The song was directed to the "Rude Boys" of the ghettos of Jamaica at the time, sending them a message to cool down or "Simmer Down" with all the violence and crime going on in Kingston. The subject matter of "Simmer Down" made The Wailers stand out amongst their contemporaries. The Wailers at this time contained Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Cherry Smith and Beverley Kelso. It was Bob Marley's first hit and his career as a song writer and performer took off from there.
Although "Simmer Down" was a hit, Peter Tosh, one of the three original Wailers, has said in an interview that he hated it.