Shaggy, known for his hit songs It Wasn't Me and Boombastic shares the seven songs that have shaped his life. He's the headline act for the Bay of Islands music festival on January 25 in Paihia.
Bob Marley and The Wailers - War
It's hard to pick a favourite Bob Marley song because he doesn't have a song that I don't like. The thing about War, out of the countless other songs that he's done, is that I believe it is the most genius. War was actually the speech from Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia. When he came to Jamaica he made that speech, and Bob Marley took that speech and put a melody to it. It was kind of like what Will.i.am did with the Obama speech (his song Yes We Can). Marley did it in such a brilliant way. It has always been one of the things I strive for in my life. There are certain people I look up to as songwriters and Bob is definitely one of them.
Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers to Cross
Many Rivers to Cross is one of those songs where you can feel Jimmy Cliff's pain in the lyrics and in the way the song was written. It's such a moving song that carries so much meaning. It's one of those songs you turn to when you're going through a lot of s***. It's a feeling song, you feel it more than you hear it.
Bill Withers - Lean On Me
If you listen to Lean On Me, it's the same chords played backwards. It's so genius, it's the simplicity of it that I really enjoy, and how meaningful it is. Where friendship is concerned, it impacts your everyday life. In sorrows and pain, in the times of good and the times of bad, that's a person you share your life with. I'm a super-big Bill Withers fan, I own all of his catalogue.
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Shabba Ranks - Housecall
When I was an up-and-coming dancehall artist, I got into dancehall because of an artist named Yellow Man. I saw him live when I was a kid, and my life was changed. I wanted to be that guy. Doing dancehall, the only level of success we saw was Shabba Ranks, because he looked like us, he came from the same country [Jamaica]. Then, he had Housecall, his breakthrough song, and that was the first time we realised dancehall might actually be really good. He influenced my music and who I am today. He was the first one to do dancehall, he was one of the pioneers.
Billy Joel - Just the Way You Are
I went and saw Billy the other night in New York. I've met him a couple of times before. My wife (Rebecca Packer) is also a big Billy Joel fan, so we went backstage and had some chats with him. I asked, "Are you going to play Just the Way You Are?" He says no. He's got a huge catalogue so I didn't expect him to play everything that night. Billy Joel is one of my favourite songwriters. He writes songs like a movie. His words are like photographs, the words are so powerful. The song is so significant because people fall in love with the realness of people. Everybody changes in life and none of us work hard to stay the same. He's saying: 'What you've got right here works for me.' It's relatable to my life, it's relatable to everyone's. Myself, I'm a little bit more confident in who I am, I was never a trend follower. With the music I made, I always went against the grain. At times I was criticised for it. You have to follow your own gut and your own image and what you think works for you.
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
This song is very relatable to now. Nobody knows what's going on. Trump's in the White House, you've got a guy like, what's the clown's name in London, England? Boris Johnson. Trump won an election by doing something outside of the box, that was totally against the grain of what we normally see presidents and politicians do, and it worked. He tapped into people and people's fear. The sad part is, these guys are just manipulating the system, they're just trying to win elections and are trying to get power. The people buy into it because they really, truly have those thoughts. It's like somebody saying 'I'm not racist' but deep down inside they are but they can't say it because it's politically incorrect. So - this song points back to that. It points back to the question: 'What's going on here?' I'm not a political person, but you can't help but be these days.
The Police - Roxanne
I've always loved Roxanne, it was very influential because when I was in Jamaica that's a song I heard as a kid playing on the radio. It was also influential because The Police were the first white reggae band, and Roxanne was a hybrid version of reggae that went on mainstream radio. [At the time of the song's release in 1978] Mainstream radio was not playing reggae. Bob Marley was the king of reggae but never really had a mainstream radio song. The only mainstream hit that he had was I Shot The Sherriff, which was a song by a white guy, Eric Clapton. So he was having a hard time getting on the radio. What Roxanne did and what The Police did broke the barrier open. Roxanne was that infectious, it was that great that it broke the barriers all the way open (for reggae artists).
- As told to Lydia Burgham