BobMarley by Cecille S
BobMarley and the Wailers captured my heart the first time I heard him. Back then my father didn’t want us kids to listen to the music. Marley was the real deal, his lyrics powerful, prophetic, poetic and inspiring. As a teenager I had the pleasure of seeing the reggae legend perform at Madison Square Garden. The police/security guards ushered my ‘rock-god’ friend and I to the stage where we viewed the concert from this vantage position.
BobMarley was performing the same day my friend was performing. Bob at night and my friend in the afternoon. I received an invitation call the morning from my friend to accompany him on his private jet for a performance in Philadelphia for 100,000 die hard fans. I turned him down. Kinda strange as I had never seen him perform. We used to jump around singing songs and acting like kids but that’s not the same as performing before thousands of rabid, crazy rock and roller fans. What can I say? I was attempting to do natural dread locks for Bob’s concert later that night.
I told him to call when he got back to the city later in the evening. He was taken aback by my refusal but did call upon arrival to tell me he was knackered and not in the mood; I made such a raucous fuss that he relented and picked me up not long after.
My friend is considered ‘rock royalty’ worldwide by most. That’s the only reason we were able to see the concert in such a unique manner. The guards and cops fell over each other, shaking in excitement once they saw he was in the car. I don’t recall my friend requesting stage access. We were flanked by cops/guards and hustled toward the stage once our car pulled into the Garden’s back entrance.
Superstars packed the front row. Rastas were everywhere. It was an incredible hair raising experience watching Bob perform. Surreal viewing the concert from stage. Bob was dying then, he had to be carried off stage by two burly minders, one on either side. Once he got to the end of stage darkness, the minders took hold of him: held him under his arm feet barely touching ground, he appeared deeply dazed as they lifted/dragged him to the dressing room. We waited until the minders opened the door and greeted him. He was fully focused. His smile brilliant like the sun even then.
During his electrifying and energetic performance no one had an inkling that he was deathly ill. The next day while running in Central Park he collapsed and was diagnosed with incurable melanoma cancer.
One young man who appeared to be Orthodox Jew burst into tears, sobbing when Marley launched into Exodus (movement of Jah people). I was profoundly moved. I overheard a white policeman shaking his head and saying in awe or maybe it was shock to another policeman, “Only in America, only in America.” Most likely they had never seen so many dreads, major white superstars or heard reggae music, all under one roof; they were perplexed by the adoration and awe directed toward the slight handsome man with snakelike hair who appeared to be channeling some higher energy flowing into the crown of his head, slithering through his body, purposely directed toward the audience, filling the stadium with an unmistakable mystical vibe.
Little did the cops know that all over the world people were picking up on Marley’s vibe. My first trip to Europe as an adventurous teen was to Italy; the custom officers examined my Jamaican passport, looked at me and said, “Is Jamaica in Africa?” The other custom agent excitedly said, “Bob Marley, Bob Marley!” True story. I entered the country…no questions asked. A couple days later while walking around the Duomo di Milano, I saw masses of posters of Bob plastered on the Corinthian columns in the square.
BobMarley’s 70th birthday is today. I was a diehard fan from the moment I heard his music and always will be. I saw him perform in Central Park before a small group of people before he blew up. I took the train from Ansonia, Conn where I was living. I spent most days in the beautiful country library; there was nothing to do in that sleepy town…I read everything I could get my hands on, including all newspapers and must have seen a blurb about the concert. I missed Jamaica terribly back then even though I was jumping out of my skin by all the wonders of America. Bob was a massive inspirational dose of Jamaica.
On my travels to far flung places, I’m never surprised to see images of Bob or hear his music blasting from loudspeakers. His gift to make music that connects generations was remarkable. Once on my way to Tikel, looking for a place to lunch and sound the night in nearby Flores I heard Bob’s voice accompanied by thumping bass. I followed the music to a Chinese restaurant, in the yard was an eleven year old Chinese Gutamalian girl engulfed in rapture dancing by herself, skanking like a true Jamaican. Comforted by the music, diminishing the lonliness of being an only child for two elderly parents. Right then the only thing which mattered was the manna infused wihin the music and everything was alright in that moment. To Be Continued…
Kevin Macdonald documentary on Bob Marley is flawless. Check out the preview of Kevin explaining why he’s on every student’s wall video. And then see the documentary. The language is exquisite, the man inspiring and Jamaica beyond beautiful.