Trop Rock Anybody?
The Caribbean has its own styles and varieties of indigenous music. Whether it be ska, reggae, calypso, or any of the many lesser known similar styles, music from the Atlantic Basin has found a worldwide audience.
Then there is the flip side of this coin, where various musicians from outside the Caribbean have ventured into the tropics and come back home with a whole different set of music values. Over time, numerous hit songs have emerged from the many musicians, who have gone to the Bermuda Triangle and come back a little the wiser.
1. "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes" by Jimmy Buffet
The maestro of the musical tropical escape! Perhaps nobody embodies the Caribbean mindset better than Jimmy Buffett. Born in Southern Mississippi and raised on the coast of Alabama, Key West was just a short sailboat ride away, and beyond the keys, the islands of the Atlantic Basin called.
Without much doubt, Jimmy Buffett has answered the call better than anyone. You can hear him sing about his changes in this popular hit.
2. "Down in Belize" by Jerry Jeff Walker
Jerry Jeff Walker might not be the most likely candidate to become an American ex-patriot. But that's exactly what he did back in the '90s when the Nashville songwriter and folksinger retreated to Belize and recorded the album Cowboy Boots and Bathing Suits.
He also bought a place on Ambergris Cay, which he calls Camp Belize and which is home to a two-week retreat and concert.
3. "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" by Kenny Chesney
As a young man, Kenney Chesney left the hills of East Tennessee and eventually bought a nice mansion on St. Lucas island. At present, the Nashville star has his property up for sale, but this has not stopped him from putting out some pretty good beach music.
4. "Gettin’ Down in a Pirate Town-Live on the Street" by The Pirate Sessions
If you want to be a musical troop, there's no way better way than to head for Key West and start playing on the streets. This art form is often referred to as busking, and over the years, the musical tradition has launched many talented musicians.
One such group is the Pirate Sessions, who put together a tall, salty tale about Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Anne Bonney (yes, there were woman pirates), Henry Morgan, and Captain Kidd. This band sings about these guys and gals in the first person and the present tense, even though these particular outlaws lived many years ago.
5. "Toes" by the Zac Brown Band
If you just want to stretch out in your backyard on a hot summer day and put your feet in the kiddie pool, this is the perfect musical accompaniment. Just make sure you have a beer in your hand and some liquor on the side.
Actually, Zac Brown built up a pretty good name for himself before he jumped into the Caribbean and recorded a handful of tropical tunes.
6. "A Pirate On The Caribbean" by The Boat Drunks
The Boat Drunks owe a lot to Jimmy Buffett, especially since their band name is a clever take-off of a Buffett hit called Boat Drinks. This catchy little tune, complete with steel drums, is just a daydream about being "A Pirate On the Caribbean," a peaceful activity, which anybody can do at home, especially if you have a bottle of rum or two.
7. "Key Lime Pie" by Kenny Chesney
Feeling hungry? Maybe a slice of Key Lime Pie will suffice, especially when it's served up by Kenny Chesney. Key West is not exactly in the Caribbean, but it's close, and it has the Gulf Stream rushing by its shores, plus a host of colorful characters like Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett, who once called this little spiff of land home.
8. "Sloop John B" by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine
The Sloop John B was made famous by the Beach Boys in the late 60s, but in reality, the Bahama folk song goes way back to the early years of the 20th century. It reached American recognition when musical archivists went to the Caribbean in search of indigenous music.
What they found was a treasure trove of music, with the Sloop John B being one of the most enduring. Listen closely, as a reorganized Beach Boys gives a nice rendering of their 1966 arrangement.
9. "Jamaica Farewell" by Harry Belafonte
This Harry Belafonte hit was actually written by Lord Burgess. Though the song was part of Belafonte's wildly successful Calypso album, the tune is written in a Jamaican mento style. By the way, the Kingston Trio took their name from the mention of the heavily, populated Jamaican city that is referenced several times in Jamaica Farewell.
10. "Rum and Coca-Cola"
Though made popular in the U.S. by the much-loved Andrew Sisters, the original version of this Calypso Classic was first recorded in Trinidad during WWII. In its earlier version, Rum and Coca-Cola served as a bitter rebuke of the prostitution trade, which flourished in the region during the war years.
In 1945, the Andrew Sisters released a water-downed version of the tune that was actually banned in a few places. Rum and Coca-cola also paved the way for the Calypso craze that swept the nation in the following decade.
© 2017 Harry Nielsen
Harry Nielsen (author) from Durango, Colorado on February 19, 2018:
Thanks for stopping in. As you might have guessed researching this article was a lot of fun.
CaribTales on February 19, 2018:
Great article. Thanks for the songs. Thoroughly enjoyed the beat especially in the last two. Harry Belafonte himself is a classic!