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Robert Nesta Marley Feature Section

Junior Marvin Talks Past, Present and Future of The Wailers
Special Feature Report for RadioREGGAE.com from Marc Shapiro

It’s 1977. Junior Marvin, a young, hopeful guitarist is shaking in his boots. It’s his first time playing with Bob Marley and The Wailers, and the guys from the band have just turned their backs on him.      

“It was scary,” recalls Marvin. “They all turned their backs on me, and I think ‘these guys don’t like m e.’”           

But Marvin’s gut reaction couldn’t have been further from the truth.  

“I asked Bob, ‘Why’d you guys all turn your back?’ and he goes, ‘We didn’t want you to see us laughing because we’re so happy we got a good guitar player,’” says Marvin. “They were chuckling away saying ‘yeah, he’s cool’ and I’m thinking ‘damn, I’m gonna lose this gig.’”  

Almost three decades after that first encounter, and more than 23 years after Marley’s death, Marvin and The Wailers are still bringing reggae music with its messages of peace and love to the world. Marvin believes that reggae’s unique blend of feel-good music and socially conscious lyrics are the elements that have kept this music alive long after the departure of the genre’s most renowned performer.  

“The natural rhythm of the music is very warm,” says Marvin. “It makes you feel like you wanna get up and dance, and then the lyrics have a message apart from the music.”  

“It was like ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Burnin’ and Lootin’,’ very, some people say, heavy, but the way they put it together didn’t feel heavy,” Marvin continues. “It was like ‘Wow, this is cool, let me dance’ and then after you dance you go ‘Oh, that’s pretty hip lyrics too.’ And then you’re sucked in before you know it.”  

Marley might have realized the potency of his messages, which may have been what prompted him to want The Wailers to continue even after his passing.  

“It was his request, funny enough, for us to stay together,” says Marvin. “It’s like a relay race. I got a bat and I’m gonna pass it to you guys. You pass it to somebody else.”  

To this day, Marvin remembers a focused, disciplined musician even though they only worked together for four years before Marley died in 1981.  

“He was on a mission,” adds Marvin. “He wanted to bring people together through his music.”  

Although Marley has been elevated to iconic status since his death, Marvin says that was not his intention.  

“I don’t think he was striving to be popular,” explains Marvin. “It was more to share. Share whatever he felt was good to make people smile and dance and laugh and think about themselves inwardly as well, not just outwardly.”  

Marvin also realizes that Marley’s lyrics and messages weren’t just significant to the time period in which they were written.  

“We are actually living the reality of a lot of the things he talked about. Like ‘War,’ America ’s at war,” points out Marvin. Marley borrowed the lyrics to ‘War’ from a speech Haile Selassie I (aka Ras Tafari) gave to the United Nations.  

“I think the time has come for a big peace movement, which is what Bob started then, ‘movement of Jah people,’ the One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica ,” says Marvin.  

“9/11 was a wake up call for everyone on the planet and now we’ve gotta learn from that.”  

Cultures should work together and share knowledge, says Marvin, rather than “tearing each other’s throats out.”  

“In the long run, it’s gonna be beneficial to everyone to just chill out,” he adds.  

Even the world of The Wailers could use some help.  

Since Marley’s death, the rest of the band has had feuds with Island Records. The Bob Marley Estate has gotten all of the royalties from the entire Island Records catalog, which includes albums from 1974 until 1983. Aston “Family Man” Barrett (The Wailers’ original bassist) may fight for royalties in court later this year. Marvin hopes that Family Man will win this battle and be able to extend benefits to the rest of the band members.  

But the battle with the record label hasn’t deterred the Wailers one bit. Preliminary work has begun for a new studio album. With many band members writing songs and people outside of the band contributing music and lyrics as well, Marvin says the group will put together all the songs everyone has written and pick the best ones for an album.  

He also has solo material coming out. He has written a song in memory of Marley called “Life Without You” to coincide with Marley’s 60th birthday on Feb. 6. He hopes to release the song for free on the internet. The song will give fans a small sampling of what’s coming: a solo record called “Junior Marvin Wailin.’”  

The 14-track album will feature a song, “Feed Them.” Marvin will donate the proceeds from this song to children all over the world. The song features about 40 different Jamaican artists including original Wailers backup singer Marcia Griffiths, as well as Third World and Sly and Robbie.  

“It’s kind of like ‘We Are the World,’ but reggae style,” says Marvin.  

“Wailin’” is due out in May.  

For more information on Junior Marvin visit www.juniormarvin.com

For more information on The Wailers as well as current tour dates visit www.wailers.com.


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