“The soul of positivity”

by Nicholas Laughlin on August 4, 2010

Bob Marley on a t-shirt

Portrait of Bob Marley on a t-shirt, Amsterdam; photograph by mdemon, posted at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

You posit the theory that Peter Tosh was just as talented as Bob, but for various reasons would never achieve the kind of overall popularity he did. What was it about Marley that has made him worldwide the most recognisable face and voice of reggae music?

He never wrote a bad song, and his songs contained the essence of great truths. His life in the simplicity of the country had imbued him with an understanding of his existence that came from watching things grow.

Plus, in a way that is unlike any other contemporary singing star, he was fired by his public love of God — of the good. Utterly charismatic as a performer, his shows channeled the soul of positivity, with utterly transcendent consequences.

It is also naïve to pretend that Bob’s physical appearance didn’t help: his Anglo-Saxon features and light skin perhaps made him less threatening to white audiences.

— From an interview with Chris Salewicz, author of the newly published Bob Marley: The Untold Story, by Bob Ruggiero in Houston Press. Salewicz — a British music journalist who lived in Jamaica from 1995 to 1997 — previously collaborated on Songs of Freedom, a book of Marley photographs by Adrian Boot.

Marley would have turned sixty-five this year. To mark the anniversary, Putumayo World Music has issued Tribute to a Reggae Legend, an album of Wailers covers by musicians from around the world, working in various genres. And the Putumayo blog has started a series of video interviews in which musicians and others reflect on Marley’s global legacy. The first features Reuben Koroma of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. (You can also hear the All Stars’ version of “No Woman No Cry”. Thanks to CRB contributor Georgia Popplewell for this link.)

(From the CRB archive: Geoffrey Dunn’s review of Bob Marley, by Garry Steckles, published in our November 2008 issue.)

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