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Soulful Sundays: Bob Marley

Bob Marley, photo from the Internet

I thought I knew every song that Bob Marley released. But on a visit to the Bob Marley museum in Kingston, I heard a song I didn’t recognize and heard it again at the premiere on Thursday of the latest documentary on the life of the Rastaman and reggae icon appropriately titled, Marley (more about that later). I kick myself now because I should have asked the name, now I can’t even remember the melody.

Bob Marley, photo from the Internet

Bob Marley, photo from the Internet

But anyway, it prompted me to think of featuring Bob as this week’s Soulful Sunday performer. Surprisingly, I hadn’t done that before though I’ve written about him in previous posts.

I saw Bob once at a concert in Montreal sometime in 1980. I don’t remember much about the evening, except that we had lousy seats — I could hardly see him when he came on stage and we left shortly after so that my boyfriend could make the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Ottawa to get some sleep before going to work the next day. A few months later, we heard that Bob was sick. The next news was that he’d died.

Robert Nesta Marley was born in St. Ann on February 6, 1945 in Nine Miles, St. Ann, Jamaica. Bob was always interested in music and decided to concentrate on his music after a brief stint as a welder’s apprentice. At 16, Desmond Dekker introduced him to Jimmy Cliff who in turn introduced him to producer, Leslie Kong for who Bob recorded his first singles, Judge Not, Terror and One More Cup of Coffee. None of the singles became hits and Bob left Kong, who’d only paid him $2 for his work.

In 1963, Bob and Bunny Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer), his childhood friend, began taking lessons from Joe Higgs who introduced him to Peter McIntosh. The three became good friends and later formed The Wailing Wailers. The group also included Junior Braithwaite (d. 1999), Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith (d. 2008).

The group’s collaboration with Clement “Coxsone” Dodd produced their first hit, Simmer Down, which sold 80,000 copies. They also recorded an early version of One Love, which was voted Song of the Century in 2009.

Bob, the Rastaman

Bob Marley was, without a doubt, the most well known Rastafarian there is. He became a Rastaman following the visit of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie to Jamaica in 1966. Through his music and his uncompromising stance, he legitimized Rastafarians, and when he sang about the plight of the poor in Jamaica, he touched poor people everywhere. Bob literally and figuratively brought the ghetto (Trench Town, where he grew up) and Rastafarians uptown (Hope Road where he lived and had his studio), to the other side of Jamaican society.

It’s difficult for me to select a Bob song that’s my favorite as I have many. Here are a few: War (from a speech by HIM, Haile Selassie I to the UN in October, 1963 – excerpt below) and Burnin’ and Lootin‘.

Excerpt of HIM’s speech, which Bob used verbatim in War:

“…until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil…”

Bob not only quoted from Selassie, he borrowed from Marcus Garvey as well as he did in Redemption Song when he sang, Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind. – Marcus Garvey, October, 1937

Bob, the Loverman

Bob wasn’t just about revolution however. His soft side can be heard in two of my favorites, Waiting in Vain and Turn Your Lights Down Low.

Enjoy!

Soulful Sundays: Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller left long before he was able to share with the world all the music he had in him. He died tragically in a car accident in March, 1980.

Jacob Miller

Soulful Sundays; Jacob Miller

A prolific musician, Miller was leader singer of the reggae band, Inner Circle (of Bad Boys fame) and worked on several solo projects. He and the band were preparing for an American tour with Bob Marley when he died. He was only 27 years old.

Miller was a fun, playful person, whose onstage performances were always energetic. Despite his heft, he was electrifying on stage, moving around with the agility of someone half his size. He was also known to be always ready with a joke. But there was no joke about his music.

Miller made his first recording in 1968 with well known Jamaican producer, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and recorded several singles before signing on as lead singer with Inner Circle. Tenement Yard, was his first hit song with the band.

 

Soulful Sundays: Third World

Third World

I’ve seen Third World perform so many times, I’ve lost count. They are the only act I can say that about. The first time in Washington, DC, my friends and I went to see them and during the intermission, two of us decided to move closer to the stage. Isn’t that where all the cool people hang out?

Reggae band Third World

Reggae band Third World

Well, we were so close that the next day, I could still hear the constant bzzzzz from the speakers. It took a few days for my hearing to get back to normal and I swore I’d never get that close to speakers again – and I haven’t.

The reggae band Third World was formed in 1973 by Michael “Ibo” Cooper (keyboardist) and Stephen “Cat” Coore (guitarist and cellist). With their mix of Rhythm & Blues, classical music and reggae, they still are unlike any other reggae band. They’ve worked and collaborated with The Jackson Five, Bob Marley and the Wailers and Stevie Wonder.

Third World has recorded more than 20 albums and produced several hits, including the two featured today – Try Jah Love, which was written by Stevie Wonder, and (1865) 96 Degrees in the Shade, a song about the 1865 slave rebellion in Morant Bay.

Despite several changes in their lineup – Cat Coore was later joined by “Bunny Rugs” Clarke,  Richard “Ritchie” Daley (bass), Lenworth “Ruption” Williams (drums), Maurice Gregory and Norris Webb (vocals) and a decline in their popularity around the 1980s, the band continues to perform including at this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Their most recent album, Patriots, features collaborations with Toots Hibbert, Marcia Griffiths, the late Gregory Isaacs, Tarrus Riley, and Stephen and Damian Marley among many others.

The 10 time Grammy nominated reggae band has received numerous awards including the United Nations Peace Medal (1986), the Jamaica Music Industry Award for Best Show Band (1992 and 1996).

Take a listen to another version of (1865) 96 Degrees in the Shade.

 

 

Soulful Sundays: Ken Boothe

Ken Boothe, photo from the Internet

I listen to music a lot, I wouldn’t say all the time but pretty regularly. As I cleaning up around the house yesterday, I let iTunes DJ set the mood.

Ken Boothe, photo from the Internet

Ken Boothe, photo from the Internet

At first, the music was jazzy and breezy, then it took a sharp turn into old school reggae with a Ken Boothe song, Everything I Own that took me back, way back. I stopped what I was doing and listened.

You sheltered me from harm

Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Was all the years I had with you

And I would give anything I own



Give up my life, my heart, my home

And I would give anything I own
Just to have you back again



If there’s someone you know
That won’t let you go
And taking it all for granted
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away

And you don’t hear a word they say



And I would give anything I own

Give up my life, my heart, my home

And I would give anything I own

Just to have you back again
Just to talk to you, words again

If there’s someone you know

That won’t let you go

And taking it all for granted
You may lose them one day

Someone take them away
And you don’t hear a word they say



And I would give anything I own
Give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give anything I own
Just to have you back again
Just to talk to you, words again
Just to hold you, once again

I thought of the lyrics which are so simple and yet so profound. Everything I Own, was written by an American, David Gates. It was a hit in Jamaica and reached Number One on the UK Singles chart in 1974. An interesting fact about the song –  instead of singing it as written, Boothe sang Anything I Own.

Boothe, who has been performing since the 1950s, has recorded more than 25 albums and compilations. Another of Boothe’s hits which he also wrote, The Train is Coming was featured in the movie, Money Train.

Ken Boothe was born in Kingston in 1948. In 2003, the government of Jamaica awarded him an Order of Distinction (OD) for his contribution to Jamaican music.