The first image of Bob Marley I can remember was a printed fabric flag that covered the entire bedroom window of a second floor apartment in the complex where my friend Jeff lived and delivered newspapers. I sometimes helped him and remember a Hendrix poster in one window and the Bob Marley fabric in another. At that time I wasn’t familiar with his music or his scene but the image was a common one and I stored it in the memory banks. That was junior high in Michigan.
In High School I learned about Marley, unfortunately, from the stoners. Ganga man. That was all they seemed to take from the experience. No one really related to me the musicality of Marley. I decided he wasn’t for me.
I think that the frame of mind that I viewed Marley with couldn’t make sense of the few songs that I eventually heard on the radio. I liked them. I think it was The Clash (Black Market Clash had some great reggae tracks and one dub even) that actually opened my mind to Reggae and allowed me to overcome the ganga madness that I imagined it to be and try out a Marley album I happen to come across at the public library. They had a copy of “Bob Marley and The Wailers – Exodus”. I grabbed it and put it in my pile of check outs like it was a porn magazine. Hey I KNOW people at the library. They’ll talk.
Exodus was as you already surmise… amazing.
I loved this album. It was very positive and upbeat, semi-political and religious, but not so much that it overpowered the music. It had just the right mix of social awareness and mellowness. It was a very very pleasant surprise for me. Yes, there was an undercurrent of ganga here and there, but it was not like listening to Cypress Hill. I found myself being careful about suddenly proclaiming my new found Marley love at school. No one I knew liked Marley for the music and not the ganga.
So I kept it quiet.
I also plumbed the library for the rest of the Marley they had. They also had “Uprising”, “Babylon By Bus” and “Survival”.
“Survival” may be my favorite Bob Marley of all time. Not ONE of these songs you will hear on radio. I love Marley, but it seems that only 4 songs were ever released to radio. Ugh. Eventually, even great songs like “Exodus” and “No Woman No Cry” and “Three Little Birds” end up on the .38 Special funeral pyre. These are the songs that are good, but are played TO DEATH and the very edge of extinction. Remember “Hang On Loosely”? I remember liking it once. Now when I hear the first couple bars I am reaching for the dial and remembering why I never listen to the radio anymore (except college radio – but that’s another story). “Survival” was solid throughout and was my go to album. I listened to this and “Exodus” pretty regularly at bedtime. A nice mellow easy-tone fade out to the day. I can’t say that I ever understood Rastafarianism, but I am sure that you don’t have to understand it to enjoy the music.
In my college days I ended up having almost every Bob Marley on vinyl (alas gone now) and post college I had “Legend” on CD.
When I discovered that the South Central library system had almost every studio release I checked each and every one out.
When I discovered Further.net I loaded up on Bob Marley bootlegs. He is a great performer live as well. He isn’t studio enhanced for the most part so when you hear him in concert he is strong and true to what you expect. “Babylon By Bus” is a great record of his live work. Start with that.
Bob Marley had been with me for a long time. He is on my Top 5 People To See Live List, but of course I missed my chance.
Recently, at the grocery store I spotted Bob smiling at me from the soda aisle. I had to look. There is a whole series of beverages with his picture on it. Iced coffees and energy drinks and I had to get one. I’m not sure Bob would be proud of his image being used to promote this stuff.
I can see his infomercial for this in my head.
I drank it and it was not bad. Meh. Nothing I would buy again. Then I noticed the warning on the back. I quote: “This product may cause drowsiness. Do not exceed 2 cans daily, consumed several hours apart. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery after consuming the product. Do not mix with alcohol.“
Now that is cool and mellow man.
I was asleep by 8:30 that night in a drooling lump. It was a long day.
“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”
― Bob Marley