I’m not going to do it justice, but I have to pay a little tribute to one of my biggest musical heroes, Bob Marley, since it’s his birthday today.
I love his music and always will. His songs also speak to me in a very deep way. He didn’t turn me into a Rasta, but did spark an attitude of righteous rebellion in my heart. I might look like the biggest square on the planet and I probably go along to get along more than I should, but inside I will always be a bit of a rebel, or at least a subversive. The folks in charge might be able to force me to do certain things, but they can’t have my mind!
I didn’t discover Bob’s music until after I got out of college. In fact, I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I discovered his son Ziggy’s music first. I had a cassette of Conscious Party, which I loved and played over and over. Nothing wrong with that. It’s actually a damn good album and Ziggy is a worthy musician who has won five Grammys.
But when I finally decided to check out Bob’s music a whole world opened up for me. I liked the sound of reggae before that, but it didn’t mean anything to me. It just seemed like another kind of rock ‘n’ roll. I started with Burnin’ and got completely hooked, buying one album after another. And at some point the lyrics started to sink in and change my way of thinking.
“Jah come to breakdown downpression, rule equality, wipe away transgression, and set the captives free…” (“Exodus,” from the album of the same name).
“If you are the big tree, we are the small axe, sharpin’ to cut you down…” (“Small Axe” from Burnin’).
“Never make a politician grant you a favor. They will always want to control you forever” (“Revolution” from Natty Dread)
Powerful stuff. Probably the reason I’m more of a libertarian politically than the right wing conservative I probably would’ve turned out to be otherwise.
After Bob, I found other greats like Toots & the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and Burning Spear. I saw Burning Spear in concert and he blew me away. I got into rocksteady and discovered Desmond Dekker, Alton Ellis, Phyllis Dillon. I delved into ska and found the Skatalites. All of that opened my mind to world music in general, and soon I was exploring music from Africa, Brazil, the Middle East, you name it.
My favorite Bob Marley albums are: Catch A Fire, Burnin’, Exodus and Natty Dread. (I listened to Kaya and Rastaman Vibration years ago and didn’t like them enough to buy them. Uprising also seemed a bit weak – bought the CD but haven’t played it much. But at some point I’ll give them another listen and see if I feel differently.)
My favorite song from my favorite Wailers album.