When my generation speaks of Bob Marley, it is with a reverence reserved for prophets and religious icons. None of us remember the world without him, but we’ve been robbed of seeing him walk and talk among us. We were just too little when he died.
I, quite simply, feel cheated because he passed away before I could understand how important he was. By the time I was old enough to ‘get’ why he was so great, he was already gone. Long gone.
This man ‘born behind the bush’ in St. Ann’s, Jamaica had such an amazing effect on the face of the Caribbean, that almost twenty years after his death, we still speak of him as a living entity and his music has only grown stronger and more deeply felt with each year.
My love of Bob’s music, has as much to do with the uniquely Caribbean sound, as with the clarity with which his words define conditions that still exist. When he sings about liberation, for me it doesn’t just mean we have to find political liberation, but underlying all there is a call to liberate the soul.
He speaks of disparities between classes and colours, yet they could easily mean working a difficult relationship with mother, father, teacher, people at school/work, boyfriends/girlfriends whatever. His music illustrates the struggle for humanity as more than just one of a political black and/or political white. Bob makes life’s struggles anthemic. A call to fight not just social injustice, but everyday human injustices as well.
Who doesn’t feel it in their bones when he sings, “Many people will fight you down/when you see Jah light/Let me tell you if you’re not wrong/Then everything is alright/We’re going to walk/Through the rows of creation/We the generation/Fight through great tribulation.”
The fervor I have for Bob’s music, the passion with which I’ve read biography after biography, article after article, and the hours I’ve spent just listening to his words and voice, have led me to a very personal feeling towards the man. I feel he has been one of the Caribbean’s greatest contributors to the musical, political, social climate.
I listen to the many artistes, blasted regularly from the radio, who sing ‘conscious lyrics’; I listen to them proselytize about ‘right now’, but they don’t have the same charisma Bob had. They don’t touch me to the very core of my being with a few beautifully turned phrases, igniting both a spiritual and intellectual fire. To illustrate a point: Garnet Silk, never got me out of my bed in the morning, but ‘Three Little Birds’ has seen me through many a rough day.
With the new ‘Chant Down Babylon’ CD making the local airwaves throb, I think it’s a great idea what young Stephen did—pairing his father’s voice with the young contemporary, urban voices. However, more of the original would have been what was needed. Bob created for us, music that continues to resonate with both social and emotional impact.
Tuff Gong: a ganja-burning, dreadlocked, revolutionary with the ethereal voice, and the passionate guitar, marked my life with both songs of anger and songs of redemption. And I miss him with every part of me that loves the underdog, the rebellious, the ones who don’t take the road everyone else treads, and that’s the truth.
Happy birthday, preacher man; Brother Bob.
First Published Feb. 05th. 2000