11 May 2010

Bob Marley, 6 February 1945 - 11 May 1981

You think it's the end
But it's just the beginning
---Bob Marley, "Want More"

I know claiming Bob Marley as Irish might be a little difficult here tonight, but bear with me. Jamaica and Ireland have lots in common... Naomi Campbell, Chris Blackwell, a fondness for little green leaves... the weed... religion... the philosophy of procrastination (don't put off till tomorrow what you can put off till the day after)... unless of course it's freedom. We are both islands, we're both colonies - JAMAICA IRELAND - ... the common yoke... the struggle for identity, the struggle for independence... the vulnerable and uncertain future that is left behind when the jackboot of empire has finally retreated.... roots... the getting up, the standing up - and the hard bit - the staying up. In such a struggle, an often violent struggle, the voice of Bob Marley was a voice of reason so when I heard Bob Marley first I not only felt it, I felt I understood it. It was 1976 in Dublin, we were listening to was The Clash who brought him home to us, that and E.C.'s cover of 'I Shot the Sheriff'. Bob Marley and the Wailers had love songs you could admit listening to, songs of hurt...hard but healing... Tuff Gong politics without rhetoric, songs of freedom where that word meant something again, new hymns to a dancing God, redemption songs, a sexy revolution where Jah is Jehovah on street level not over his people ... with His people not just stylin... jamming' the lion of Judah down the line of Judah from Ethiopia where it all began for the rastamen, where everything began...well maybe.
I spent some time in Ethiopia with my wife Ali and everywhere we went we saw Bob Marley's face... wise, royal, Solomon and the queen of Sheba on every street corner, there he was, dressed to hustle God... 'let my people go' an ancient plea...prayers catching fire in Mozambique, Nigeria, The Lebanon, Alabama, Detroit, NEW YORK CITY, Notting Hill, Belfast... a king in dreads... a third and first world super star. Mental slavery ends where imagination begins... here was this new music rocking out of the shantytowns, born from calypso and raised on the chilled out r 'n' b, beamed in from New Orleans... lolling lopping rhythms... telling it like it is, like it was, like it ever shall be...skanking mon! Ska, Bluebeat, Rocksteady, Reggae, dub and now ragga... and all of this from a man who drove 3 BMWs, BMW!? BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS!!! (that was his excuse!) rock and roll loves its juvenilia, its caricatures, its cartoons, the protest singer, the gospel singer, the popstar, the sex god and of course... your more mature messiah types?! we love extremes and we're expected to choose... the mud of the blues or the oxygen of gospel, the 'hellhound on our trail' or the 'band of angels'. Marley didn't choose or didn't walk down the middle, he raced to the edges embracing all extremes and creating a oneness. He wanted everything at the same time and was every thing at the same time... prophet, soul rebel, rasta man, herbsman, wild man, a natural mystic man, ladies man, island man, soccer man, family man, Rita's man, showman, shaman, human, JAMAICAN.

---Bono, "Induction Song" (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Special Awards Ceremony, 1994)

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