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The 10 best reggae basslines
Ten reggae bass lines that every bass player should know!
Play well-known reggae basslines
Image: Shutterstock / DeepMeaning
For us bassists, reggae bass lines have a few very special advantages, because here our playing is featured like in hardly any other style. The bass sits prominently in the mix and usually has an important melodic function. That really puts you in a good mood and is reason enough to take a close look at ten reggae basslines today, which are among my personal favorites. As with my workshop on the "10 best soul & funk bass intros", I made sure to find a mix of classics and "hidden pearls". Since reggae quickly found its way into other styles due to its popularity, one or two songs are also represented.
The general effect of reggae on the listener is described wonderfully by the slogan "Positive Vibration": The stylistic originating from Jamaica simply exudes pure fun and joie de vivre, even if the lyrics often have a very serious and sometimes even tragic background (see Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru etc.) The life-affirming attitude always resonates with this music and immediately puts the listener in a good mood!
1.) Bob Marley: "Is This Love"
Of course we have to start with THE figurehead of reggae! The charisma and importance of Bob Marley has remained unbroken to this day - hardly any other artist in the world has had so much influence on the society and politics of his country. But Marley also paid a high price for this, see the assassination attempt on him in 1976.
The biography and the importance of Marley are not the topic today, but his music - and above all the role of the bass player in it. This was mostly Aston "Family Man" Barrett, who wrote a kind of "blueprint for reggae bass" with his ingenious game. A testimony to this is the world-famous hit "Is This Love" from the 1978 album "Kaya".
2.) Easy All Stars: "With A Little Help From My Friends"
With "Dub Side O The Moon" the Easy All Stars already presented an incredibly successful reggae adaptation of the cult album "Dark Side Of The Moon" by Pink Floyd. With the album "Easy All Stars Lonley Hearts Dub Band", the reggae collective around Michael Goldwasser, Eric Smith, Lem Oppenheimer and Remy Gerstein took the Beatles classic "St. Peppers Lonley Hearts Club Band" to their chest. A highlight on it - especially bassist - is the cover version of "With A Little Help From My Friends".
3.) Peter Tosh: "Johnny B. Good"
"Mama Africa" is the title of Peter Tosh's 1983 album, which contains a cover version of THE rock'n'roll song par excellence. Peter Tosh turns the classic upside down - changes the harmonies as well as the lyrics and in this way makes the track a work of its own. The bassline is also very interesting - especially since it never starts on the root note in the verse. Where else can you find something like this apart from reggae?
4.) Bob Marley: "Jammin '"
In contrast to the previous example, Aston Barrett almost exclusively plays the root notes of the chords here. Nevertheless, the bassline to "Jammin '" from the album "Exodus" from 1977 has an extremely high recognition value, which is mainly due to the hypnotic rhythm.
5.) Marcus Miller: "Silver Rain"
The bass master of all classes can of course also play reggae, which he impressively proves on the track "Silver Rain", which is on the album of the same name from 2005. Incidentally, the co-author of the song is none other than Eric Clapton! In addition to several solo interludes, Marcus Miller plays a simple but incredibly powerful bassline that skilfully pushes the song forward.
6.) T.M. Stevens: "Maximum Respect"
The inventor of heavy metal funk was born in the USA, but also has Jamaican roots - so T.M. Stevens, of course, has reggae in his blood! In the song "Maximum Respect" (album "Shocka Zooloo", 2001) he unites reggae, rock and funk in an inimitable way to create his very special cocktail.
7.) Bob Marley: "Stir It Up"
"Stir It Up" is undoubtedly one of Bob Marley's greatest hits, and the bassline is one of the best known from his extensive work. Aston Barrett shows us on this track how you can achieve the maximum with just a few ingredients. "Simple rhythm plus triads" is his method of choice here - the result is a world-famous bassline. Life can be so easy! "Stir It Up" was released in 1973 on the album "Catch A Fire".
8.) Alpha Blondy: "Wish You Were Here"
There are songs in the history of music that you prefer to keep your hands off of. The level of awareness is too great, this song means something to too many people, etc. One of these giants is definitely Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". If you cover this song, you can really only lose - unless you have the genius of an Alpha Blondy, who has been an artist since the 1970s. His version of "Wish You Were Here" (first appeared on the album "Jah Victory" in 1983) is just divine and funny at the same time - just like the bassline!
9.) Bob Marley: "Trenchtown Rock"
This good mood song is an excellent example of strongly melodic bass lines in reggae. Aston Barrett's choice of sheet music goes a long way towards adding to the positive vibe of the song. "Trenchtown Rock" appeared on the album "African Herbsman" in 1975.
10.) Stevie Wonder: "Master Blaster"
What else can you say and write about Stevie Wonder? Wonder was and is apparently a never-ending source of genius on all levels. One of countless testimonies to this is the song "Master Blaster" from 1980 (album "Hotter Than July"), whose bassline is simply a masterpiece. The distinctive octaves of the intro are replaced in the verse by a melodic bassline based on arpeggios, and then flow into a brilliant unison part. Stevie Wonder impressively demonstrates how pop and reggae can be merged into a powerful mixture.
Do you have any hot tips for great reggae bass lines that you really should know? Then write us your suggestions in the comments - because there are of course numerous other great examples. As always, this selection is of course purely subjective.
I wish you a lot of fun with these reggae basslines!
Until next time, Thomas Meinlschmidt
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