One Love: The Ultimate Playlist
IN THIS IMAGE: Bob Marley/ART CREDIT: Naydene Gonnella
Remembering Bob Marley at Seventy-Four
THE iconic Bob Marley would have been seventy-four today...
IN THIS PHOTO: Bob Marley captured in 1980/PHOTO CREDIT: © Lynn Goldsmith
and, whilst he died tragically young (only thirty-six), his impact on music is obvious. There have been few artists able to make such an impression in such a short life – I can only think of John Lennon off the top of my head! Marley’s distinct and powerful sound helped bring Reggae to the masses and his voice is eternal. You only need hear a few seconds of a Bob Marley song and know you will be seduced, amazed and educated. Whether solo or playing with his Wailers, there is a huge catalogue of material out there. I only discovered Bob Marley when I was in middle school and, whilst that may sound young, there are those who were exposed to his music even earlier. I think the first track of his that sticks in the mind is Iron Lion Zion. I love its energy and how catchy it is but, years later, I went back and explored its messages and symbolism. Marley was not an artist who wrote songs and simply wanted them to be chart hits that people could bop to: his words were like political and religious sermons; a chance to unite people and raise awareness. Not only were there political intents but religious and spiritual ones. Whilst I am not an aficionado when it comes to Reggae and aware of a lot of the racial tensions that Marley speaks of; I could easily emphasise and attach myself to his music.
1977’s Exodus is one of my favourite albums and songs such as Jamming, Waiting in Vain and Three Little Birds are classics. That album was the ninth from Bob Marley and the Wailers and followed an association attempt. Marley fled Jamaica and arrived in London; the album was recorded after one of the most stressful and frightening experiences of Marley’s life yet there is so much peace, love and togetherness. This album especially resonated with the critics. If Marley had strayed more away from specific political messages and a focused vision; more towards a more general vibe of love and togetherness, that did not make the music any less spectacular – as AllMusic state in this review:
“Thematically, Exodus represented a subtle but significant shift for Marley; while he continued to speak out against political corruption and for freedom and equality for Third World people, his lyrics dealt less with specifics and more with generalities and the need for peace and love (though "So Much Things to Say," "Guiltiness," and "The Heathen" demonstrate the bullets had taken only so much sting out of Marley's lyrics). And while songs like "Exodus" and "One Love/People Get Ready" were anthemic, they also had less to say than the more pointed material from Marley's earlier albums...
IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify
However, if Marley had become more wary in his point of view (and not without good cause), his skill as a songwriter was as strong as ever, and Exodus boasted more than a few classics, including the title song, "Three Little Birds," "Waiting in Vain," and "Turn Your Lights Down Low," tunes that defined Marley's gift for sounding laid-back and incisive at once. His gifts as a vocalist were near their peak on these sessions, bringing a broad range of emotional color to his performances, and this lineup of the Wailers -- anchored by bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett, drummer Carlton Barrett, and guitarist Julian "Junior" Murvin -- is superb, effortlessly in the pocket throughout. Exodus was recorded at a time when Bob Marley was learning about the unexpected costs of international stardom, but it hadn't yet sapped his creative strengths, and this is one of the finest albums in his stellar catalog”.
The music and legacy of Bob Marley means a lot of different things to different people. It is clear Marley made a huge impact on the world and certainly changed it for the better. As I said earlier, we often jump to Bob Marley when defining what Reggae is and the power it holds. This article from The Conversation explains in more detail:
“If there is anything that is to be associated with reggae music, the Afrocentric religion of Rastafari, or the Caribbean island of Jamaica, the first name that comes to mind is Bob Marley. Despite this, the reality that the world often tends to associate Marley with is far different from the one he grew up in more than 70 years ago...
Marley lived in a Jamaica that had experienced more than 200 years of slavery and colonialism. This would have a great impact on him, considering that he was born from a white father and a black mother. The key to understanding Marley was not merely the music but the life experiences that played a part in shaping the individual and, ultimately, the music that the world would come to know”.
The article explores his background but also makes a good point regarding the depth of the music. Marley was not merely about getting the sound right and making a song chime on one level. His music was a way of conveying vital messages and he helped fight for causes, speak of religion and the need to come together. The Conversation article touches on this:
“Marley’s influence was not limited to simply making music for the sake of entertainment. He was most noted for using his music to spread the message of Rastafari. Rastafari is a phenomenon that began in the 1930s in response to a message given by Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey, who proclaimed that African people in the diaspora should look to Africa, where a black king would be crowned. It was here that they would find their redemption.
There are very few musicians in this present day that may claim to use their music to fight for causes that Marley may have fought for. Marley did not only speak about love and unity among all mankind as seen in his 1977 song One Love. He also spoke about the sufferings of the world in his songs. These include So Much Trouble in the World, Burnin’ and Lootin’, Johnny Was and War. This is what has made Marley not just relevant to his time but to ours as well”.
We all have our list of favourite Bob Marley/Wailers tracks and I have ended with a playlist – I hope I have covered the bases! Whilst Marley did die young, he made this enormous impression on music and, throughout his career, he was making music that reflected the violence and division around him. This piece talks about the legendary One Love Peace Concert in 1978:
“On April 22 1978 at The National Stadium in Kingston, the One Love Peace Concert, or 'Third World Woodstock' as it was known, took place in front of 32,000 spectators.
The violence was so out-of-control in Kingston at the time that there was a ban on the sale of oranges at the festival. Authorities feared they'd be used as weapons.
During the concert, under a full moon, Marley improvised while performing his song Jammin' and spontaneously summoned the Prime Minister, Manley, and the opposing leader, Seaga, to join him on stage.
"I'm not so good at talking but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.
"Well, I'm trying to say, could we have, could we have, up here onstage here the presence of Mr. Michael Manley and Mr. Edward Seaga. I just want to shake hands and show the people that we're gonna make it right, we're gonna unite, we're gonna make it right, we've got to unite.
"The moon is right over my head, and I give my love instead. The moon was right above my head, and I give my love instead," Marley said”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I can’t think of that many artists who have done so much to progress music and advance certain genres/spiritual movements. I wonder what Marley would make of the modern world and whether he would still be making music. I’d like to think the man would be, in his seventies, jamming away and putting the world to rights! He would be attacking Donald Trump and the hate in the world and I wonder whether Trump would have even been elected had Marley lived longer and written more! We need a figure like Bob Marley now more than ever and, whilst there are some potent songwriters who can unite us, nobody was able to project the same power as Marley! His songs are timeless and his themes of peace, love and acceptance will never die. We need to hold onto his music and use it to help inform the world and make it a better place. That may sound sappy but that is all Marley wanted; he wanted to highlight tensions and discrimination but help bring about change and understanding through peaceful means. Bob Marley was a political leader and god-like icon; a true hero that made us all smile and feel better. As we remember him on his seventy-fourth birthday, have a listen to the playlist below and realise what a hugely important figure...
BOB Marley is.