By: Bobby McHavens
For each of us of the sixties, seventies, and/or eighties, the Bob Marley legend takes on different and specific meaning, rife with peaceful love, spiritual reclamation, and even, at the end, melancholia (at losing Marley to cancer). For some of us, Marley was about supreme reggae— invigorating music and profound lyrics; for others, he was accompaniment to our studies, our search for self, or our spiritual seeking; for still others, Marley was about pure love. The Bob Marley legend began with him, because of him, and continues with those of us who remember him.
We say Bob Marley legend because Marley made it in a conformist culture by first fitting in to that milieu (look at his pictures in the sixties: he and The [other] Wailers wore the suits, the thin ties, the shortly-cropped hairdos…) then by evolving, physically, emotionally, spiritually (consider the dreads, yeah, but remember the philosophy, the religion, the attitude, the words).
We say Bob Marley legend because he brought reggae to the people, non-African, non-Jamaican masses, too, introducing the distinctive syncopated back beat fronted by soft and, well, wailing, words like those of “No Woman, No Cry” and “Is This Love…?”
We say Bob Marley legend because the all-time finest reggae leader made Rastafari real, respected, and righteous as a movement, a life-principle: by way of Rastaman Vibration, for example, Marley instilled the subtle spirit of Haile Salassie; he brought curves to the sharp rock sounds; he showed us a new way to revere God, or Ja.
And we say Bob Marley legend because when we were in college in the seventies or on the grassy knolls of the Haight or breaking free from corporate sports or industry or injury, he was there with words and music and the greatest of spirit--affirming affirmed our need for unity, solidarity, spirituality, respect, and love. He helped us “Stir it up,” “Put it on,” and “Rock it Baby.” He encouraged us to “Pass it on,” “Stand Alone,” and “Keep on Moving.” And as he passed the torch of human dignity in rebellion and in redemption, he taught us to realize, “Most people think/Great God will come from the skies/Take away everything/And make everybody feel high. But if you know what life is worth/You will look for yours on earth…,” and that it is necessary, okay, probable, and imperative that we “Get up, stand up; stand up for [our] rights!”