You will be amazed by how varied the Reggae sound is now a days. From Roots Reggae (Buju Banton, Capleton) and Dancehall (Bennie Man, Sean Paul) to Puerto Rican Reggaeton (Ivy Queen, Daddy Yankee) & Latino Reggae (Early Man, Stream http://8tracks.com/explore/reggae_latino)to Island Reggae (Common People, Hirie) there has never been a better time for Reggae. But maybe you should start at the beginning with the precursors of Reggae, which are Ska & Rocksteady, that way you can better appreciate how reggae came to be and how it has progressed through the years.
The Late 50's & Early 60's Jamaican Independence, Positivity & Dance Halls: Ska (Eric Monty Morris, Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers)
Mid 60's Rude Boys and the beginning of violence: Rocksteady you can really start to hear the progression toward Reggae, some older Jamaicans believe this was the height of Jamaican music. There was still a lot of positivity in music (Hopetown Lewis, Delroy Wilson). There is a very good film on this called: Rocksteady The Roots of Reggae
Late 60's Rastafari Movement, Musical Rebellion: Reggae was born in the ghettos out of oppression that is why you can hear the tinges of sorrow in the music. Maybe that is what drew so many to it: Bob Marley & The Wailers, Toot's & The Maytals
70's: Reggae goes global & Bands begin to form outside Jamaica: Most of Bob Marley's work that you have heard has come from this decade. Also Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, toward the end of the decade Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Steele Pulse (U.K.) were formed though their most famous works belong to the 80's. Also early Punk bands in London & the U.K. began playing reggae songs in there sets. An insight into this decade can be seen in the 1977 film Roots, Rock Reggae Inside the Jamaican Music Scene.
For now that's plenty and should give you a brief but solid understanding of Reggae. I'll come back later & we can briefly go over the 80's to today.
updated by @stingrey: 07/23/15 03:09:00AM