70th anniversary of Bob’s Marley birthday
“My father had a true revolutionary spirit that continues to inspire and empower people of all ages and ethnicities,” Cedella Marley, music legend Bob Marley’s oldest child, who is also a singer, dancer, actress, fashion designer and the CEO of the Marley Family recording label Tuff Gong, told me recently in reflecting on her father’s legacy. “The message of the music doesn’t have an expiration date. Every generation is hearing it with fresh ears and connecting with the music in a new way.”
Bob Marley, who died in May 1981 after a battle with cancer, would have turned 70 this month, on February 6th, but his music is more present than ever. The most followed deceased entertainer, with more than 70 million Facebook followers, not to mention a healthy series of business enterprises bearing his name, Marley’s message of both peace and revolution continues to speak to people of all backgrounds.
“At any time, you might find a teenager in the Midwest listening to Bob, or a retired couple jammin’ to the same track on their boat in the Caribbean, while a teenager in Ghana is listening to his every word,” Cedella says.
“People think that the most famous musician in the world, or recognized musician, might be John Lennon or Bono or Mick Jagger or something like that, but it ain’t,” says the filmmaker Don Letts, who knew Bob Marley during his days living in the UK in the late-70s. “Trust me. It’s Bob Marley.” ….
Marley’s son Ziggy … gives credit to the musicians Marley surrounded himself with.
“Bob and the Wailers were very influenced by James Brown and Curtis Mayfield and the stuff that was happening in the ’60s,” Ziggy Marley says. “They were influenced by a lot of what was going on in America, but they twisted it in such a way that they weren’t imitating it. They used it as a point of reference, but these guys were intent musicians. They were musicians not in terms of technical education but in terms of listening and understanding sounds, spaces, and how things drop and the way things fall. It’s very interesting, Bob surrounded himself with great musicians but I believe one of the most important things was that they all believed in the same thing. They all believed in a certain philosophy and way of life. They were a unit. They were a tight unit who had the same ideas, the same kind of way of life that they wanted to live. One guy wasn’t running off doing one thing and another guy running off doing another. That created a very tight, together sound. I think that was very important. It’s hard to find that today, where a group of guys are just able to work like that and have the same feeling about things. There’s much more to these guys than we sometimes give them credit for.” …
“A lot of people would like to condense him to the idea of love and peace,” Marley says of his father. “But Bob is deeper than love and peace. Those were things he spoke about and sang about, but they weren’t the only things he spoke about and sang about. Bob was a revolutionary. He was a person who wanted social justice in a real sense, in a real physical sense. There’s a lot more to it than the whole ‘Bob Marley, love and peace and smoke weed.’ That’s not it at all. No. It’s deep! It’s all right for some people to pass it off as that. But it’s much deeper. And the message is always relevant. ‘Get up, stand up for your rights’? ‘One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right’? It’s all still very relevant.” …
“For me, and I’m sure for many people, the music is so consistently impactful,” Marley says. “The album Survival and tracks like “Africa Unite”, that was my awakening of my Afro-centric, militant, rebellious part of me. And Kaya, too. For me it’s not songs, it’s albums. When I listen to my father’s music, I don’t listen to it in terms of songs. I listen to it in terms of albums.
“As things progressed over the years, Kaya(released in 1978) sounded so different, the mix and the sound of it,” Marley goes on. “There’s something about that album. The sound is just very eerie and misty and sexy. It’s nice. I like that. “Is This Love” is on that album. A great song. Then there are other songs, like “Concrete Jungle,” that have such a heavy sound. And “Burnin’ and Lootin’.” That song has such an intense reality to it. But that album wasn’t that well-received by critics, who thought that the album was like a sell-out and not reggae or roots enough. But I like that, because Bob does what he wants to do. Bob’s music is Bob’s music. You can’t really nail it down to roots reggae or something. It’s Bob’s reggae. Bob has his own sound. In the world of reggae, Bob’s reggae sounds different than another reggae artist’s. It doesn’t sound the same.”
Cedella Marley sums it up well.
“I think the words are just as applicable today as they were when he wrote them,” she says of her father’s message. “If he were here today I’m sure he would continue to try and encourage the world to unite in peace and justice.” …
“I know that a lot of people think they know so much about him, but as his son, I can see what he went through internally with his music and with his life,” Ziggy Marley reflects. “There’s a lot of glory, but it was not his glory. There were battles. There were struggles. There were indecisions and decisions. There was a lot going on that was going on at the time and that a lot of people might not even think about. For them he’s just a great legend; Bob Marley the legend. There’s a lot more that went on and that goes on, you know? I mean he used to work very hard. And I think he would kind of sacrifice himself. He was like one of those John the Baptist types people from history, sacrificing himself for his cause, for his message. He was that figure for his time. For the modern time. He was totally obligated to the idea that what he was doing was a mission from God. It wasn’t like something that he thought he was just making up to believe in. For him it was true. It was real. It was not fantasy. For us it is real too. In his time, and for me, that is what he really represents. It’s even bigger than the idea of the legend. There’s a bigger thing to that that I see. I hope others see it, too.