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Monday, November 30, 2009

Out There!: Reggae Night by Jimmy Cliff

I'm back from Jamaica, Mon! And I got a new little golden nugget of a song to tell you about. So instead of rehashing an retro article I wrote on Sonic Clash from a few months ago, I figured it was due time to write a new Out There piece about this great lost 80's song that is a staple tune in Montego Bay.

When I go away on vacation, I'm always looking to create another memory or find any piece of obscure pop culture that I can find. Most people usually want to go sightseeing or sit on the beach and catch some rays when they go on vacation. Although that stuff is fine and dandy, I'm usually only concerned with sleeping, reading books, and searching for those little pop culture relics that most other people would care not to uncover. I guess you can call me the Indiana Jones of pop culture. This past Thanksgiving weekend, I spent some quality time in Jamaica with my wife and family. What I will remember most from this trip is this great song from the 80's that I had never even know of it's existence. Let me give you the backstory:

My mom planned a fun little excursion for the entire family in which we would all get on a fishing boat to spend some time on the ocean. While the rest of family was interested in snorkeling, drinking, and playing in the ocean, I was really only interested in taking a nap on the boat. The boat's crew consisted of a few Jamaicans who provided a lot of laughs and smiles while also looking out for our safety. During the trek out to sea, they played Bob Marley's (who else?) greatest hits to keep the mood nice and calm. Truly nothing beats relaxing on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean while listening to the great music of Mister Marley. I honestly never realized that Bob Marley was so revered as a God by the people of Jamaica. The crew has probably heard and sung along to songs like Jammin', Redemption Song, and Stir It Up for many years while doing these boat cruises, but it doesn't stop from bringing smiles to their faces! After a stop at Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet's themed restaurant) for some food and for some water slides, we set sail to return back to our beach. On the way back, the DJ mixed it up and pulled the Bob Marley greatest hits out. Instead, he played the new-school Jamaican stuff from Sean Paul and Sean Kingston, of which got the crew and us tourists dancing up a storm.
If only they could have played some Duran Duran, so I could dance on the stern of the boat like Simon LeBon in the Rio video? Oh well! Anyhow there was one song in particular stuck in the middle of the new age Jamaican music that really got me smiling and out of my tired daze. That song was a cheesy synth-pop reggae tune called Reggae Night that sounded like something Lionel Richie might have recorded in the 80's. For the rest of my time in Jamaica (and even now as I'm writing this!) I could not get this awesome song out of my head. But I needed to know who sang it. I asked dozens of staff members at our hotel about the song. They knew the song, but had no idea who actually recorded it. Not until the last day of the trip while waiting in the lobby for the bus to take us to the airport did I finally get the information I was seeking. The porter with a big confident smile told me the artist was Jimmy Cliff. I'm not a big tipper for people to do things like carrying my bags or helping me off a boat, but this deserved a contribution to this guy's vacation fund. If my wife had let me, I would have even tipped him $10!

As I sat on the plane home, the only thing on my mind besides missing the Vikings game was that I needed to download and to get as much information I could on the song that was the theme song of my vacation. Reggae Night was recorded in 1984 by Jimmy Cliff who is one of the most famous Jamaican ska and reggae singers of his time. His most recognized works to Americans are his cover of Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now and Hakuna Matata from The Lion King soundtrack, or The Harder They Come which is recognized by Rolling Stone as one of the top 500 songs of all time. Yet, it seems that Reggae Night is almost like an anthem to the Jamaicans. And did you know who wrote this song? It was a member of the Jackson family. Not Michael, not Janet, not Jermaine, not even Marlon. It was actually written by none other than Latoya. It's pretty funny that one of the most popular songs in Jamaican culture is a song written by Latoya Jackson! The song never had any life on the U.S. billboard charts, but was nominated for a Grammy. You have to listen to the song below, it's a great dance tune with a great hook that I didn't even know existed until my trip to Jamaica.

Ladies and gentlemen, Reggae Night!!


  1. Haha! I was reading and reading and I was like "I hope he mentions La Toya Jackson!", and you did! You did your research, brother. Hope the vacation was good and restful. Let's see pictures!

  2. Thanks for the kind words. So I assume you know all about this song. I might have heard it or seen the video on MTV, but it totally blew my mind when I heard it in Jamaica. And to discover it was written by Latoya makes it that much funnier. I got some pics going up on facebook soon, waiting for my brother's gf also who took some good ones. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!

  3. I don't think I've heard the song since the mid-Eighties, but I remember the La Toya factoid. It wasn't a hit by ANY stretch of the imagination, so I doubt it would've gotten on MTV. Thanksgiving was good, man.