Trenchtown Rock: Being Bob Marley
Bob Marley needs no precursor. Having paved a way forward through the art of performance in the ’70s and ’80s with his masterful blend of rugged roots reggae, he inspired a multitude worldwide. And even in death, his story continues.
Original soul brotha Bob Marley, né Robert Nesta Marley, was a fated one; destined to endow the people of Jamaica with his stupefying brand of Reggae that, when performed by the Trench Town prince—accompanied by his Wailers or flying solo—would send a sh*t storm of funk through the veins and out the soles of the people. Only Bob could make us gyrate despite our disappointments and the misgivings of a concrete jungle left destitute at the hands of political ineptitude and gang violence. Marley was an artist’s artist and knew no musical bounds. With Jah by his side and Jamaica on his back, Marley’s portion was to supersede being born by a slave and as a biracial seed, by blurring all color lines to unite people across borders and to live by one mantra only until death: “I no take white side, I no take black side… me only take Jah side.”
What distinguished Bob Marley from other artists back then, and even many more today was that his love for making music was his sole reason for making music. But no conversation about Bob is complete without waving the ganja banner way high. Just a few days ago on April 20, notoriously celebrated by weed heads across the globe as 4/20 or better, annual Weed Day, was made holy by a new documentary about the Rastafarian king that debuted on the holiday, simply titled: Marley.
Upon watching the film, you will learn firsthand what kind of performer Bob Marley truly was. His charge: to change lives and not as a guitar-playing, Rastafarian hippie as some might have assumed early on in his career. He was like a harmonious wind that collided beautifully with the drum, and with bass as a steadying backbone as Bob spewed conscious lyrics that went straight to the heart, together with his band he summoned funk, blues, rock, reggae, jazz and turned the world on its axis.
Marley symbolized change. A change for the people and a change in music. Marley didn’t sell records at first; especially in the genesis of his career as a solo artist, but he was a phenomenon on stage. His ability to interact with and entertain the swooning (and growing) massive was particularly critical for him as a musician who didn’t see large returns on sales. Parallel to the plight of artists today, albeit today the dilemma is directly attributable to the saturation of pirated music as opposed to just the recession, this film is a guidebook of sorts, schooling today’s emcees and sirens on the true artist’s way to success via the conduit of song and stage performance.
Born and raised in a small hut at the top of a lush hill in the village of Nine Mile, Marley flourished into a stellar soul who made music the same way he made love: boundless, with no rules and in accordance with the most high. —Marjua Estevez