A Belated Tribute To Bob Marley -Happy Birthday...

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A Belated Tribute To Bob Marley - Happy Birthday…

The truth is that as a boy growing up on the Island of Saint Kitts, Bob Marley was not my favorite Reggae Artist… because the thought then was that he only catered to or deigned to play for ‘the foreigners’ by being always on tour in England/Europe - now, this feeling of perceived abandonment by Bob Marley might not have been so… but I among many of the youths in Saint Pauls, Saint Kitts believed it and though we salivated and were musically sated by reciting the catchy lyrics and engaged in ‘skanking’ when Bob Marley dropped one of his albums - incidentally, ‘skanking’ was then the Reggae dance that was all the rage in my little hamlet of Saint Pauls - most of our Reggae allegiance was with one of Bob Marley’s ex band mates, that rebel and gifted guitarist, Peter Tosh.

It was not until I came to this country, ironically in that same year... but a few months before Bob Marley lost his battle with Cancer, that I became a true fan… and, perhaps, because yesterday would have been his birthday and the fact that I have never written an entire piece on him or the fact that I am married to a beautiful Jamaican lady… I thought that I will do so now on what would have been Bob Marley’s 68th birthday.

Incidentally, just how many in America looked upon the Hippies with jaundiced eyes in the Sixties - so to my beloved grandma who raised me thought that Bob Marley was the Devil incarnate when I would ‘boggart’ her little blue portable radio to hear Marley’s latest offerings. I do not know if it were because many Rastafarians thought that the Ethiopian ruler Hailey Selassie was divine or the fact that marijuana was part of their religious rites, but the grown-ups, along with grandma, hated anyone associated with the Rastafarians, including the gifted Bob Marley. Now… success has many mothers and when Bob Marley secured fame and fortune… many who used to call him a ‘dirty rasta’ jumped on the proverbial Reggae band wagon when he secured said fame and fortune.

In California in the early eighties, one of my brothers, would use Bob Marley’s music to pull girls, while, because of my cowardice and awkwardness toward the ladies then, I simple listened to his lyrics… unlike when I was in Saint Kitts. Bob Marley, to many of us, was like the gifted poet song writer, Bob Dylan - only that the former had a crackled honey-suckle voice and knew how to groove. While Bob Dylan sang: “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…” Bob Marley gave us the liberating Reggae anthem: “Get up, stand up for your right.” So afraid were the powers that be that Bob Marley could influence political material change in Jamaica… that ‘they’ tried in the eighties to assassinate him. Listen to the lyrics that Bob Marley authored and sang in protest remembrance of the failed assassination from the song, Ambush in the night:

(Ooh-wee, ooh-wee, ooh-wa!)
See them fighting for power (ooh-wee, ooh-wee, ooh-wa!),
But they know not the hour (ooh-wee, ooh-wee, ooh-wa!),;
So they bribing with their guns, spare-parts and money,
Trying to belittle our
Integrity now.
They say what we know
Is just what they teach us;
And we're so ignorant
'Cause every time they can reach us (shoobe, doo-wa)
Through political strategy (shoo-be, doo-wa);
They keep us hungry (shoobe, doo-wa),
And when you gonna get some food (shoobe, doo-wa),
Your brother got to be your enemy, we-e-ell!

Ambush in the night,
All guns aiming at me;
Ambush in the night,
They opened fire on me now.
Ambush in the night,
Protected by His Majesty.
Ooh-wee, ooh-wee. Ooh-wa-ooh!
(Ooh-wee) Ooh-wee, ooh-wee (ooh-wa), Ooh-wa!
Ooh-wee, ooh-wee, ooh wa-ooh!
Ooh-wee, ooh-wee, ooh wa-ah!

Well, what we know
Is not what they tell us;
We're not ignorant, I mean it,
And they just cannot touch us;
Through the powers of the Most-High (shoobe, doo-wa),
We keep on surfacin' (shoobe, doo-wa);
Thru the powers of the Most-High (shoobe, doo-wa),
We keep on survivin'.

Yeah, this ambush in the night
Planned by society;
Ambush in the night;
They tryin' to conquer me;
Ambush in the night
Anyt'ing money can bring;
Ambush in the night
Planned by society;
Ambush in the night - /fadeout/

They - meaning the local Jamaican politicians or outside Intelligence forces like our CIA - did not like the fact that a musician with alleged Socialist, radical leanings could sway elections… and we must remember that this was an era when we still put credence into the foreign policy pillars of the “Domino Theory and Manifest Destiny.” It was not only all deep thinking lyrics that Marley wrote because some of his odes to passion and partying are still vibrant today. Lest we forget the Bob Marley Reggae party anthem, “Lively Up Yourself” that is as 'funky' as Prince’s “1999” and one of Marley’s Love songs, “Turn the lights down low,” which was comparable to any of the marital bed ‘baby-making music’ from one of the premiere Soul maestros, Barry White or Teddy Pendergrass.

As a testament of Bob Marley’s lasting musical legacy, many of you who are reading this blog know many of his other popular songs too like Three Little Birds or One Love or Marley’s version of I shot the Sheriff, or Redemption Song, which, almost, every artist from Sting to Madonna has butchered. It is not often that one can listen to an artist who can move one to dancing, while at the same time engages one’s mind - but Bob Marley could. Take the lyrics Coming in from the cold:

Coming in from the cold
In this life, in this life, in this life
In this oh sweet life
We're coming in from the cold
We're coming in, coming in, coming in
Coming in from the cold

It's you, it's you, it's you i'm talking to
Well you, it's you, it's you
It's you i'm talking to now
Why do you look so sad and forsaken
When one door is closed
Don't you know another is open

Would you let the system
Make you kill your brotherman
No dread no
Would you make the system
Make you kill your brotherman
No dread no
Would you make the system
Get on top of your head again
No dread no
Well the biggest man you ever
Did see was just a baby

In this life, in this life
In this oh sweet life
We're coming in from the cold
We're coming in, coming in, coming in
We're coming in from the cold
It's life, it's life, it's life
Coming from the cold
We're coming in, coming in, coming in
Coming in from the cold

It's you, it's you, it's you i'm talking to
Well you, it's you, it's you
It's you i'm talking to now
Why do you look so sad and forsaken
Don't you know
When one door is closed
Don't you know many more is open

Would you let the system
No dread no
Would you let the system
Get on top of your head
No dread no
Would you let the system
Make you kill your brotherman
No dread no
The biggest man you ever
Did see was once a baby

Many secularists have adopted Bob Marley and his legacy in its entirety - but I wonder if they only knew what he thought about the Traditional Christian moral twin pillars of perversions - Abortion and Gay Marriage - that are currently holding sway… would they still listen to his music? Do these secularists know that many of Bob Marley’s lyrics were taken directly from the Bible, specifically, King David’s Psalms and King Solomon’s Proverbs? It begs the question that if these secularists in the future are going to try to excise all of Bob Marley’s lyrics that referenced Christ Jesus like what is proposed for Shakespeare’s works or Martin Luther King’s speeches?

Were one to walk down Church Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, one would see that Church Avenue’s new name is The Bob Marley Boulevard and when I served in the United States Army in Germany, I was surprised that there is a defacto holiday in celebration of Bob Marley’s legacy and music… I again convey this to show that how far and wide Bob Marley’s influence is. I leave you by telling you that when I was that angry Black teenager… spending time in my father’s library in Concord, California… consuming everything about Malcolm X, my favorite Bob Marley song then and now is Babylon System:

We refuse to be
What you wanted us to be;
We are what we are:
That's the way (way) it's going to be. You don't know!
You can't educate I
For no equal opportunity:
(Talkin' 'bout my freedom) Talkin' 'bout my freedom,
People freedom (freedom) and liberty!
Yeah, we've been trodding on the winepress much too long:
Rebel, rebel!
Yes, we've been trodding on the winepress much too long:
Rebel, rebel!

Babylon system is the vampire, yea! (vampire)
Suckin' the children day by day, yeah!
Me say: de Babylon system is the vampire, falling empire,
Suckin' the blood of the sufferers, yea-ea-ea-ea-e-ah!
Building church and university, wo-o-ooh, yeah! -
Deceiving the people continually, yea-ea!
Me say them graduatin' thieves and murderers;
Look out now: they suckin' the blood of the sufferers (sufferers).
Yea-ea-ea! (sufferers)

Tell the children the truth;
Tell the children the truth;
Tell the children the truth right now!
Come on and tell the children the truth;
Tell the children the truth;
Tell the children the truth;
Tell the children the truth;
Come on and tell the children the truth.

'Cause - 'cause we've been trodding on ya winepress much too long:
Rebel, rebel!
And we've been taken for granted much too long:
Rebel, rebel now!

(Trodding on the winepress) Trodding on the winepress (rebel):
Got to rebel, y'all (rebel)!
We've been trodding on the winepress much too long - ye-e-ah! (rebel)
Yea-e-ah! (rebel) Yeah! Yeah!

From the very day we left the shores (trodding on the winepress)
Of our Father's land (rebel),
We've been trampled on (rebel),
Oh now! (we've been oppressed, yeah!) Lord, Lord, go to ...





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2 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

This is my greatest exposure to Bob Marley lyrics. I respect him and his work based on all that I've heard and read. Thank you for contributing to my enlightenment. Wonderful tribute!


Verily Prime profile image

Verily Prime 2 years ago from New York Author

Thank you Kittitian sister... I was reminiscing about my youth in Saint Kitts too.

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