Yes, the Supreme Rastaman would be very pleased. Infact, I believe that he's smiling at the fact that 37 years after he went to the Ancestors, his music is still relevant, his name still popular, and his brand still strong and intact. Any discussion of the Life and Times of Robert Nesta Marley inevitably segues into a discussion of Jamaican Reggae Music in general, and his contribution to its growth and development, in particular.
Marley was an unparalleled Black ambassador, a musical innovator, and gifted with visionary talents. His music, even today, still speak volumes about a man whose every word and sentence was written with the emancipation of "his people" -- Black people - in mind. And in his own way he not only identified the problems plaguing the so-called "Third World" but offered solutions to them. That is why the music of the Supreme Rastaman, as I like to call him, endures to this very day. Indeed, the greatness of Bob Marley is that his popularity and staying quality outlasts all the present crop of reggae artistes - combined.
This Black History Month Marley would have turned 73 years -- had he lived. And we can only speculate as to what incredible music he would have concocted in that fertile and creative mind of his as he "trod down Babylon." To my mind the Marley still sings - getting better and better with each passing day. In the dancehalls of Brooklyn, the Caribbean basements of Canada, or the open tropical spaces of the Caribbean, Bob Marley's timeless music lives on. His works continue to give new hope to the world's oppressed and solace to the downtrodden as he urges Black and Brown people to "Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your rights."
A versatile entertainer, Marley was singer, songwriter, expert guitarist, and above all a pragmatic Rastaman. Robert Nesta Marley was born in St. Ann, Jamaica, on February 6, 1945. He died May 11,1981. Bob Marley, as he is popularly known the world over, was the individual most responsible for taking Reggae out of Jamaica's ghettos and "tenement yards," and making it an internationally accepted musical genre.
With uncanny vision, Marley adroitly and skillfully altered indigenous traditional Jamaican roots music, making it more acceptable to the picky international market and consumer. Curiously, before he would win over his many and quite vocal critics, and Jamaica "Roots" Reggae music purists, Marley came under heavy fire, in those early days, because many felt that he was prostituting Roots Reggae music and betraying it to people "inna Babylon."
Along with his group, the Wailers, that he formed in 1964, and which included two other great Reggae leaders in their own right - Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, known worldwide as Bunny Wailer - Bob Marley was the great popularizer of Reggae music. It was he and the Wailers who infused this "island music" with American pop and rock, making it attractive to international music consumers, and which gave it its enduring, lasting, "always fresh" quality. But even when Marley sung so-called lovey-dovey ballads, and drew the ire of the "rude boys" of Jamaica's slums and garrison communities, his message was inherently and basically political: he preached an end to racial oppression and urged Blacks to be proud of their heritage. So in his own right Marley was a Third World music pioneer who eventually turned into a superstar.
Marley was also a staunch advocate of conscious lyrics as he urged Black people to think positively and do positive things. Nowadays it is fashionable to hear gurus of self-help working their spiel about positive thoughts. You would think that they had listened to the Great Rastaman. Like Malcolm X and Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Bob Marley was acutely aware of the necessity to deal firmly with situations that demanded strong action. That did not mean that he advocated unbridled, confrontational violence, but he understood that the poor and oppressed had a duty to resist these things that were part of "Babylon."
It is perhaps this prophetic quality that has made Robert Nesta Marley a Third World legend and Reggae's only superstar. So as we celebrate the anniversary of his birth on February 6, we must remember his passing and pay respect to his works. He was, undoubtedly, Jamaica's most outstanding ambassador and one who yearned for all the people of the Caribbean to come together. His music and lyrics advocated a kind of Black-centered Christianity that would "free our minds." Thus Marley, although born in Jamaica, was a citizen of the Caribbean and so-called Third World, now rechristened "the Emerging Nations." He transcended the narrow borders of nations moving with his pulsating music to the world community of humankind.
But Marley was not merely satisfied to simply fight for deliverance from "Babylon" in the Western Hemisphere through his music and powerful lyrics. He preached resistance to all forms of oppression. His songs of protest and of agitation, composed after exposure to the social and economic inequalities prevalent in Jamaican and Caribbean society in his youth, have been adopted by people in many countries struggling for, what his talented compatriot, Peter Tosh and fellow Wailer, called "equal rights and justice."
Marley's contribution to Jamaican and world musical culture still stands out as a monumental achievement of human endeavor. Today the world still sings "these songs of freedom," as the Dread-locked One demanded. Let us always remember that his music and his works were aimed, in the fashion of another great Jamaican, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, at liberating his race. Marley's tenure on this earth was a potent reminder that Black people are still not yet free. His creative genius accomplished what most international politicians dream of achieving and he did it by being just - Bob Marley, humble and sincere.
There is something for everybody in the works of Bob Marley. Some folks love him for his upbeat, up-tempo music like "One Love" Jamaica's national song; others like his spiritual side found in such works as "Redemption Song" and "Three Little Birds." And still there are many, like me, who cling to the masterful works of protest music in songs like "Bad Card" and "Ambush In The Night." No matter what people remember Bob Marley for, his works "Idureth for Iver." So "get up, stand up, stand up for your rights," and listen to the Supreme Rastaman who trod into Babylon "inna this generation" - Triumphantly. Considered today's reggae classics, Marley's music never ceases to refresh and reinvigorate each and every time that it is played.
Indeed, it is his music's staying power that keeps alive the image and spirit of Bob Marley as fans from all walks of life, and social standings -- from the townships of Soweto in South Africa to the plush, affluent homesteads of Beverly Hills - celebrate his 73rd earth day.
Positive Vibration, Yeah-ah.