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Behind The Song: Bob Marley, "Redemption Song" « American Songwriter
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One of the twentieth century's most iconic cultural figures, Bob Marley was responsible for popularizing reggae music throughout the world. He set attendance records that still stand today and his Exodus album was hailed by Time magazine as the greatest of the 20th Century.
His unique blend of politically conscious lyrics and unforgettable melodies won him legions of fans far beyond the Caribbean. But Marley was no mere pop star: his strong attachment to Rasta beliefs and practices and his fierce hostility to the injustice of "Babylon" made him an important spokesperson for the dispossessed all over the globe. In this new biography, Garry Steckles follows Marley's eventful life through the early days in rural Jamaica, arrival in Kingston, first recordings and performances to his spectacular status as an international superstar.
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Throughout he analyzes Marley's political and religious beliefs, while also concentrating on his relationships with fellow musicians, family and influential figures. A chapter focusing on Marley's long-term legacy explores what the musician contributed to world music and what the religious believer gave to Rastafarianism. Also in This Series. More Like This. His legacy has been contested ever since his death, in large part because of his disinclination as a Rasta to leave behind a will.
For decades Roger Steffens, compiler of this oral history, has been a leading authority on Marley; his home archive, almost a museum, is an essential pit-stop for any serious scholar. In So Much Things to Say , a title taken from the anthemic Marley song, linking Jesus Christ to Marcus Garvey , Steffens identifies many more pieces of the man than have ever before been put together in one book.
More than a decade ago, David Katz drew on more than first-hand interviews to tell a luminous story of reggae, entitled Solid Foundation. Steffens takes a similar approach, using the transcriptions of conversations he has conducted over 40 years.
Revisit: Bob Marley & The Wailers: Legend
At the core of the book is the inimitable Wailers trio — Tosh, Marley and Bunny Livingston — who lived and worked closely together for a decade from their first encounter as youths. Music provided an escape from the parlous fate seemingly predetermined for him.
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This was evidently the case with the Rasta elder and street intellectual Mortimo Planno, an extraordinarily gnarled walrus of a man, who for a time held a Rasputin-like grip on Marley, schooled him in the cultish religion and later attempted to groom him as a proselytising musical ambassador for Rastafari. A decade later, the Wailers electrified audiences as Rastas dressed in army fatigues with dreadlocks flashing in the night air. If Marley is at the celestial centre of reggae, then Livingston is the brightest satellite.
In that task he is aligned with Steffens, the consummate fan.