as a joke. Althea Forrest was 17 and Donna Reid was 18 when the song was first put together in a studio, with them ad-libbing over a track titled Three-Piece Suit by Trinity. It was accidentally played on the radio in the UK, but many listeners ended up sending in requests for it after that initial mistake.

The surprise hit single rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart and spent 11 weeks in total on those rankings. It made Althea & Donna the youngest female duo to ever reach the top of the charts in the UK as well. 

26. Baby Come Back – Pato Banton

Baby Come Back first appeared on The Equals’ 1967 album titled Unequaled Equals. It was a modest chart success for them in the 1960s, but a later version by Pato Banton in the 1990s became the hit we know today. His version made it to number one on the UK Singles Chart in 1994 and is the best-known version of the song. 

27. Bam Bam – Sister Nancy

Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam is one of the most important songs to come from Jamaica or reggae music. The track is still sampled by artists today, from Jay-Z to Kanye West to provide a bit of mellow vibes to the songs in question. It was initially released in 1982 on their One, Two album.

28. Roxanne – The Police

The Police - Roxanne (Official Music Video)

The perfect collaboration between reggae and rock, Roxanne was released in advance of The Police’s debut album in 1978. As of 2008, it has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and often appears on major publication’s lists of the greatest songs of all time. Their original version of the track peaked at number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. 

29. I Want to Wake Up With You – Boris Gardiner

I Want To Wake Up With You

I Want to Wake Up With You began life as a country single written by Ben Peters and recorded by Mac Davis. In 1986, reggae artist Boris Gardiner covered the song and found massive success. His reggae-infused version of the track spent three weeks on top of the UK Singles Chart and was the third-best-selling single of the year. 

30. Searching – China Black

Searching was originally released in 1992, but it didn’t find success on its first swing. It wasn’t until 1994 that it was re-released in the UK and soared up the charts. Eventually, it peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart and earned a worldwide release that saw it chart in several other European countries. 

31. Police & Thieves – Junior Murvin

Police & Thieves was the first song recorded by Junior Marvin in 1976. Originally written by him, the track discussed themes of police brutality and gang wars. Eventually, other artists covered the song, including The Clash, who featured it on their self-titled debut album in 1977. While that version supposedly ruined the track, it was the song that inspired Bob Marley to write Punky Reggae Party

32. Johnny Too Bad – The Slickers

The Slickers were a popular rocksteady and reggae group during the 1960s and 1970s. While often assumed to be an alias of The Pioneers, this assumption is incorrect. Johnny Too Bad is the tale of a Jamaican rude boy whose criminal activity is considered too extreme to the moral compass of a stranger. 

33. Underneath it All – No Doubt Feat. Lady saw

No Doubt - Underneath It All ft. Lady Saw

Underneath It All was first released on No Doubt’s fourth album Rock Steady in 2001. Written by Gwen Stefani and David Stewart, the song became their highest-charting single in the US but failed to become an international hit. It eventually won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was featured in the film 50 First Dates

34. Shine – Aswad

Shine was released by British reggae group Aswad in 1994 as the first single to come from their Rise And Shine album. It was their second-biggest hit of all time in the UK, reaching number five on the UK Singles Chart and becoming a top-40 hit across several other European countries. It was a fun and upbeat reggae song, perfect for pop audiences of the day. 

35. Rivers of Babylon – The Melodians

Rivers Of Babylon was released by The Melodians in 1970. Much of the lyrics are adapted from the Biblical texts of Psalms 19 and 137, serving as one of the most iconic Rastafari songs out there. It later appeared in the 1972 film The Harder They Come, earning the band international recognition. A 1978 version by Boney M remains one of the top-10, all-time best-selling singles in UK history. 

36. Blackheart Man – Bunny Wailer

Bunny Wailer’s Blackheart Man served as the title track for what is considered the finest album he ever wrote. Other artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were collaborators on the album, making it something of an all-star game of Jamaican musicians of the time. It covered many personal topics from Wailer’s childhood, making it an intimately personal song—and album—for the artist. 

37. Oh Carolina – Shaggy

Oh Carolina is a rework of a Jamaican folk song titled Carolina. Shaggy’s version was an incredibly popular dancehall interpretation of a timeless classic and was released on his Silver album in 1993. It was eventually nominated for a British Music Award and rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart. 

38. How Could I Leave – Dennis Brown

How Could I Leave tells a story of heartbreak and regret. The hypnotic instrumentals of the song will put you in a daze and add a haunting feeling to the track that leaves you feeling the same longing and pain the singer expresses. It was one of the last songs Dennis Brown recorded before his death and has become a classic of the genre. 

39. Slavery Days – Burning Spear

Slavery and the suffering of black African people in Jamaica is a common theme of reggae music and an important piece of the history of this style of music. Few songs capture the essence of hundreds of years of suffering the way Burning Spear’s Slavery Days does. 

40. Satta Massagana – The Abyssinians

Satta Massagana (Original Jamaican Mix)

Rastafarianism is fairly new in religious terms, but it’s been an alternative way of life in Jamaica for decades. Reggae became an integral part of the religion, giving it an outlet for its main tenets and themes. The Abyssinians were among the figureheads of Rastafarianism in reggae, and their song Satta Massagana from 1969 is the perfect example of their intertwined nature. 

41. Sufferer’s Psalm – I-Roy

Reggae rappers are few and far between in these lists, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made some of the greatest reggae songs. I-Roy recorded Sufferer’s Psalm in 1979, creating one of the most powerful rhythmic flows in all of music. No topic was off-limits and it tackles issues like homelessness, poverty, and suffering in general. 

42. Innocent Blood – Culture

Innocent Blood (2000 Digital Remaster)

Culture was a vocal group that found fame with their 1977 album Two Sevens Clash, and they became known for uplifting songs about huge societal issues. Innocent Blood serves as a lesson on slavery, imperialism, and Black history but touches on the topics in a positive and approachable way.

43. Black Woman – Judy Mowatt

Judy Mowatt was one of Bob Marley’s backup singers during the 1960s as part of The Gaylets. Black Woman is a soulful and powerful song about female empowerment and how the odds are often stacked against Black women in society. Rather than just malign reality, she shines puts a positive spin on the everyday struggles of Black women, and relates to listeners worldwide.

44. Word of the Farmer – Gregory Isaacs

Word of the Farmer

Word Of The Farmer is a snapshot of slavery in Jamaica and tells the tale of a man who works hard but has everything taken from him by a master. This 1978 song was an accurate and galling portrait of what slavery was really like. While it may make some listeners uncomfortable, they will walk away with a better understanding of slavery for listening to it. 

45. I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley

Bob Marley & The Wailers - I Shot The Sheriff (Live At The Rainbow Theatre, London / 1977)

I Shot The Sheriff is a classic reggae tune from Bob Marley’s 1973 album Burnin’. The intention of the song was to find justice in injustice, but some of the track was censored by the singer to avoid governmental interference. Eric Clapton went on to record a cover of the song for his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard as well, earning his only number-one single on the Hot 100 as a solo artist. 

46. Get Up, Stand Up – Bob Marley

Bob Marley - Get Up, Stand Up (Live at Munich, 1980)

Get Up, Stand Up was one of the earliest releases from Bob Marley and The Wailers, coming while he was a teenager just trying to get his music career off the ground. It deals with the spirituality and militaristic qualities of the Rastafarian style of reggae, serving as an unapologetic call for justice. 

47. One in Ten – UB40

One In Ten is a more serious song than UB40 might be known for outside of Jamaica. It takes on suffering as a theme, revealing that everyone suffers, and much of that suffering is ignored by others. The track was a call for humanity to recognize suffering and for political action to do something about it, making it one of the best reggae songs of all time. 

48. Now That We Found Love – Third World

Third World - Now That We Found Love (1979)• TopPop

Now That We Found Love is a foundational reggae song that you should listen to if you want to get an understanding of what the genre is all about. The track speaks of love, equality, acceptance, and universal peace. It” ended up being a breakout hit for Third World as well, earning them a significant following in the UK. 

49. Talk About Love – Pat Kelly

While most of our songs definitely come from the golden age of reggae many years ago, not all great ones are oldies at this point. Pat Kelly’s Talk About Love was released in 2000 and talks about how difficult it is to build a loving society. While it’s a worthy goal, the reality of things is that people fight for power and often don’t care for their brothers and sisters around them. 

50. Boombastic – Shaggy

Shaggy - Boombastic (Official Music Video)

Boombastic was released as the second single and title track of Shaggy’s 1995 album of the same name. It ended up being an international hit after it was selected for use in an ad for Levi’s jeans, spending a week on top of both the US R&B Singles Chart and the UK Singles Chart. It also peaked at number three on the Hot 100. To date, it remains his most commercially successful single.

51. Champion Lover – Deborahe Glasgow

Champion Lover was a surprise smash hit that helped Deborahe Glasgow break into the music scene when it was released in 1989. A symbol of female empowerment and strength, the song became a hit a second time when it was remade only a few years later. 

52. A Place Called Africa – Junior Byles

A Place Called Africa

A Place Called Africa is an incredibly personal song for Junior Byles, but that emotion is what makes a reggae song great. It recounts a time he asked his mother why they didn’t live in Africa, the place they were originally from. After suffering injustices in Jamaica, even a child’s mind struggled to understand why they didn’t just leave. His pain is palpable, which is exactly what turned this track into such an emotionally jarring hit. 

53. Better Must Come – Delroy Wilson

Delroy Wilson - Better Must Come

Delory Wilson is one of the most influential figures in reggae music, thanks in large part to his career that spanned over four decades and countless successful singles. Better Must Come is the pinnacle of those songs, released in 1972 and serving as an anthem of hope and victory. While much of his work centers on love and romance, it took a detour and focused on political messaging instead. 

54. Sweet and Dandy – Toots and The Maytals

Sweet and Dandy - Original

The struggles and injustices foisted onto the Jamaican people are common topics in reggae music, but that isn’t all the island nation has to offer. Toots And The Maytals shine a light on the positive parts of everyday life in Jamaica with their song Sweet And Dandy. Released in 1969, the track is full of love, hope, and positive vibrations. 

55. Stealing Love – Carlene Davis

Stealing Love was produced by Willie Lindo in 1981 and was a melodic reggae song featured on Carlene Davis’ album Big People Music, Vol. 3. It has all the traits you look for in the perfect reggae song, with themes of love and a gentle vibe that will put you at ease. It’s an essential part of any list of classic reggae songs.

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