Herbs live on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, February 2009.
Ryan Monga Junior
Herbs are a New Zealand reggae vocal group formed in 1979 once described as "New Zealand's most soulful, heartfelt and consistent contemporary musical voice". It has been said their debut EP Whats' Be Happen? "set a standard for Pacific reggae which has arguably never been surpassed".
Herbs produced a stream of reggae hits with some of the country's top talent. In the 1980s and the first half of the '90s, Herbs had 10 Top 20 singles hits. Herbs also worked alongside UB40, Taj Mahal, Tina Turner, Neil Young, George Benson and Stevie Wonder.
Though upbeat, Herbs' music is clear in its messages. Their 1982 New Zealand hit "French Letter", which spent 11 weeks on the charts, came to express New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance. Fourteen years later, it was re-recorded to garner support for the prevention of nuclear testing at Mururoa. Similarly, "No Nukes (The Second Letter)", "Nuclear Waste" and "Light Of The Pacific" expressed much the same sentiment.
Herbs' third release and first full album Long Ago, which featured the 1984 single of the same name, was produced by well-known New Zealand bass player Billy Kristian. In 1986, former BeBop Deluxe bassist/vocalist Charlie Tumahai joined the group, having been a session musician for various international acts.
In 1986, "Slice of Heaven" with Dave Dobbyn reached number one on both the New Zealand and Australian charts. In 1989, Tim Finn joined them for "Parihaka" and, in 1992, Annie Crummer fronted the hit single "See What Love Can Do".
In 1989, the band was assisted by Eagles member Joe Walsh, who produced, played slide guitar and sung on the band's Homegrown album, which featured a cover of "Walk Away Renee", originally recorded by The Left Banke. Walsh announced he had joined Herbs, but the union lasted less than a year.
Although their last album of new material was released in 1990, Herbs still perform in New Zealand and Australia, with guitarist Dilworth Karaka the last remaining member of the original line-up that released Whats' Be Happen? in 1981. Of the 2009 line-up, Karaka, saxophonist Morrie Watene (joined 1982), keyboardist Tama Lundon (joined 1983) and percussionist Thom Nepia (joined 1985) remain from the band's late 1980s commercial peak.
|Date of Release||Title||Label||Charted||Country||Catalog Number|
|1981||Whats' Be Happen?||Warrior||-||-||Z 20012|
|1983||Light Of The Pacific||Warrior||-||-||WAR 2005|
|1984||Long Ago||Warrior||-||-||WAR 2007|
|1987||Sensitive to a Smile||Warrior||-||-||WAR 2008|
|1988||Sensitive to a Smile (Australian pressing)||Mushroom||-||-||L38988|
|1993||13 Years of Herbs: The Best Of||Warner New Zealand||-||-||4509941522|
|2001||Listen: The Very Best Of||Warner New Zealand||-||-||0927419502|
|2008||Lights Of The Pacific: The Very Best Of||Warner New Zealand||-||-||5186511252|
|1982||"French Letter"||Light Of The Pacific||#11 (NZ)||-|
|1982||"Jah's Son"||Light Of The Pacific||#15 (NZ)||-|
|1984||"Long Ago"||Long Ago||#22 (NZ)||-|
|1985||"Nuclear Waste"||Long Ago||#32 (NZ)||-|
|1986||"Slice of Heaven"
(with Dave Dobbyn)
|Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale||#1 (NZ)
|1987||"Sensitive to a Smile"||Sensitive to a Smile||#9 (NZ)||-|
|1987||"Rust In Dust"||Sensitive to a Smile||#11 (NZ)||-|
|1988||"Listen"||Sensitive to a Smile||#7 (NZ)||-|
|1989||"No Nukes (The Second Letter)"||Sensitive to a Smile||#48 (NZ)||-|
(with Tim Finn)
|Tim Finn||#6 (NZ)||-|
|1992||"See What Love Can Do"
(with Annie Crummer)
|1993||"Till We Kissed"
(with Ray Columbus)
|1994||"Good For Life"||#50 (NZ)||-|
|1995||"French Letter '95"||#9 (NZ)||-|