Art Politics and Protest
December 6 2010
The life and legacy of Bob Marley
Robert Nesta Marley, known to the world as Bob Marley, was born in Jamaica February 6 1945 and died May 11 1981.He died battling cancer. To date the largest funeral the island of Jamaica has seen, there were farewell supporters from all over the world. Bob Marley was a singer song writer, musician and activist. His father was a white Jamaican and his mother black Jamaican. Bob Marley was known internationally for reggae music and Rastafarianism. He is a brilliant and evocative musician. He is accredited with exposing and helping to broaden both Jamaican music and Rastafarianism. Marley captured an extensive, diverse and integrated audience. His music was and still symbolizes race, class, protest and political symbols. Marley’s practice Rastafarian movement contributed to art and music and politics. He has composed several songs such as Buffalo soldier, Exodus, Get up stand up for your rights, Redemption songs much trouble in the world, Concrete jungle, War and an extensive list of others. So from the musical prophet I present the revolutionary lyrics of ‘WAR/ NO MORE TROUBLE.’
Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another, inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is WAR. That until there no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation, until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes me say War. That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, dis a War. That until that day the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship rule of international morality will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained, now everywhere is War. And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique, South Africa, and sub-human bondage have toppled utterly destroyed well, everywhere is War. War in the east, War in the west, War up north, War down south, WAR WAR. Rumors of war until that day THE African continent will not know peace, we Africans will fight-we find it necessary and we know we shall win; as we are confident in the victory, of good over evil.
It not only transmits a message but it informs and educates on a political social and academic level.
The song was inspired by a Haile Selassie, held at the Inauguration of OAU an organization of Africa unity. The song calls for eradication of racial and class discrimination. War" is a song recorded and made popular by Bob Marley of course. It first appeared on Bob Marley and the Wailers' 1976 Island Records album Marley's only album to chart in the USA, at #10. The lyrics are almost literally derived from a speech made by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie 1 before the United Nations General Assembly in 1963. Marley, along with fellow Rastafarians worship Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as the incarnation of God, and refer to him as "Ras Tafari," "Jah" or “The Lion,” which Marley does in many of his songs. To him, Selassie was not only one of the most prominent African leaders of his time, he was also identified as God returning to earth as "King of Kings, Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19, 16), imperial titles born both by Selassie I.( )
Bob Marley had a tremendous impact in Africa, according to Rasta-man- vibration, it is through this experience that Marley became abreast of the wide array of issues facing Africa and in particular realized the importance of the liberation struggle taking place in Zimbabwe. In fact by the time Bob arrived in Ethiopia in 1978 the struggle had reached its climax.
The time for Zimbabwean Independence was near and it consumed the heart of Bob Marley. While Marley loved the thought of performing in Zimbabwe the first performance of the band was in Gabon. The occasion was to celebrate the birthday of Gabon’s President Omar Bongo. Marley as a populist musician was however disappointed with the fact that he only performed to the members of the Gabonese elite. In the hopes of helping to steer Zimbabwe into independence Marley performed in a benefit concert in Boston to raise funds for the freedom fighters in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The title of the concert was Amandla, which was a short version of the phrase Amandla Ngawetu meaning ‘power to the people’ in the Shona language of Zimbabwe. The concert was a success with over 25,000 people in attendance and it featured Bob straying from the script and giving a heartfelt speech on African Unity.
The lesson that Marley has taught us,that is benineficial particularly to the new generation of musicians, is the way in which he mixed musical creation with activism. Marley not only wrote songs about Africa but also backed that up with activism on the ground. One of the most potent examples is shown in his musical performances in Zimbabwe to usher in their independence.
Marley as an avid follower of the Zimbabwean Liberation front wrote the song Zimbabwe in honor of their struggle for liberation. The lyrics of the song speak to the right of all people to self-determination in the song Marley states:"
Every man got a right to decide his own destiny And in this judgment there is no partiality So arm in arm we’ll fight this little struggle
Cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble."
These lyrics were an essential part of the motivation for the army in the fight for national liberation, which speaks to the inspirational power of popular culture as a transforming agent.
This song was also made popular by sinhead O’Connor. In 1992 Sinead O'Connor performed War a cappellaa on Saturday Night Live with slightly modified lyrics, referring to child abuse rather than racism. At the end of this performance, she tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II to protest the Catholic Church covering up cases of child molestation by priests. In 2005 O'Connor released a studio version of "War" on her album Throw Down Your Arms. ( ) She was severely ridiculed for this performance; however, she has gained vindication since.
Rastafarianism was imperative to Marley’s personal life and most importantly the music. The Rastafarian movement is a monotheistic, religious movement that was conceived in the Christian culture in Jamaica in the 1930s. It is a highly organized and disciplined religion. It is both a movement and ideology. One trademark of the movement is deadlocks, this locks was permanently fashioned by Marley. Many Rasta debates that it is more like a way of life and not a religion. This way of life encourages them to find faith and inspiration within themselves. We often hear Marley through his music and interviews speak profoundly about how imperative inspiration is and what he attains from it. Haile Selassie is an important figure in the movement he is seen as a prophet and worshipped. Awareness of Rastafarian movement has multiplied throughout much of the world; I would say via the conduit power and influence of reggae music and Bob Marley. The movement embraces various Afro centric social and political issues along with obligation, Marley deemed it necessary to compose defiant and politically charged album. The parties’ respective roles of incumbency and opposition created forceful rivalry. On one of Jamaica’s most pertinent and historical concerts; organized by the then present Prime Minister Michael Manley in an attempt to minimize or alleviate the conflicts and war between the two parties. The concert was titled ‘Smile Jamaica’ Marley played the most integral and impressive role as he united on stage the In Jamaica West Indies were Marley was a citizen there is tumultuous politics. Historically there are two political parties the Jamaica Labour Part and the Peoples National Party. Due to a broken government, travesty of social and leaders of both parties. That image is profound and pivotal and will forever be treasured in Jamaica’s history. Marley did several concerts in Jamaica, One love, Peace among others in order to attain tranquility from the existing social and political issues. Marley’s contribution to art, music and politics in Jamaica. Music in Jamaica is an escape from the callousness of everyday life, a feel good time and narrating existing issues. This has obviously resonated throughout the world.(jis)
The music, life and philosophy of the late great Robert Nesta Marley OM has to a great degree been shaped and influenced by the political climate of Jamaica.
This political atmosphere has affected his writings tremendously and his writings in turn, affected the Jamaican politics of the day. Marley’s music grew out of both severe and constant economic impoverishment as well as political discontent with the government and its policies; and it is in this context that as well his music must be analyzed and understood. This explores the genesis of Marley and his works as well as an examination of aspects of the political climate in Jamaican after independence in 1962 and later the 1970’s and the 1980’s. This explores the genesis of Marley and his works as well as an examination of aspects of the political climate in Jamaican after independence in 1962 and later the 1970’s and the 1980’s. During this period he rose to prominence and his music gave rise to a new form of consciousness among blacks and a defiant rejection of the system of oppression(Rasta-man-vibrations .com)
According to Paul Gilroy Marley stardom also makes sense in the historical and cultural context provided by the end of Rock and Roll. He was the first rock star and first figure of a new phrase identified as the beginning of what has come to be known as WORLD MUSIC.A significant marketing category that helps to locate historically the slow terminal demise of the music-led youth culture which faded out with the embers of the twentieth century.
His polarity was built upon universal power of a language that was simultaneously and inextricably both poetic and political. Marley’s music was pirated in Eastern Europe long before the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain fell. It became intertwined with the longing for freedom and rights that was evident in every variety of regime; across Africa, the Pacific, and Latin America. Captured by any means necessary, that rebel music travelled far from its original source and discovered new constituencies particularly among indigenous and colonized people.
The Jamaican rebel style was heard, copied and then blended into local traditions of Brazil, Surinam, Japan, Australia, and numerous other countries. Marley invested in language of sufferration that he made so compelling.”
Bob Marley left a lot of a wealth of legacy he was and still is honored by his home land Jamaica and the international community at large. These honors range from statue inaugurated in his honor at the entrance of the national stadium in Jamaica ,postage stamps, the Bob Marley museum, selected songs are used as theme songs for the Jamaica tourist board, clothing accessories, artifacts, awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit, and countless other in his homeland. On an international level, in 1994 was inducted into the Rock and Roll of fame,1999,Time Magazine chose Bob Marley and the Wailers song ‘Exdous’as the greatest album of the 20th century, in 2001 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime music award and a feature-length documentary about his life, Rebel Music won various awards, the state of New York renamed a portion of Church Avenue in East Flat bush in Brooklyn “Bob Marley Boulevard”, the song ‘One love’ was named song of the century and is a theme song across the world, awarded the peace medal of the third world in 1978 from the United Nations, and star of Hollywood walk of fame in 2001.(Gilroy)
In conclusion, one can conclude that years after his death he still has an immortal and uncanny presence internationally. He personified the universal struggle for justice, peace human rights and equality. His lyrics of denunciation, resistance, resilience and comfort and be resonated worldwide. He has become a symbol.
As a fellow Jamaicans we are proud and treasure the precious qualities and contributions he has impacted on the nation. It helps to transmit legacies, resources of hope and change. His life of cultural blend and integration was inspired by the formative experiences. In a nut shell for him the message was quiet simple, ONE LOVE.
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Gilroy, Paul.”Music: Could You Be Loved? Bob Marley.”47.12(2005):226-245.Academic Search Complete.Web.6 Dec.2010.
“Jamaica Information Service.”Government of Jamaica.1996.Web.4 Dec.2010.
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Morris. Dennis (1999).Bob Marley a rebel life. Plexus Publishing Limited.