|Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley
by Christopher John Farley
We got an advance copy of the
book and can tell you that Chris Farley has put a lot of heart and soul
into this work. It is a good read and is filled with interesting
insights into Jamaican history and all the ingredients that went into
making Marley the man that he was. "Before the Legend"
is a valuable addition to the short list of books giving insight into
the life and Spirit of a musical genius and reluctant Messiah, Bob
Marley. For Marley fans and any music historian, this is a
must. Even if you are just a casual Reggae Music fan, you should
find this book about Reggae's Icon, Nesta Robert Marley, filled with interesting points of view and a
valuable historical perspective.
Farley takes the reader on a
journey from Bob Marley’s birth in the country town of Nine Miles to
his early days as a struggling, talented, determined, and spiritually
gifted artist, to the making of his debut album Catch
a Fire. BEFORE THE
LEGEND also contains the first-ever published interviews with some
of Marley's "white" family members and uncovers fresh
information about the reggae great's family history, including the
revelation that Marley's father, believed to be white, was actually a
person of color.
About the Author
From the Inside Book Cover:
Bob Marley was a Reggae superstar, a musical prophet, who brought the sound of the third world to the entire globe. Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley, goes beyond the myth of Marley to bring you the private side of a man few people ever really new. Drawing from original interviews with the people closest to Marley, including his widow, Rita, his mother, said
Cedella, his band mate in childhood friend Bunny Wailer, his producer Chris Blackwell, and many others, Legend paints an entirely fresh picture of one of the most enduring musical artists of our times. This is a portrait of the artist as a young man, from his birth in the tiny town of Nine Miles in the hills of Jamaica to the making of his debut international record, Catch A Fire. We see Marley on the tough streets of Trench Town before he found stardom, struggling to find his way in music, in love, and in life, and we take the wild ride with him to world wide acceptance and adoration.
Christopher John Farley was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in
Brockport, New York. He is a graduate of Harvard University and a former
editor of the Harvard Lampoon. He is the author of the
bestselling biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman and the novels My
Favorite War and Kingston by Starlight. He is also the coauthor of Martin
Scorsese Presents the Blues. He has worked as an editor and
pop-music critic at Time magazine and is currently an editor at
the Wall Street Journal.
photo by DAVID CORIO / RETNA -Marley performs in 1975
Remembering Bob Marley
by Christopher John Farley - a
TIME Magazine web feature story (click
here for link to original article).
The feathered arc of a doctorbird's tail, the spicy tang of jerked pork, the gray serenity of Blue Mountain mist. These are images and sensations from a particular place, a certain spot in the Caribbean that has been called "the Land of Wood and Water" by some and "The Land of Look Behind" by others. Columbus deemed it "the fairest island that eyes have beheld" and listed it as Yamaye in a log entry in 1493. The Indians who were the first inhabitants called it Xaymaica and other variations; Spanish invaders called the place "Santiago" but after the British took over the island in 1655, one name took hold: Jamaica.
A spray of dreadlocks, a sinuous beat, a voice singing of revolution, revelation and romance. There was a man, born in that same locale of many names, that some called The Skipper, for his commanding nature, and that others called the Tuff Gong, for his fortitude. He referred to himself, at various times and in various songs, as the Duppy Conquerer (for his power over the spirit world), the Small Axe (who can cut down the big tree) and a Soul Rebel. For a time, disillusioned by his struggles in the cutthroat Jamaican music scene, he lived in Wilmington, Delaware, worked in an auto plant, and went by the alias Donald. But he soon returned to Jamaica and embraced his destiny as a music superstar as well as the name that we now know him by: Bob Marley.
Robert Nesta Marley, who was born in Jamaica in 1945 and died in Miami in 1981, would have turned 60 years old on February 6th. Like the island on which he was born, he was man of many names and many identities. When Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, inducted Marley into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, he said this about the Tuff Gong: "He wanted everything at the same time and was everything at the same time: prophet, soul rebel, Rastaman, herbsman, wild man, a natural mystic man, ladies man, island man, family man, Rita's man, soccer man, showman, shaman, human, Jamaican."
But Marley was not always so readily and universally accepted, and it was not always so easy for him to slip into his many roles. There was that time in 1966, when he briefly quit music, stung by the corruption of the Jamaican music industry. In 1973, while on tour with his band the Wailers, he found that some white audiences wouldn't open up to his radical message, while black fans weren't even showing up for his concerts. In an August 11, 1973 Melody Maker review of a Wailers gig in New York City (headline: "Wailers Fail to Catch Afire") one critic wrote "[The Wailers] found themselves playing to largely unconverted ears...and, with virtually no exception, white ears." Marley said to High Times in September 1976 "Well, I hear dat we not gettin' through to black people. Well, me tell de R. and B. guy now, he must play dis record because I wan' get to de people."
But he could not just say it and make it so. There was a cultural and musical divide to cross that seemed as wide as the Caribbean Sea, and not nearly as warm or inviting. Marley's bandmate, Peter Tosh, once complained to Oui magazine "The devil created disco, telling black people to 'get down get down' all the time. But I man seh to black people 'Get up stand up for your rights.'"
The groundswell for Marley and reggae began underground, with ordinary fans, which was entirely fitting since his music was inspired by ordinary people. When Marley recorded his albums, the studios in which he worked were often packed with friends and girlfriends, musicians and onlookers, folks who were playing on the record, and folks who were just playing around. "Marley would pull ideas from those around him—the jokes, the encouragement, the wisdom of those who spoke with the natural poetic authority that many Rastafarians are known for," Kwame Dawes wrote in his study Bob Marley: Poetic Genius. Marley told a Jamaican magazine in 1978, "Well, is the people of Jamaica really make me what I am. Is them say 'go Bob'....I sing, the people applaud. Them people down here is the greatest people in the world. Is them build I and I."
The rest of the world eventually caught up to what many Jamaicans, and fans of countercultural music, had known for years. Playboy wrote about Marley in 1976, "Let's say this right up front and underline it twice: Bob Marley and the Wailers seem to have emerged as the finest rock-'n'-roll band of the Seventies....And that includes the Beatles, Otis Redding, the Stones, all of them. That's how good they are."
Marley worked primarily within one genre—reggae—but his songs investigated many moods and many modes. Marley was a musical genius for a multicultural age, a man for all seasons who died before his time, a shapeshifter who never fit into established musical formats. There are so many varied moments in his work: the stately guitar of "Redemption Song," the spritely horns of "Is this Love", the soothing, seductive bass of "Stir it Up." "Babylon System" wakes you up like strong bitter coffee; "Turn Your Lights Down Low" goes down sweet, like mango juice. For every moment in life, there seems to be a Marley song that fits.
Pop music success is often about hooks and image, radio play and squeezing into niches. Today, pop music often divides listeners more than it unites them, as fans take sides for and against gangsta rap or rap-rock or alt. country or teen pop. Shallow music sells because it can be understood readily within the 3-minute span of a pop song; great music endures because it can stand up to repeated listens, and, in fact, grows with each hearing.
In much of today's popular music, romance is dying, politics is fatal and God is dead. But Marley covered it all—the sexual, the political, the spiritual—and made all of these concerns seem like the most natural topics to be singing about. He took Jamaica's complicated history—a jumble of such disparate concepts, places and things as Rasta philosophy, Garveyism, pirates, rebellion, guava jelly, and Trench Town — and refashioned it into focused, complex music that was concerned with reality but shot through with magic. He was a musical magic realist, a "Natural Mystic", a man who had visions of Jah, but believed in looking "for yours on earth."
Because Marley dared to make music of depth, it has had longevity as well. Once shunned by many African-Americans and held at arm's length by whites, Marley is now embraced by whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Americans, Africans, Jamaicans and more. A man of many names and many fans, the general public's feelings towards Bob Marley are now best summarized by the title of what is among his most singular songs: One Love.