Tue | Jun 19, 2018

When Obama visited the Gong's house

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
U.S. President Barack Obama visits the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, with tour guide Natasha Clark.
Cocoa Tea

With Obama now a former President of the United States of America (USA), it is a good time to revisit the time when he came to Jamaica and went to a place where many of the songs which influenced him were created - 56 Hope Road, St Andrew.

Former USA President Barack Obama was high - in the air, that is - when he put in a late request to visit the Bob Marley Museum at 56 Hope Road, St Andrew, on his 2015 visit to Jamaica.

It was only 10 minutes before Air Force One touched Jamaican soil at the Norman Manley International Airport that the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was advised of Obama's request to tour the house where the Tuff Gong lived.

At a town hall meeting at the Assembly Hall, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, after opening with "Greetings, massive!" Obama said of Marley, "I went to his house yesterday ... . I was only five minutes from his house, I had to go check it out."

It was the place where a shooting he referenced took place, Obama using the 1976 incident at 56 Hope Road ahead of the Smile Jamaica concert, to emphasise the importance of doing the right thing.

He spoke about Marley doing the concert after being shot, and paraphrased the Gong, saying, "The people who are making this world worse are not taking a day off. Why should I?"




Still, despite the deep emotions elicited by the tour, Obama said: "The quick trip that I made last night to Bob Marley's house was one of the most fun meetings that I have had since I have been president."

A big fan of Marley since high school, Obama still has all the albums by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

He has had them for a while. Three years ago, Obama acknowledged Marley's influence on his life. In an interview with MTV's Sway Colloway, he said about Marley: "I remember in college listening and not agreeing with his whole philosophy necessarily, but raising my awareness of how people outside of our country were thinking about the struggle for jobs and dignity and freedom."

While Obama was influenced by Marley, his election as the 44th president of the United States and the first black man in the Oval Office had a strong impact on those who make Jamaican popular music.

In December 2007, at the official launch of the 16th Rebel Salute Festival, organiser Tony Rebel, declared the event a "... pre-celebration of the inauguration of President Obama".

The two events took place three days apart: Rebel Salute 2009 took place on Saturday, January 17, while Obama's first inauguration was on January 20 in Washington.

Deejay Sizzla recorded the song Black Man in the White House, while singer Cocoa Tea named a song Barack Obama and used his 'Yes We Can' as the title of not only a song but an entire album.