BUZz: Thirty Years After His Death, Bob Marley Lives

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bob Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. To mark the 30th anniversary of the death of the reggae legend, the Wall Street Journal asked Jamaican-born novelist Colin Channer to share his thoughts.

The first time I saw Bob Marley perform I was eight years old. It was 1971. A Saturday afternoon. I was sitting in a Danish couch with beige cushions and maple arms in a new development of pre-fab homes in Kingston. He was a glowing presence on a 13-inch black and white Sanyo.
His bandmates Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh were on either side of him, I guess. They must have been; but memory hasn’t saved their bodies, only their sound–their falsettos whinnying as Bob cantered through “Duppy Conqueror,” voice rearing wildly at the end of some lines.

I knew the song. Had heard it in trickling from the doors of rum shops; had heard the postman hum it as he sat on his red bicycle by the wrought-iron gate, half hidden by the crotons, waiting for the helper to come outside for a slack-mouth chat up. I’d also heard it chuffing from the wooden Grundig stereogram owned by my mother’s friends Owen and Alma Dixon, the party couple. They lived in a modest home with a shingled roof and wooden floors on Mountain View Avenue, about two miles away from Harry J’s recording studio, where Bob would go on to record “Natty Dread,” his first album without Peter and Bunny. Island Records released “Natty Dread” in 1974.

So, yes, I knew the song. In fact, I knew it very well. But before this moment in 1971, I’d never thought about who sung it. I wasn’t into music yet. Music was something that washed over me. And in those days in Jamaica one couldn’t depend on the island’s two radio stations for much information about local singers. Like the media in many former colonies, the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Jamaica Redifusion Limited rationed how much local music they played. Standards, man. Standards. Standards must be maintained. When the JBC and RJR did play local music, well, they played it down the middle. Girl, I love you. Boy, I love you. Girl, I miss you. Boy, you’re gonna miss me. Off brand Motown. A genre called rock steady. Good kids singing clean music. Check out the best Music by Bob Marley (
Bob Marley).   Read the rest of the article


Post a Comment

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes | Converted by BloggerTheme | Blogger Templates