The Greatest Ska Bands of All Time

Over 11.8K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Greatest Ska Bands of All Time

People may not realize this, but ska music originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ska music's influence ranges beyond ska bands. Without ska music, genres like reggae and rocksteady may not have come to be. The ska beat is heavily influenced by American R&B music and has grown into one of the most popular standalone musical genres. It is also one of the most distinct - famous ska bands are rarely confused as being from another genre. The best ska bands are some of the most popular in the world due to the eclectic sound and the diverse instruments used in shaping the music. Ska bands had a surge in popularity in the 1990s with albums like Sell Out (Reel Big Fish) and Super Rad! (The Aquabats) taking over the radio waves. This is the era where some of the best ska bands emerged and haven't let up since.

So, what are the best ska bands? Any list of ska bands has to include names like Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, The Specials, Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, the Aquabats and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. These bands are widely considered some of the best in the genre and with good reason. With some of the best ska songs, exciting live shows and a sound that encapsulates the best of what ska music has to offer, there's no doubt that these bands are rightfully considered at or near the top of the list of ska bands.

That said, it's up to to you to determine what are the best ska bands. This list answers the questions "who are the best ska bands of all time?" and "who is the greatest ska musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular ska bands that you might've heard of. 

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  • The Specials
    3,684 votes

    Starting off with a bang, The Specials were pioneers of the 2 Tone and ska movement that erupted in the late '70s and early '80s. Hailing from the UK, they skillfully blended punk, reggae, and rocksteady to create an infectious sound that's instantly recognizable. Their political and social commentary embedded in their lyrics set them apart from others in the scene, creating a lasting impact on both the music industry and fans alike.

  • Madness
    3,036 votes

    Next up, Madness have etched their name in the annals of ska history with their distinctive blend of British pop and classic ska influences. From their inception in the late '70s, this English powerhouse has consistently produced top charting hits and iconic performances, making them an undeniable force in the ska world. Their longevity and innovation in the genre cements their status as a seminal band that continues to attract new legions of fans.

  • Toots & the Maytals are a Jamaican musical treasure, with a career spanning over five decades. Often credited as the originators of reggae, they've made an indelible mark on ska music as well – providing the soundtrack to countless summers and inspiring generations of musicians. With their soulful, rhythmic tunes and unforgettable live shows, it's no wonder their influence on the ska scene remains unmatched.

  • The Skatalites
    2,655 votes

    As one of the original ska bands, the Jamaican-born Skatalites were instrumental in shaping the sound of the genre. Formed in the early '60s, their unique blend of jazz and Caribbean rhythms set the stage for countless other ska acts to come. Having worked with heavy-hitters like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, their influence on not only ska, but also reggae and rocksteady, cannot be overstated.

  • The Beat
    1,687 votes

    When you think of British ska revival, it's hard not to mention The Beat (aka The English Beat). They stormed onto the scene in the late '70s, crafting an innovative fusion of ska, pop, punk, and reggae that captivated audiences around the globe. This trailblazing group became synonymous with high-energy live performances and infectious melodies, securing their place among the elite in ska music history.

  • The Toasters
    1,811 votes

    Hailing from New York City, The Toasters have made a name for themselves as one of the most influential American ska bands. With a career spanning over 30 years, they have helped lay the foundation for the Third Wave ska movement, incorporating punk and rock elements into their sound. Known for their energetic live performances and tireless dedication to reviving the ska genre, The Toasters are nothing short of legends in the scene.