Tuesday, February 2, 2010
#9 The Rasta Renegade.... Bob Marley
Bob Marley was and still is the undisputed king of Reggae music. He was a revolutionary with the soul of a prophet and the heart of a poet. His message and his music has had and continues to have a massive impact on people of all races throughout the entire world. He grew up in total poverty in one of the poorest areas of Jamaica and went on to become the first ever third world super star. He personally made sure that hundreds if not thousands of his fellow Jamaicans were fed each day, setting up a large free soup kitchen near his home. To many in his home country, he was the archetypal hero figure. To the world he was a musical legend and so much more. His untimely departure from this world at the age of 36, came at a time when his vision of 'One World, One Love' that was inspired by his belief in Rastafari, was beginning to be heard and felt. The last Bob Marley and the Wailers tour in 1980 attracted the largest audiences at that time for any musical act in Europe. Today, some 30 years later, his audience continues to widen: to most of us westerners, Bob's apocalyptic truths prove inspirational and often life-changing; in the Third World his impact goes much further. Not just among Jamaicans, but also the Hopi Indians of New Mexico and the Maoris of New Zealand, in Indonesia and India, and especially in those parts of West Africa from which slaves were kidnapped and taken to the New World, Bob is seen as a redeemer figure returning from the mists with each song to reclaim their honor, dignity and freedom. He is the ultimate symbol of racial tolerance (being born half white and half black) and though his timeless message of unity and peace and love.
To me, his music was pure rock, in the sense that it was a publicly voiced expression of his private truth. Reggae music and Bob's music in particular reach down to the deepest parts of my soul and affect me on an intense level. Reggae has always been a part of my life. My parents played it almost continuously the entire time my mom was pregnant with me. They named me after Peter Tosh (Bob's band mate in the reggae supergroup 'The Wailers') and they named my younger sister Marly (after Bob although they took out the 'e'). The sounds of albums 'Catch A Fire' and 'Burnin' reach back to my most primal and early memories. Those were the two albums I was rocked to sleep to almost every night for the first year of my life. For me, I feel that purity and joy of being an infant every time I hear Bob's music and it makes me feel like all will be right in the world. Others find the music affecting them for all kinds of reasons just as valid. With minimal effort you can pick out the component parts of which the myth of Bob Marley is comprised: the sadness, the love, the understanding, the God given talent. Those are facts, although it is sometimes said that there are no facts in Jamaica (Bob was quoted saying "Facts an' facts, an' t'ings an' t'ings: Dem's all a lotta fockin' Bullshit. Hear Me! Dere is no truth but de one truth, an' that is de truth of Jah Rastafari"). There is one more thing of which we can be certain: Bob Marley never wrote a bad song. He left behind the most remarkable body of recorded work. "The reservoir of music he has left behind is like an encyclopedia," says Judy Mowatt of the I-Threes. "When you need to refer to a certain situation or crisis, there will always be a Bob Marley song that will relate to it. Bob was a musical prophet."
To really tell the story of Bob I would have to write a book, so I suggest if you want to know more, check out the biography 'CATCH A FIRE: THE LIFE OF BOB MARLEY' by Timothy White. Tim had the opportunity to interview Bob many times and had a lot of access to him and his world throughout the years. It is a terrific biography and also contains a lot on Jamaican culture and history as well as the history of the Rastafarian religion. I highly recommend it if you want a thorough history on the whole story. The book is the size of a dictionary and aside from the story has included awesome info on discographies and brief bios of some of the other major players.
Aside from the lyrics, Bob's songs are musically as amazing as their message. The sticky accenting of the off beat, the heavy bass tones , the rhythmic drumming that melts in your ears like honey, and the kinky, punchy guitars merge together with the vocal harmonies beautifully in a way no other genre of music had done before. The music just flows out of the speakers at you and moves your soul until the body follows. Bob put it well in the song 'Trench Town Rock' "One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain".
Bob Marley is recognized by Time magazine as being the most influential artist of the last century. His posthumous compilation album 'Legend' has sold over 20 million copies worldwide (lets face it pretty much everyone on earth owns a copy at this point). He also pretty much created his own musical legacy in the form of his eleven children (the majority of whom have gone on to have successful musical careers). His sons Stephen Marley and Ziggy Marley recently won grammies for their respective albums at the start of 2010.
- 11 kids (although I have heard that number could be around 23 in actuality)
- Bob's views on peace and equality so scared his Jamaican government that they tried to assassinate him in 1976.
- The heirs of Halle Selassie believed in Bob so much that they gave him the emperor's ring which was fabled to be the biblical 'Ring of Solomon'. That ring is now entombed with Bob in his tomb/shrine in Jamaica.
- The last words of Bob were to his son Ziggy. They were "Money can't buy you life"
- The lyrics 'Every man got a right to decide his own destiny' rang so true. Bob decided against amputation of his toe when it became cancerous due to his belief in Rastafaria which is strictly against amputation. Unfortunatley for us, that decision cost him his life.
My Fave Album:
Everyone already owns a copy of Legend so I'm gonna go into something more obscure.
Catch A Fire is a dynamite album by the ultimate reggae super group of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. For me, the three of them could never top the music they made together. It is very similar to the way the Beatles members never created the kind of work they did as a team. While I love Bob, he was at times a little soft and I love to describe the dynamic as 'Bob was the Paul McCartney to Peter's John Lennon'. The sound of this album is so amazing you just have to experience it. One of the greatest records of all time, and one that always reaches right down into my soul every time I listen to it. I would recommend this album to anyone who has already heard a bit of Bob but wants to get at the stuff beyond the super hits on Legend. They holy trinity of Bob, Peter and Bunny can't be beat here. They are so amazing together it's a shame they only released this album and 'Burnin', before splitting up to got their separate ways.
Dig this early video, it has all the original Wailers in it ( you can see Peter in the tuque and Bunny in the crazy hat). This video shows exactly what I mean about perfect vocal harmonies. I only wish that the video didn't cut off like it does, it loses the last few seconds and I couldnt find a better one but the video is still awesome. This song contains my fave guitar solo of all time, it is so funky sunglasses will appear on your face and dreads will sprout from your head. This is the good stuff my friends.