Several legendary Jamaican artists have been named on Rolling Stone’s newly expanded 200 Greatest Singers of All Time list.
The list released on New Year’s Day featured Dennis Brown being named the top Jamaican singer of all time, while others like Toots Hibbert, Bob Marley, Barrington Levy, and Luciano were also named. Rolling Stone first published their list of 100 Greatest Singers in 2008, but that later expanded to 200 with several new names and faces added.
The process to name an artist, the publication explained, was through an elaborate voting process at first, then more recently, selected by staff and key contributors who have been instrumental to over 100 years of music as an ongoing global conversation.
While anticipating some criticisms, the publication explained its choices noting, “Talent is impressive; genius is transcendent.”
Among the Jamaican artists who were named in the 200 Greatest Singers list was the deceased Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown, ranking higher than any other Jamaican act.
Brown ranked number 67 ahead of artists like Johnny Cash (No. 85), Michael Jackson (No. 86), Dianna Ross (No. 87), and Barbara Streisand (No. 147), just to name a few of the legendary acts.
Writing of Brown, the publication noted of his vocal range, “With a voice as tough-yet-velvety as suede, he was one of Jamaica’s smoothest love men ever, not to mention a dispense of homespun wisdom on the immortal 1981 hit “Sitting and Watching.”
Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals was ranked 94, with the publication recognizing him as a “Reggae pioneer” with a “rough-edged, fierce voice that gave fire to the incarceration chronicle “54-46 That’s My Number” and added a slyly endearing wink to the wedding-jitters chronicle “Sweet and Dandy.”
Toots finished was placed ahead of King of Reggae, Bob Marley, at No 98, with Rolling Stone adding that “Bob Marley invented a down-to-earth yet heraldic idiom that reflected the struggles and aspirations of tens of millions of people throughout the world.
The publication added that something about the communal gravity of Bob Marley’s voice, as it singled out the artist’s hit “No Woman No Cry.”
In the meantime, two new faces featured on the list- veterans Barrington Levy and Luciano, who ranked at No. 119 and No. 143, respectively.
Of Barrington Levy, the publication wrote, “If an air horn could sing, it’d sound like Barrington Levy: cutting, commanding, and a signal that the next tune is about to be massive,” noting that the veteran artist was a superstar at just 14 years old, but even after being in the business for four decades and his class of dancehall brethren disappearing, the artist continues to “keep that horn of his loud as hell, and very much in tune.”
Of Luciana, The Messenjah, the publication writes, “he’s got a range that extends from a rich baritone up to a strong falsetto. And he’s a master of the lost art of harmonizing — Luciano would be a top vocal arranger in N.Y. or L.A. if he weren’t so committed to the roots.”
Meanwhile, Aretha Franklin was ranked as the greatest singer of all time and at the top with her were Whitney Houston (2); Sam Cooke (3); Billie Holiday (4); Mariah Carey (5); Ray Charles (6); Stevie Wonder (7); Beyonce (8); Otis Redding (9); and Al Green (10).
The publication has been dragged online by critics who disagreed with the top selections, particularly fans of Celine Dion who felt that she, as well as singer Nat King Cole, should have been in the top 10.
Fans were also upset that many artists were ranked too low, including the likes of Adele at 22, Luther Vandross at No 31, Ella Fitzgerald at No 45, Lady Gaga at No 58, Michael Jackson at No 86, Taylor Swift at No 102, Christina Aguilera at No 141, Alicia Keys at No 188, and Kelly Clarkson at No 196.
The publication has constantly faced backlash for its selection. In the introduction to the list, it wrote, “keep in mind that this is the greatest singers list, not the greatest voices list….In all cases, what mattered most to us was originality, influence, the depth of an artist’s catalog, and the breadth of their musical legacy.”
As for newcomers, Burna Boy made the cut at 197.