Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 14 News List

Movement of Jah people down to The Wall

By Daivd Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery this Sunday as The Wall presents a tribute to Bob Marley in honor of his 60th birthday, with appearances by Red-I and the Bukakae Posse, Smooth 9-5, Papa Alex and the African Spirits, and Canadian reggae outfit The Anglers, along with other special guests.

The night is to commemorate a musician taken too soon. Robert Nesta Marley was born in 1945, but by the time of his death at the age of 36 he'd already become a major force in music and religion as well as a pawn in the politics of his native Jamaica.

His influence has been felt most strongly in music but not just in the reggae sound he helped develop. Timothy White, the author of the bestselling biography on Marley, Catch a Fire, said, "He's taken his place alongside James Brown and Sly Stone as a pervasive influence on R&B."

In fact, 10 years into his career, in 1973, Marley was scheduled to open for Sly and the Family Stone on 17 dates. Four dates into the schedule, though, he was taken off the tour for having outperformed the headline act.

That same year, the Wailers released the track I Shot the Sheriff, which would be a massive cover hit for Eric Clapton the following year and signal both the coming of the Wailers' own success and the influence they'd have on other top musicians.

But Marley and the Wailers didn't only influence R 'n' B, they were also at the root of what has since become today's dance music scene.

In the early 1960s, when Marley, Bunny Livingstone and Peter McIntosh (later known as Peter Tosh) were learning their trade in the slums of Jamaica, the sound of the day was ska, a dance floor music with a strong backbeat. This was the first music that the three of them, together with Junior Braithwaite and a pair of backup singers, would play. And it would first be heard pumping out of the now famous sound systems mounted on the backs of trucks that took the music to neighborhoods as a way of selling the singles.

Like many of the Jamaicans who started them, the sound systems made their way to England, where DJs spun the records and MCs hyped crowds that swelled beyond the immigrant communities they first entertained.

Marley's motivation came from the Rastafarian religion he adopted as a young man. The religion proselytizes peace and love celebrated in the smoke of marijuana.

As he matured, so too did his lyrics and his popularity among Jamaicans. In 1976, Jamaica's ruling party invited him to play a free concert. When the government then called new elections timed for the event, the opposition party cried foul.

Gunmen set on Marley's home in the night and attacked his wife Rita, and members of their group. No one was killed but a bullet grazed Marley's chest and lodged in his arm. He still took the stage the following night.

The next year, the Wailers' album Exodus would properly establish them internationally, but only after Livingstone and McIntosh departed to pursue solo careers. Exodus lived on the charts for 56 weeks.

On May 11, 1981, Marley would succumb to a cancer that had spread from a toe he injured playing soccer three years earlier, but his legend would outlive him and his influence would continue to grow.

"I feel like some people in Taiwan know his image, but they don't really know so much about Marley's message and his contributions," said the event's organizer, Patrick Chen, better known as Red-I. "One day when people here get a translation of that shit in Chinese there's people gonna get off on his words."

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