it's been 34 years today that robert nesta marley died in miami from the cancer that had plagued him since hurting his toe in a game of soccer. bob was only 36 but he had changed the face of world music like no other single artist. in the time since his death he has become an icon for third world struggles.
i remember buying 'catch a fire' at smith's records in the lakeside mall, (the 1st american wailers lp, the one that looked like a zippo lighter, very cool), and being absorbed by the smokey rhythms and haunting songs like 'concrete jungle' and 'stop that train'. they sounded like they were from another planet.
i couldn't get enough reggae from then on, going to see 'the harder they come' over and over at the old gentilly theatre, looking for singles and lps in the import bins around town, catching any band that blew thru town and having frequent rasta parties.
three albums of the best reggae ever are 'burnin' and lootin'', 'natty dread', and 'rastaman vibration'. they make up the story of the wailers as soul rebels to marley becoming more spiritual and worldly.
we went to catch the wailers at the warehouse on may 7, 1978 and it was such a great show. it was an opium den with all the smoke from the spliffs, and the band was like a traveling circus with kids, dogs and others littering the stage, and huge banners of haile selassie covering the walls. at one point i found myself between two rasta lookin' guys who had a spliff the size of my leg. i just took a deep breath, smiled and drifted off to my krewe boppin to 'rebel music'.
in the late 80's i was in the carribean and everywhere i went there was bob's face or music. i was amazed at how big he had gotten since he died. he really is like elvis to the rest of the world.
it seems to me now that reggae sorta died when bob did. it turned into dancehall later, which is more like rap than reggae. it stopped being important, it didn't matter anymore.
there are some good bands, even his children, ziggy marley and the melody makers, are very good. but the movement lost all the direction that bob had given it. reggae lost it's soul that day.
the wailers in rotterdam 1978 34 min (real stream)
short video on bob marley (from the bbc)
recommended reading: catch a fire (by timothy white)