Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bob Marley 1945 - 1981

Sorry no music shares today... but I hope you'll stick around to read my testimonal on the importance of Bob Marley in my life.

I almost forgot that today is the 25th anniversary of Bob's passing and like most music fans I'm forever grateful for Bob Marley's musical accomplishments and contributions to mankind as a whole. But every time this date rolls around I can't help but be saddened tremendously by what might have been. But I'm not going to dwell on that...

My Mom married in 1956 and had her first child, my brother Barry, a year later. Three years later she had her second child, my sister. Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, the marriage didn't work out. My Mom who had nearly been disowned by her parents because she got married at such an early age, found herself alone with two children to raise and with no support. As you can imagine life was rough for my brother and sister and my Mom nearly killed herself working 2 and 3 jobs to put food on the table and most importantly a roof over their heads. Eventually her fortunes changed when she met my father in 1968. My Dad was four years younger than my Mom and he of course faced criticism from his own family for dating an older woman with 2 children but they eventually received my grandmother's blessing and married in 1970. But unlike most problematic step-children/step-father relationships, my 24 year old father loved my older brother and sister as if they were his own children. I came along in 1971 - my younger sister followed in '73.

Some of my earliest memories as a child had a lot to do with my older brother. As with most teens in the 70's Barry was into rock music and so I've been told, got involved with the accompanying drug scene. I was a kid I didn't know what bad things he did with his friends, all I knew was that my brother would let me wear his gigantic headphones to listen to music, would always watch cartoons with me on Saturday morning, bought me my first Matchbox car and even occasionally left a "Jim Dandy" ice cream sundae from Friendly's in the freezer on Friday night and never complained that I always ended up eating most of it. He was my idol and I always cherished the time we spent together.

Sometime in the mid-70's Barry discovered Bob Marley and the Wailers. I don’t know what circumstances lead him to switch from buying Frank Zappa and Joni Mitchell to listening to the emerging genre of music coming out of Jamaica but I’m glad he did. In 1983 our family (my parents, my younger sister and I) took a week-long trip to Jamaica and it was there that my parents heard reggae for the first time. When we got home my Mom brought it up to Barry and sure enough he was quite familiar with the music and provided my parents some recommendations for future listening. Oddly enough the cassette copy of Bob Marley’s “Exodus” they were recommended, quickly became the soundtrack to our summers. Here we were, a white middle-class family in the middle of suburbia grooving to the rhythm and lyrics straight from Trenchtown’s ghetto, and I think it had a major influence on the world outlook of both my sister and I.

In December of 1985, just a week and a half before Christmas, Barry was killed in a car accident. I’ll never forget awakening to the sound of the police at the door at 5 AM and my mother's crying. About a month later my parents, aunts and uncles and older cousins finally got up the courage to empty out the contents of Barry’s apartment. Later that evening I was presented with “my inheritance” – Barry’s record collection. I spent weeks looking through the crates of vinyl until I came across the 7 or 8 Bob Marley LPs. Since I was somewhat versed in reggae music they were the albums that I felt familiar with and listened to repeatedly. Our family didn’t realize it at the time but it was Bob Marley’s music that helped us heal. It also helped shape me into the person I am today.

The next spring a small bird decided to build a nest on my parent’s side porch. Eventually there were 4 eggs in the nest and a short time later all 4 birds had hatched. My Mom who was understandably still an emotional wreck, had been keeping an eye on the birds. One morning she went outside to have a look at the nest and the 4 babies, who had been making quite a remarkable racket for such tiny creatures, and saw that during the night one of the babies had fallen from the nest and died. My mother went back in the house and broke down. But ironically she immediately found a meaningful correlation in the three remaining birds, her three remaining children and the lyrics to “Three Little Birds.” She took it as a message from above that, “Every little thing was going to be alright.”

10 years later, my mother had healed as well as can be expected after losing a child, and I had turned my love of reggae music into a weekly Jamaican music program on my community college’s radio station. It was in February, right around Bob’s birthday, that I decided to do an all Bob Marley show in his honor. About 10 minutes into the show the phone rang. Now it was odd to get any calls and I was psyched because I thought it was a listener who wanted to make a request but it ended up being my Mom. It was evident immediately that she had been crying and I asked her what was wrong. She told me that they (Mom & Dad) were listening to the show – they were my most ardent fans and supporters – when they suddenly heard an odd rattling coming from their bedroom where the 4 high school graduation pictures of the 4 children hung. All the photos were silent except for Barry’s which was vibrating in tune with the bass line in the music. I immediately got cold chills and a held back tears until I looked over at the turntable and noticed, I swear to God I’m not lying here, Barry’s copy of “Survival” was playing.

About two years ago I was in the car with my wife and we were listening to Bob, as we do on a regular basis, and I had a revelation. Whenever I listen to Bob Marley I always find a comfort that is hard to explain. You’ve heard the expression “comfort food?” Well Bob is my “comfort food.” I think in my youth and in my inability to deal with the death of my brother at the time, Bob’s voice had come to represent that of my brother. His music had filled the gap in my life Barry’s death had created and it allowed me to cope in my own way. I’ll always be grateful to Bob Marley for that!

If you've read this far God bless you! Future music shares minus the personal emotion are coming soon! I promise! :)


johnny dollar said...

that was a great post ~ wow, up til now i thought of you as a reggae fan, but now i can see it is something deeper than that. take care, and keep up the great blog!

Reggaexx said...

Thanks for the kind words Johnny $!

i said...

whoa. i'd been putting off reading this until i had time to soak it in (i anticipated [correctly] that it would resonate with me and wanted to give it my full attention.)

know that:

when i read about your brother's picture reacting to "survival" i got the chills...

our stories are dissimilar in many ways, but also i feel strong identification re: the power that marley, and reggae in general, have had in shaping my life...

i agree with the "comfort food" statement. nothing can lighten my spirits like bob.

i disagree with the use of the word "ironically" in reference to your mother's finding of meaning re: the birds. to me irony, as you use it, would signify an incongruity between expectation and actual occurrence... but it seems to me that this correlation is to be expected and that this represents part of what is so powerful about bob's art; his lyrics contain immense wisdom and love and those who allow that energy into their lives are positively affected by it...

i really enjoyed reading this. thanks for remembering bob. i somehow, in the process of celebrating him virtually every day of my life, allowed the recognition of his birth and death to slip my mind this year.

perhaps because, to me, he is as alive as he ever has been... never more so than when he is blasting from my speakers and, with familyman's help, rattling the pictures on my walls.


Downpressor said...

good story, thanks for telling it to us

dubtafari said...

"no mon,reggae is not the twist"
Bob Marley

Give thanks for the sharing of the vibes. Have no fear. I read once where Bob hhimself always believed, to distinguish reggae from other music formats that content should always go with the music being played. I really felt the vibes in your commentary and support that to the fullness.
Give thanks for the music and for the pure vibe the I-man a bring to the site.
I can recall countless thousands of people who will tell you a simular story as yours regarding the impact of Bob Marley and Reggae.


Geoffrey Philp said...

Nice post. If you get a chance, come over to my place and visit and check out Marco's ezine from Italy. The movemant is still growing.

1 Love,

David said...

Thank you for this beautiful post and your impressive blog. Continue the works! Much love and respect, David