'Exodus' released, Bob sees the first sign of cancer
The Gleaner, today, continues its coverage of a one-hour presentation made by Cindy Breakspeare on the occasion of the 17th annual Bob Marley Lecture series held at the Undercroft, University of the West Indies, put on by the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit.
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:After being harassed by a number of Jamaicans who felt Bob Marley should have found a black girl, Cindy Breakspeare said she parted the very best of friends with the restaurant owner.
"Pictures were taken for the wall, believe it or not. And I would like to think that I left them with the understanding that being a Jamaican is so much more than the colour of your skin or where you are placed in society," Breakspeare explained to the audience at the Undercroft, University of the West Indies.
A truth she said she had to champion during the duration of her reign, as it would become evident when she visited Nigeria that she wasn't black enough.
"In fact not at all, it seemed."
And when she went to Reykjavik, Iceland, she clearly wasn't white enough.
"Who or what was a Jamaican anyway? Well, the world is still asking that question today."
She said the reaction of the two women in the London restaurant pretty much summed up the reactions to her relationship with Marley.
"His folks didn't like me anymore than mine liked them. Yes, it really was 'beauty and the beast', and depending on where you are standing, I must have been the beast and he, the beauty," she quipped.
They both crossed the line, broke down social barriers.
"I have a girlfriend that told me that her parents sat her down categorically and told her, 'Now you see what Cindy Breakpeare has done, don't even think about it!'"
Pictures of her and Marley are few and far between, because they spent a lot of time together in private, away from the prying eyes of the press, the fear of critics and disapproval of the protectors of social boundaries.
Marley, she said, was in Jamaica spearheading the Smile Jamaica Concert scheduled for December 5, 1976.
The concert was supposed to pave the way for breaking down political barriers, uniting opposing factions and diffusing the ever-growing tension and violence in society.
"Bob was indeed a man on a mission who loved his country fiercely. He desperately wanted to see the divisiveness, born of political rivalry, come to an end as it clearly benefited no one, except, maybe, the politicians."
When the news broke on December 3 that Marley was shot, Cindy was preparing for an engagement.
"I cancelled that immediately and remained quietly in my room, refusing phone calls from the press for comments. It was some time before we knew that he was not badly injured."
The concert took place as planned, as Marley was determined to show Jamaicans that he feared no one, she said.
From that time until the end of his life, 56 Hope Road, now The Bob Marley Museum, was flooded with people in need of help. The pressure of that existence, Cindy explained, was immense. The people that came were convinced Marley was the man to help them.
"That was a part of his greatness. That selflessness. Total commitment to helping the weak, the poor, the underdog became his mandate. He embraced it wholeheartedly. It was not always easy, and the strains showed on him some of the times. But he never shrank from the task."
The couple agreed to meet in The Bahamas for Christmas of '76. Marley had left Jamaica after the shooting, and it would have given them an opportunity to spend some time together.
"It was a nice, light-hearted break. We went to the beach, visited the casinos and saw the Staple Singers live in concert."
After vacationing in The Bahamas, Marley went on to London and Breakspeare returned to Jamaica.
remaining in the pageant
On the island, the power brokers of social norms were not so pleased with her. Not because of Marley, but because she remained in the pageant when the issue of apartheid had raised its ugly head.
"Nine countries had pulled out, but being that the Government of Jamaica had not sent me there, they felt they could not ask me to withdraw."
In fact, no one asked her to withdraw, she says.
"I took a decision that the possibilities offered by the prospect of a Jamaican winning the title far outweighed the traction she could gain by withdrawing.
"Maybe I was just young and selfish," she admitted.
Instead of flying into Kingston, Breakspeare said she flew into Montego Bay and took a small aircraft into Tinson Pen to avoid any ugliness.
"Little did I know, Micky Haughton-James, God bless him, was there with a welcoming party and I need not have worried."
1977 was the year the couple's lives blossomed, though on divergent paths.
"His stardom was on a meteoric rise, and what I didn't know until I read Neville Garrick's forward of a book, titled Stir it Up, written by Chris Morrows, was that up until 1976, Bob was not yet a household name in England. But being linked with a Miss World, who at the time was still a very popular figure with the English public, a new awareness of Bob, his music and Rastafari blew up and matured into a fascination, the likes of which had not being previously experienced by any other Jamaican artiste."
Haile Selassie I
His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I's family, which were seeking political asylum in London, frequented Marley's residence there. The residence, a house at Oakley Street, became much like 56 Hope Road.
"There was no rest by then, no matter where Bob was; and it was during this year that the big C (cancer) made it's fateful entrance. Bob's toe, injured in a football match in Paris, refused to heal after months of treatment."
Malignant melanoma was diagnosed, and although it was recommended to remove the toe, Marley would have none of it. The nail and nail bed were removed, and a rectangular piece of skin taken from his thigh was grafted over the area.
"He exercised extreme caution during the healing process, and cared for the toe like a newborn infant. He continued to tour, playing music to adoring fans all over the world; and there was a shortage of pictures with Bob with his foot bandaged, guitar in hand."
During that year, Breakspeare said she managed to attend a few concerts in London, and they regrouped regularly at Oakley Street.
"I have wonderful memories of us cooking at 3 a.m. and taking long soaks in a hot tub to get the chill out of our bones. Bob had his own suite in the house, and I came and went at my leisure, careful to scrub my face clean of make-up and remove many of the trappings of my title before coming home."
At the time, Breakspeare admits, she was not what a man steeped in Rastafari should be looking for.
"I paraded scantily clad for all to see, and seemed oblivious that there were rules governing women's behaviours and mode of dress to be observed."
Marley, she indicated, would be patient, saying "all in good time".
"There was always tomorrow to become the things you were not today. Well, one night I arrived, there was no opportunity to scrub off all the make-up, and thought, okay, I had made it in before anybody else. No sooner had I closed the door behind me it opened again, and in stepped Bob, so I turned around with a look of shock and horror on my face. 'See yah, a catch you'."
Exodus was released that year and the public's love affair with Bob Marley again mushroomed.
"This tough, edgy, militant soldier could actually write the softest, most beautiful love songs, infused with pearls of wisdom and bits of scripture so profound, they made you weak in the knees and pricked your conscience all at the same time. I was to be credited as the muse for many of these beautiful songs. I am honoured. Who knows?"