OK in fact I’m late with this one, the late and exceptionally great Robert Nesta Marley would have been 64 on 6th February. Although his passport actually stated April 6th. His father was an English army Captain, Norval Sinclair Marley originally from Liverpool in the UK. So not only are the Beatles roots in Liverpool, so are Bob Marley’s!
Sadly he succumbed to cancer on May 11th 1981 aged just 36. The disease began after he injured a toe playing football (soccer to those of you across the big pond) allegedly following a tackle from Journalist/ Broadcaster Danny Baker. His Rastafarian beliefs meant he refused to have the toe amputated, this might have saved him.
I became a Bob Marley fan quite early I suppose, probably around 1972 when Johnny Nash released his excellent “I Can See Clearly Now” album. What’s Johhny Nash got to do with it I hear you say? Well Mr Nash, as far as I am aware had the first UK and US hit with a Marley song, “Stir It Up”. This song dear friends was the first Bob Marley song I ever heard when it hit the UK charts in 1972 when I had just become a fully fledged teenage delinquent. On the “I Can See Clearly Now” album Johnny also covered three more Marley songs “Guava Jelly”, “Comma Comma” and “You Poured Sugar On Me”. You can see Bob singing “Stir It Up” here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6U-TGahwvs
The anorak in me meant that I always read the names of the composer and tried to find out more about them, so I started searching for the then elusive Marley When I eventually found out who he was I was really impressed I borrowed the “Catch A Fire” album from one of my school friends older brothers. Of course I made the obligatory (in those days anyway) cassette tape of the album and played it so much it wore out.
Eventually I bought my first Bob album in 1975, that was “Live At The Lyceum” and to this day that remains one of my favourite Marley albums. It contains, for me, the definitive version of the classic song “No Woman No Cry” definitely one of my all time favourites. It only managed number 22 in the UK charts though. This is one of the songs I want played at my funeral, maybe that will be an upcoming blog theme, songs for funerals. What do you think?
There is a great story behind the song too. When Marley was a struggling musician he was often helped out by a man called Vincent Ford who ran a soup kitchen in Kingston Jamaica. In return for all that assistance Bob gave Vincent Ford the writing credits for “No Woman No Cry”. Now that is generosity! Another thing that often gets misconstrued about the song is the meaning of title. It is written and sung as it would be spoken in Jamaican patois. It doesn’t mean he won’t cry because he doesn’t have a woman, Marley is asking his woman not to cry.
Check it out yourself and let me know what you think http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u2GpQzEu3Y
Bob Marley was often described as the first Third World Superstar and he certainly lived up to that with his support of change in Africa and indeed the politics of his home, Jamaica. In fact he was seen as such a strong and influential figure that an attempt was made on his life on December 3rd 1976. Shortly afterwards he went into self-imposed exile from Jamaica for around 16 months. On his return in April 1978 he and the Wailers headlined the “One Love Peace Concert” in Kingston where he famously united the then Prime Minister Michael Manley and his political opponent Edward Seaga. He probably would have had a lot to say about the current horrible state of affairs in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. probably more so than many of today’s spineless political leaders. In fact Marley played live with the Wailers at the Zimbabwe Independence celebrations in April 1980
Marley was father to 13 children some of whom have followed him into the music business. Stephen, Damian and Ziggy with a good degree of success.
Another Marley favourite for me is “Punky Reggae Party” which first appeared as the B Side to the “Jammin” single in the UK in February 1978. He tried to sum up how close punk and reggae had become in the UK during 1976/77. A great party tune and as a bonus he name checks a number of bands in the lyrics; the Wailers (obviously), the Maytals, Dr. Feelgood, the Damned, the Jam and the Clash (now they were truly a great band!). The song was co written with another reggae great, Lee “Scratch” Perry. Who also produced the Clash single “Complete Control”
I don’t have many regrets in my life, but one is that I didn’t take an opportunity to see Marley live in 1978. I was on a lads holiday in Spain in 1978 (you know the type – birds, booze, sun and sand) and Marley and the Wailers were playing in Barcelona which was just 30 minutes from our resort. There were tickets available but the holiday rep convinced us that we would get a serious beating from the mostly Spanish crowd, stupidly we took his advice and didn’t go
If you don’t have any Bob Marley in your collection I have one thing to say to you! Why? Go out and rectify things tomorrow, the best place to start would be to buy the Legend compilation. If you don’t have sufficient funds just sell all your Robbie Williams CD’s on E Bay, that should raise at least 5% of the cost if you’re lucky 🙂 You will come to know that I am not a fan of Robbies in anyway shape or form! You should check out the official Bob Marley page on MySpace too, you can hear four classic songs including his original version of “Stir It Up” which not only is a great song but also rather rude in a double entendre kind of way. “push the wood to light the fire” indeed 🙂 www.myspace.com/bobmarley
So to finish my first post here are a couple of great quotes from Mr Marley;
“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all” – I think we can all agree with that!
“Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction” – personally I’ve always preferred alcohol to weed, but to each their own!
“My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever” – he was right about that!
And finally a word from Bart Marley 🙂