Bob Marley’s Death
May 11, 2011 by Post Team
Bob Marley’s Death, Bob Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. To commemorate the 30 anniversary of the death of reggae legend, the Wall Street Journal asked Jamaica-born novelist Colin Channer to share their thoughts.
The first time I saw Bob Marley perform I was eight years old. It was 1971. On a Saturday afternoon. I was sitting on a sofa with beige cushions and arms Danish maple in a new development of prefabricated houses in Kingston. It was a bright presence in a Sanyo 13-inch black and white.
His bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were on either side of it, I guess. Should have been, but the memory has not kept his body, only his sound, his falsetto neighing as Bob gallop through “Duppy Conqueror”, the voice of the wild breeding at the end of some lines.
I knew the song. Had heard dripping from the doors of the stores of rum, had heard the postman hum as he sat in his red bicycle by the iron door, half hidden by crotos, waiting for the assistant to leave the mouth loose to chat. Had also heard chuffing wood Grundig stereogram Owen owned my mother and friends Alma Dixon, a partner of the party. They lived in a modest house with a tile roof and wooden floors in Mountain View Avenue, about two miles away from the recording studio of Harry J, where Bob was going to record “Natty Dread”, her first album without Peter and Bunny. Island Records released “Natty Dread” in 1974.
So, yes, I knew the song. In fact, I knew very well. But before this time, in 1971, I never thought it sings. I was not even music. The music was something that came over me. And in those days in Jamaica cannot depend on the island stations of two radios as much information about local singers. As the media in many former colonies, the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Jamaica Limited Syndication ration the amount of local music played. Rules, man. Standards. The standards must be maintained. When the JBC and RJR local music played well, played by the center. Girl, I love you. Boy, I love you. Girl, I miss you. Boy, I’ll miss. Outside the Motown brand. A genre called rock steady. Children singing good clean music.
In 1971, reggae background of fat was the son of rock steady and Rastafarianism, now three years old, was the music career. Under the music. The music of ordinary people whose feet deep lines drawn in the dirt track that led into the dark heart of the clumps of shacks in West Kingston. Reggae music was not clean. It Dutty (dirty) music of the people. The essence of funk.
So imagine my surprise, then, in this Saturday night. Life is going along, as I had known. I was watching Top Ten Tunes in JBC television. There was a bowl of beef soup in my lap, the hot glaze on my thighs, broth, red and orange of pumpkins melted. I took my eyes off the set to feed the meat into pieces of yam, which are mostly bone and cartilage, looked back and saw three people Dutty boasting a song about death and imprisonment, that “no bars could not stop. ”
It was a simple set. Three men in there twenties in front of a cyclorama. No microphones. No band. How boring the game did not appear. Do not expect much in the way of the excitement of the JBC. What surprised me was the style of Bob Marley.
He wore a leather jacket motorcycle like it was an extra in “Blackboard Jungle” or “The Wild One.” Her hair was worn in a style that are curious … a little disturbing. I found disturbing because it was at an age where my sense of what it means to be intelligent was being defined in terms of my ability to name things. So that not everything has a name?
Marley had an Afro. Of course. But he did not. He had an Afro at the approximate scale and form. It was large and round, but the frayed edges and fringes. Was an African, this black halo? Or was it something else?
From where I sit at my desk today, in a suburb of Boston, a 47 year old novelist, professor and critic from time to time, I can describe Bob’s hair as looking like something mysterious had come from somewhere to grab and turn invisible ends. I can say that the hair on their raggedness reminded me of what happened to the edges of the neat colonial cities where slums appear at the edges, he was disturbed by what disturbs most of us, being in a present that promises a future of change fundamental sure if that feeling of excitement in our hearts along with the fear of fear has given his full consent.
Yes, I was afraid of that day. Yes, I was afraid. I was scared because I was looking at something that did not understand and wanted to understand, but I knew by instinct, and the gross deduction would not be considered worthy of consideration for decent people.
And what kind of problems that would be done now, I could hear the thought, that modesty, hair Dutty gov’ment was on television, is made known? Lord, what calamity and crosses! Since independence, Jamaica gone to the dogs.
In later years, I would come to understand Bob Marley as an artist of substance, however, that made him iconic in the first sighting I was her sense of style.
Icons project. That’s what they do. Irradiate the capabilities that we would like to have within us. Better yet, they reflect what they radiate in their direction, allowing us a glimpse of the supernatural in ourselves.
No sense that Bob had built, that someone had chosen that jacket for him, or was some sort of copycat, or Jamaican slang a “mono track fashion.” Yes, there was the grammar of American fashion in her eyes, but had stopped that language, which remodeled, creating a pen-ialect.
Bob was. Super natural. Natural to the end. Thirty years after his death he lives. It’s as if the song “Duppy Conqueror” had boasted of his way to a cosmic truth, had actually won the duppy, that shape-shifter from the afterlife known as Death, who captured while trying to catch his breath in a cancer ward in Florida on May 11, 1981.
The first time I saw Bob Marley perform I was eight years old. But the last time I see him always tomorrow.
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