Thu | Aug 16, 2018

Marley albums, songs feature many topics

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Bob Marley and The I-Threes performing.
Bob Marley (centre) urges Prime Minister Michael Manley (left) and Opposition leader Edward Seaga to shake hands at the One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium on April 22, 1978.
Chris Blackwell

One of the features of Reggae Month is the celebration of the life and times of the Reggae King -Bob Marley. He rose to the pinnacle of musical stardom in the mid-1970s, mainly through his collaborations with Island Record Boss, Chris Blackwell, which produced eight fantastic albums namely, - Catch a Fire, Burning, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Kaya, Survival and Uprising, in that order. They were released between 1973 and 1980.

The albums depicted revolution, prophesy, recipe for international racial harmony, and of course, love - a theme that ran throughout many of his recordings, and was perhaps best conveyed in the song of the millennium, One Love, the opening stanza of which ran:

'One love, One heart

Let's get together and feel all right.

Hear the children crying (One love)

Hear the children crying (One heart)

Saying: give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;

Saying: let's get together and feel all right'.

Demonstrating love of a different nature, and deviating from his hard-line stance on serious issues, Marley sometimes wandered into the areas of deep emotional romanticism in some of his recordings during the Chris Blackwell's eight-album blast of the 1970s. Stir it Up, taken from the first album, Catch a Fire, contained lyrics that would make one wonder if Marley's heart was on fire as he sang:

'Stir it up little darlin' stir it up, come on baby.

Come on and stir it up, little darling, stir it up.

It's been a long, long time

since I got you on my mind.

Now that you are here, I said it's so clear

There's so much we could do

baby, just me and you

come on and stir it up'.

Marley, who has fathered some 11 children and is well known for his courtship of women, began demonstrating these leanings in his music from the early days at Studio 1, when he recorded the powerful tearjerker titled, I'm Still Waiting. In it, he admits:

'My feet won't keep me up anymore, with every little beat my heart beats girl, it's at your door.

I just wanna love you, and I'm never gonna hurt you girl.

So why wont you come out to me girl.

Can't you see I'm under your spell'.

Other Marley's songs with the Wailers from that era on that topic included, Lonesome Feeling, Love and Affection, Just Another Dance, How Many Times, Love Won't Be Mine, and I don't need your Love, all done between 1964 and 1965.

Fast-forwarding again to the Chris Blackwell era of the 1970, we find two perfect examples of Marley's lighter side taken from the BBC's selected Album of the century - Exodus. In the song, Waiting in Vain, Marley seems in doubt as he sings:

'I don't want to wait in vain for your love.

From the very first time I blessed my eyes on you girl, my heart said follow through

But I know now I'm way down on your line but the waiting game is fine'.

In the meantime, his romantic urges soar to new levels on the recording, Turn Your Lights Down Low:

'Turn your lights down low, and pull your window curtains

Oh let Jah moon come shining in, into our lives again.

I wanna give you some loving, some good good loving

Turn your lights down low

Never try to resist, oh no'.

The album of love songs, - Kaya, contained, Is This Love, Satisfy my Soul, She's Gone and Misty Morning.

Marley demonstrated his recipe for racial harmony in recordings like War, from the album, Rastaman Vibration and Africa Unite, then there is Zimbabwe, from the album, Survival. They provided guidance and inspiration to world leaders in their efforts at dismantling apartheid and creating equality and justice for all. Marley was hailed in 1980 as a peace agent in Africa, when he was invited to perform at an epic concert, marking Zimbabwe's (formerly white-ruled Rhodesia) Independence. Two years earlier, Marley performed his famous heroics of joining the hands of the charismatic socialist incumbent PNP leader, Michael Manley, and the astutely conservative opposition JLP leader, Edward Seaga at a peace concert, as a symbolic gesture of peace between both political parties amid warring political factions.


Ultimate revolutionary


As we began to celebrate the 71st birth anniversary of Marley yesterday, we also remember him as the ultimate revolutionary - the man whose musical lyrics provided comfort, solace and hope for the downtrodden. Revolution, from Marley's first album with the I-Threes as backing vocalists, namely Natty Dread in 1974, clearly describes Marley's stance on this issue. Other recordings like, Redemption Song and We and Them from the 1980 album, Uprising; Get up, stand Up, from the 1973 released album, Burnin'; Survival and Babylon System, from the album, Survival; Who the cap Fit, from the album, Rastaman Vibration, conveyed a message of hope that inspired the resilience that many needed to survive.

Perhaps the side of Marley that many know little about is his prophetic gift. A young Marley once predicted that he would one day build his own recording studios and pressing plant that would become world-renowned. Speaking at the third International Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies in February 2013, football genius, best friend and confidant of Marley - Alan 'Skill' Cole, made some startling revelations about the man who became known as 'The Gong'. Cole said that Marley, as a young boy, had the ability to read palms. In a recent interview I had with Cole, he said that Marley was very secretive and reclusive in his early career, and divulged certain information to him (Cole) alone, as he said that Cole was the only person that he really trusted.

More on this topic and Cole's involvement with Marley to come in a mid-week article.