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Bob Marley knew reggae icon made prediction about greatness - Skill Cole speaks about the artiste who was his friend

Published:Tuesday | February 19, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Anthony O'Gilvie, Gleaner Writer

Bob Marley was psychic, revealed the Gong's close friend and confidant, Allan 'Skill' Cole.

As a youngster in his hometown of St Ann, Bob's 'natural mystic' was awakened and he began to read palms. However, this practice was frowned upon when Bob moved to Back-o-Wall in Trench Town, Kingston, and the Rastafarians around him told the visionary to "leggo dem tings deh enuh".

The young Marley complied, but not before predicting that he would one day build his own recording studio and pressing plant that would become world-renowned.

Speaking to a packed room during the third International Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies, St Andrew, last Thursday, the legendary footballer, dapperly dressed in grey slacks and contrastingly white, short-sleeve, plaid shirt, held his audience captivated as he regaled them with tales about his late friend in a thought-provoking lecture titled, 'Bob Marley: The Man That I Know'.

First meeting

Beginning with meeting Bob for the first time at a minor league football match in which Cole played and lost against Boys' Town in Trench Town, he said their close relationship would begin to blossom in 1969 when Cole was encouraged to manage the budding, gifted singer by Gary Hall, who at the time was involved in music at Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio.

Hall promised to teach Cole the music business. In exchange, Cole was to play for his football team in Mona.

The relationship between Cole and Marley would soon grow to more than one about manager and artiste, as they became inseparable friends, forming a bond both through music and football.

Their first recording was Trench Town Rock on their Tuff Gong Label

Cole spoke of the deep, philosophical discussions with the man who went on to become the greatest, international reggae singer and musician of all time, sharing how the two worked together to establish the now famous Tuff Gong Label.

Describing Bob as a workaholic who was religiously dedicated to his work, Cole said the late reggae star never slept much as it was his view that "any man who sleep too much miss out".

Always early for his recording sessions, Cole recalled that Aston 'Family Man' Barrett, who was responsible for mixing the songs in those days, would work extremely long hours until Bob was satisfied.

In fact, Bob was such a perfectionist that during the recording session of Rat Race he destroyed three stampers until he got it precisely the way he wanted it.

Bob was so focused, Cole noted, that he rarely spoke to people, besides himself.

To Cole, who Bob had football training with daily, the reggae legend was on a mission.

Sometimes he was happy but at others, his face told the story of his mind's inner workings - "screw face", especially when he was absorbed in his music.

Skill said despite Bob's tough exterior, he was soft on the inside.

Bob often wrote songs about what was happening around him, Cole stated.

For instance, My Cup was about losing his best friend Eddie Frazer, who he believed was hanged for a crime he did not commit.

Lick Samba, which was thought to have sexual connotations, was really in reference to the Brazilian football team at the time, while Rastaman Vibration, with the line "pickin' up, are you pickin' up now", was inspired by the prophet Gad, leader of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who always asked his followers if they were picking up his teachings.

Guarded about revealing too much during the lecture, because he had a lot more to come in a tell-all book, Cole caught himself often during the presentation and said, with laughter, that he was getting carried away in sharing those special moments with his friend. He promised that the audience would know everything about 'The Man That I Know' in his book that would hit the shelves later this year.

During a more sombre moment, Cole remembered reasoning with Bob during his final days when he philosophised that "people never die, we make a transition".

Bob did not sign a will

He shared that the vast estate and legacy Bob left behind became embroiled in the infamous legal battle because Bob did not sign a will because what he wanted at the time was not available to him.

The Kingston College old boy, whose outstanding football career began when he was 15 years old, left his enthralled audience with the thought that Bob was an amazing character.

Cole reflected that his dearest friend, who died of cancer at the young age of 36, shared many things with him in confidence, some of which will remain closely guarded secrets.

Robert 'Bob' Nesta Marley, OM, born February 6, 1945, died on May 11, 1981.

Saxophonist Verlando Small and company closed the presentation with a musical rendition of Bob Marley songs.

The conference was hosted by the Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit, in association with The Bob Marley Foundation.