Bob Marley's music touched many people, primarily because it spoke to them on a level of truth, resonating with their own feelings of frustration with an unjust system. Marley's lyrics stirred a kind of passion that gave voice to the unsung cries of many. |
Born in rural Jamaica to a teenage mother and a middle-aged father who was a captain in the West Indian regiment of the British Army, Marley and his mother moved to Trench Town, a west Kingston slum, at the age of six when his parents separated.
It was in Trench Town that Marley met Bunny Wailer, a boy that he had shared housing with. Marley and Bunny also shared musical interests. After creating a guitar from bamboo, sardine cans and electrical wire, they set out to learn harmonies by listening to a local musician and by tuning into a radio program out of New Orleans. The duo was later joined by Peter Tosh; the three of them formed the musical group "The Wailers"
While the musical style of the Wailers was considered to be of the bad boy variety - rude and ruckus - Marley's musical flavor took on a different more spiritually political tone when he converted to Rastafarian. A religion that blends the purest forms of Judaism and Christianity; Rastafarian worships the divinity of Haile Selassie, (considered the god of the black race) while rejecting the Babylonian (the white political power structure that holds the black race down) hypocrisy of the modern church.
An important tenet of the Rastafarian religion is the consumption of "I-tal food". I-tal food basically translates to a diet of whole, fresh, organic food devoid of salt, preservatives and condiments. Vegetarianism is practiced by many followers, while some imbibe in fish. Herbal tea is acceptable but alcohol, soda pop, coffee and milk are considered unnatural.
I've personally known of people who thought that the religion was worth adopting because it encourages the use of ganga or "wisdomweed", as it is sometimes referred to in the Rasta world. Some sources say that smoking ganga makes them feel more connected to "Jah" (god). Marley is often revered for his outright use and promotion of marijuana, though as an interesting side note, fellow Rastafarian and singer/songwriter Mutabaruka strongly disagrees with the use of any and all intoxicants, feeling that they only serve to annihilate people.
Hair is considered sacred in the Rastafarian tradition; cutting or combing it is forbidden and considered unnatural. Thus the reason for "dreading" the hair. Dreadlocks are also symbolic of a rebellion that purportedly began when a group of rebel rousers resisted British rule. Dreadlocks grew to symbolize rebellion against the system and its norms, its politics, and its oppression against the people. Although the term dreadlock was initially a derogatory expression coined by a conservative faction of Jamaica, Marley proudly embraced and popularized it.
Marley despised the System and its politics but many saw him as a radical political leader. If he had a political message it was that the redemption of humans can only come about through love and the knowledge that we are all one. One love. His music was a powerful and effective medium through which he was able to express this message. His songs speak out against all forms of injustice, everywhere in the world. His songs were songs of freedom.
Marley was awarded Jamaica's Order Of Merit in recognition of his contribution to his country's culture. After Marley's death, the Jamaican government honored his memory by giving him a national funeral. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
"Until the philosophy which hold one race
Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war, me say war"