The Natural Mystic Long-time friend of legend Bob Marley, Lee Jaffe e, once wrote of him saying, "Around Bob, you felt very in-touch with the miraculous" (Scaggs). For Robert Nesta Marley was more than a musical star, he was a lover, a fighter, a Rasta, an ordinary man, a poet. When trying to evaluate whether or not an artist is the most significant of an era, one must consider the quality and timelessness of their music, the power of their performance, and of course, the substance behind their character. In examining his life and's music, the power of Bob Marley's music, performance and character are heroic in nature. He is composed of sadness, love, understanding and God-given talent and he left behind the most remarkable body of recorded work. Bob was a musical prophet and transcends above all commercial and so-called, "popular" music.
Bob Marley proves to be the most significant artist of the twentieth century. Bob Marley gave the world brilliant music, his work spreading across almost two decades, and continuing to be timeless and worldwide. Growing up in a shantytown outside Kingston, Jamaica, Bob had one ambition, music. Along with some childhood friends, he formed a group known as The Wailers, and over a span of ten years and numerous failed attempts finally had their enchanting voices heard in 1972 (Peake). From that time until Marley's death in 1982 and forever, "the ripples of his unparalleled achievements radiate outward through a river of his music into an ocean of politics, ethics, philosophy and religion" (Steffens). His music had a real quality and comes from the harmony within his soul.
It has value and is about something, surpassing all the meaningless pop music and making a profound statement of "One World, One Love" (Scaggs). His music has touched generations of people worldwide, with a unique Jamaican reggae sound unlike any other type of music. Personally, when I listen to his music I feel energized and at peace with a warm sensation filling my heart. No other musical artist gives me that feeling of warm deep in my soul. His lyrics are beautifully written and speak of his own oppression and the quest for freedom as in his popular song, Natural Mystic, he sings "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds/ Have no fear for atomic energy, 'cause none of 'dem can stop da tides" (Peake).
He made comparisons that anyone could relate to in their daily lives. Bob Marley put everything he had into his music and it shows more than any song than can be heard on the radio. Contrasting most of today's pop stars, Bob was concerned with so much more than entertainment, money or fame when creating his music. Most musicians sell-out to big-time record labels for five-year contracts making music that is "popular" or supposedly what the people want to hear, so that they can be heard and make some quick money (Steffens). Any talent they may have had is put into poorly written music with hollow, pointless lyrics. They create the songs heard on the radio everyday, over and over, that show little flair or originality.
No one really wants to hear the same thing repeatedly, and Bob created music with a fresh sound and beautiful lyrics that have intense meaning. He saw his music as an outlet for his message of Rastafari, for "music raises the soul of man even higher that the so-called external form of religion... that is why in ancient times the greatest prophets were musicians" (Steffens). Marley's true legacy lies in the roots of the Rastafarian religion and his music demonstrates a sense of spirituality and soul, communicating his ultimate message of love and only love (Scaggs). Whether he is speaking of the hardships of life as in his song Night Shift, "Right around the corner, bring your goods.
Go around the other corner, bring your suitcases, by the sweat of my brow" (Peake), the trials of love in No Woman, No Cry, "My feet is my only carriage, and so I've got to push on thru. Oh, while I'm gone, everything's gonna be alright (X 2). No woman no cry (X 2). I say little darling,' don't shed no tears.
No woman no cry" (Peake), the way people act towards one another in Bad Card, my personal favorite: "Propaganda spreading over my name, say you want to bring another life to shame. Oh man you just a playing game and then you draw bad card" (Peake) or love and peace to all people, as the Rastafarian religion taught him, in One Love, "One love, one heart, let's get together and feel all right. As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right" (Peake). His music also speaks of his struggle with social injustice as in Redemption Song, "Old pirates yes they rob I, sold I to the merchant ships. Minutes after they took I from the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong, by the hand of the almighty. We forward in this generation... triumphantly" (Peake), and even took on a political nature, influencing the ghetto youth of Jamaica with his strong beliefs. Marley believed that nothing could help man more spiritually than music and no other musical star in history has had such an impact on moral and political ideals. While most pop stars of the twentieth century had entertainment as their main goal, Marley's ambition was to call people to God as the Rasta messenger. With his unyielding faith so prevalent in his music, he did so much more than entertain, but enlightened, making him the most influential artist of his time.
"In his true heart of hearts, Bob Marley heard the harmony of the heavens, and shard that celestial sound with the god-seeker in all of us" (Steffens). He is seen as a redeemer figure returning to lead the planet out of confusion. The first superstar from the Third World, Bob Marley, was one of the most fascinating performers of our time. The final Bob Marley and The Wailers tour attracted the largest audiences at that time for any other musical act in Europe and if he were still alive to perform today, he would attract record numbers of fans. Even today, thousands of people gather annually to pay tribute to Bob Marley, and you don't see people celebrating just any pop star long after their death. Bob had a great impact on people (Scaggs).
His performance was one that brought together everyone, despite any differences they might have. In fact, he was asked to return home to Jamaica, to perform at the "One Love, One Peace" concert. The concert had two functions, the first was to raise money to provide much needed sanitary facilities and housing for those in West Kinston the second, and main reason for the concert, was the hope it might save the country from civil war (Peake). Bob Marley was a key performer for the second cause due to his music's political importance in Jamaica. On the night of the concert, a majestic looking Bob took to the stage, wearing a coat of many colors, with a map of Africa on the back and he didn't fail to delight the crowd. Bob gave a spell binding performance, a truly mesmerizing set, almost as if he was possessed, in a trance like state.
To watch Bob on stage during this show would have been truly fantastic, his onstage presence is phenomenal, his actions and gestures speaking volumes. During the show, Bob invited both Mr. Michael Manley, the head of Jamaica's leading political party and Mr. Edward Sega, the leader of the opposition, to join him on stage. The two political heads were reluctant, but eventually joined him on stage.
In an historic moment Bob took both politicians hands and he interlocked them with his own and raised their hands together signifying unity (Peake). The show was a historic concert that will forever be remembered as one great example of the power of Bob's performance. What other musical star played a concert that prevented a war? On top of his music, Marley's stage presence clearly defeats them all. Bob Marley was a free spirit. From his acceptance of marijuana as a part of his beliefs to his untamed dreadlocks, Marley was a rebel embraced by resistant youth and peace-seekers (Peake). Yet his character goes far deeper than mere image.
He was real, with real talent, a real message and a real heart, sharing love with all who came into contact with him. Even those who only listen to his songs of freedom are touched by the sincerity of his lyrics and how strongly he believed in his message and are stirred by his soul. His strong character proved his confidence and showed everyone that he had nothing to hide, which is more than can be said for other pop stars of the twentieth century, that would do anything for money, utterly lacking in individual thought and strength of character. Take Madonna for example, who wore revealing clothing and made herself a sex symbol to gain popularity before she was respected as a musical artist, or rock stars that degrade women and abuse drugs and alcohol, only to obtain infamous reputations. Bob Marley had a genuine and open heart and wasn't concerned with being popular, and he had and continues to hold a greater impact on his listeners than any other musical artist in history. Bob Marley's music, t-shirts and posters can be found all around the world.
When you see his face, on a t-shirt, flag or on the sleeve of an armed guerilla you can tell it means so much more than a Beatles' t-shirt or Elvis' face if it were placed in the same situation (Steffens). Bob Marley, his face, and his music stand as a universal symbol of peace and freedom throughout the world. He has a certain immortality that will never fade. Elvis Presley may have been the biggest rock star of all time, but his songs spoke of nothing more than petty pop clich'e. And Bob Dylan may have been a well-respected poet, but his appeal was limited to English-speaking people only. On the other hand, Bob Marley perfected his beautiful lyrics, using simple street language to achieve ultimate expression of his oppression and struggle.
Even today, his stories are understood by people anywhere who long for freedom and love. "Music alone can be called real which comes from the harmony of the soul, it's true source, and when it comes from there it must appeal to all souls... Music alone can be the means by which the souls of races, nations and families, which today are so far apart, may one day be united... The more the musician is conscious of his mission in life, the greater service he can render to humanity" (Steffens).
Bob Marley rendered a great service to all who come into contact with his music. The timeless quality of his music, along with his incredible stage performance and the depth of his character, touched so many people, and continues to support the search for freedom, peace and love internationally. Bob Marley, above any other artist, deserves to be remembered as the most significant of the twentieth century. Work Cited: Peake, Michael.
"Bob Marley Biography." Written in 1997. Accessed on Thursday, April 17, 2003. Last updated 2002. web Austin.
"Living with Marley." Rolling Stone Magazine. March 20, 2003 Steffens, Roger. "Bob Marley." Beat Magazine. Volume 18, #3, 2000.