I grew up in a house where Bob Marley was the default background music. I can remember hearing “Natural Mystic,” “Exodus” and “Redemption Song” even before I could understand what any of those songs meant. Putting on one of his records ensured a peace settlement whenever there was a family picnic, graduation party or wedding. He was the one artist we could all agree on, the pendulum between my dad’s irrational love for the Gathers Family and what he calls my “hip-hop hurrah.”
More than that, Bob Marley was more than a legend- to my family the reggae star was a real live person. One who grew up in the same part of Jamaica as my father, recorded music in the neighborhoods my uncles hung out and was a controversial national figure before becoming an international icon.
There is always debate on Marley’s legacy, but this year when he was nominated as one of Jamaica’s national heroes, many wondered if the title, previously applied to political figures, was appropriate. In an eloquent argument in his defense, author Geoffrey Phillips, explained:
Marley exemplified the human desire for freedom, which is why so many around the world are drawn to his music. But make no mistake, his first audience was always New World Africans, and his refusal of life saving surgery may be viewed as a kind of sacrifice to the idea that Rastafari incarnates: the black body is a holy site (temple) and should not be mutilated (as it had been in the slavedom days) for any reason—even at the cost of saving a physical life. Extreme, yes, but that’s why we have heroes. They do things we wouldn’t.
This is Marley’s hero deed: he transformed our consciousness in the areas of self-determination, identity, and agency.
Today, marking the thirty-year anniversary of his death we ask: what is your favorite Bob Marley song? Tell us your favorite classic, Clutchettes- share your thoughts!