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Catching Fire - Remembering Bob Marley

6 February 2020

There are times in our lives when the light at the end of the tunnel begins to feel less warm with every passing minute. I remember seeing a spectacle that stirred my very soul once. In the depressive, grey dullness of a city,a simple painting on the side of a building of Bob Marley in a psychedelic collage of colours with the words-
“Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright”,

Those words from the song “Three Little Birds”. A simple phrase which I feel perfectly captures the spirit of Marley and his very beliefs. I had listened to Bob Marley for years but this was the first time I heard him. He reached into the depths of all that was wrong, and pulled it out with two simple lines, shone the heat of his sun into my bones.

I realised then the importance of Bob Marley and how words and music can affect your life.I thought of his quote straight away, “When music hits you,you feel no pain”. The cold, damp weather slowly drifted, and my love of Marley was catching fire again. It was the kindness of a stranger who painted the mural, the kindness and vision of the man who wrote the lyrics, i guess it is an example of the importance of music in our lives.

I would love to start by saying Bob Marley was a simple man, but it would be untrue, he was very complicated and set in his beliefs. Shown in the cancer that killed him in 1981. A simple amputation would have saved him, but that was against his religion. Instead, I will focus on one of his most triumphant moments, when he showed the world the power of music.

On December 3, 1976, two days before the Smile Jamaica concert organised by Prime Minister Michael Manley, tragedy struck in the country’s capital. Reggae star Bob Marley, main act for the Heroes Circle event, was shot at his Hope Road home during rehearsals for the coming show. Also shot was his wife Rita, manager Don Taylor and Lewis Griffiths, a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The irony lay in the purpose of the Smile Jamaica concert organised to ease political tensions which were firing high in Jamaica at the time. And Bob of course been used by both sides. But some felt with elections due, by performing at the ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert, Marley was supporting the then government. Whether Marley wanted it or not, he was now a political figure. 

Bob wanted it to be a nonpartisan, completely apolitical event. He did not want to be perceived as supporting either party but simply wanted to perform for his people. He was however shot in the upper arm. Doctors warned him that removing the bullet might cause him to lose control of his fingers. Thus, the bullet would remain in his arm for the rest of his life. Marley could not imagine a world in which he was unable to play his instrument.

Here, captures the defiant spirit of Bob Marley. He refused to be deterred by the violent incident. Only two days later, on Dec. 5, he delivered an inspired performance before 80,000 people. It was one of the most monumental shows of his career. When asked why he did it, Marley is quoted as saying- “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”

After the concert, Bob left Jamaica to recuperate, and work on his new album. What would become his most radical and revolutionary work Exodus. The series of events had inspired this work of genius which crossed over to the mainstream and brought Bob Marley’s music to a larger, worldwide audience. Nobody was ever arrested, or charged for his shooting. On the 11th of May, 1981, Bob died of cancer in Miami, Florida. Still carrying the bullet lodged in his arm, a symbolic projectile, designed to kill had instead become a message of hope, and peace.