Roger Steffens’ 65th—& Final—Tour of the “Bob Marley One Love Experience”

by Jun 26, 2023Articles, Report

Roger Steffens’ 65th—& Final—Tour of the “Bob Marley One Love Experience”


Where: Ovation Hollywood, Los Angeles CA
When: May 20, 2023
Reporter: Stephen Cooper
Photos: Courtesy of Stephen Cooper
Editing Slideshow & Video : Teacher
Copyright:  2023 – Stephen Cooper

It’s impossible to overstate the positive contribution Roger Steffens has made to reggae. And Steffens has done it through so many varied vehicles, including: radio broadcasts; speeches; brilliant photography; interviews; his prodigious “Reggae Archives” (recently purchased by Joe Bogdanovich—heir of the founder of Starkist Tuna—who plans to move Roger’s epic, one-of-a-kind collection to Jamaica); album liner notes and magazine articles Steffens has written; and, of course, multiple books Steffens has authored, including his magnum opus, “So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley.”

Adding to all this, Roger recently served as the official tour guide for the “Bob Marley One Love Experience”—a visually stunning, informative, well-crafted exhibition, replete with photography, art, and artifacts; a traveling exhibit, it was on display at the Ovation Hollywood, in Los Angeles, between January and May.

Of course when Roger—with whom I’ve been friends with ever since moving to California—invited me to come, on May 20, to his 65th and final tour of the “Bob Marley One Love Experience,” I leaped at the opportunity. There was no way I could pass it up, especially when Roger secured permission for me to film, photograph, and publish the content I would happily soak up from this historic and irie happening. I wanted to be sure the reggae family worldwide could, for all of time, benefit from the wealth of reggae-knowledge Roger—a wise and still-spry octogenarian—has acquired (and which he so generously and colorfully bestowed to all the many tour participants he entertained and educated).

What follows is a transcript of Steffens’ 65th—and final—tour of the “Bob Marley One Love Experience.” Included also in this article are photographs from the exhibit, and a link to the video of the tour that can be viewed on YouTube. There is a very slight, mostly imperceptible choppiness at a few junctures in the video; this is the result of a few seconds of missing footage (due to unavoidable technical and practical video-recording limitations); therefore, I especially give thanks to Mike Pawka, who runs the reliable and righteous reggae-information-website, for holding an audio recorder—at my behest—throughout the tour; this allowed the transcript (below) to be 100 % complete, notwithstanding the few seconds of missing video. Give thanks also to Mike’s wife, Leslie Pawka, for photographing Steffens and I together during the tour, and bless up Jonathan Shank—as well as Universal and the Marley family—for authorizing the publication of all the media contained in this article. The highest respect and many thanks are due, also, to the legendary and incomparable Roger Steffens.

Roger Steffens: This is the 65th tour that I have conducted since January. (Tour participants applaud.) By now I think I know what I’m saying. It’s filled with people I’ve known for forty years or more and others—new friends. And what we’re going to do is celebrate Bob Marley’s life together here, today. And my friend, Stephen Cooper, works for one of the great reggae sites in all the world, called “Reggaeville—”

Stephen Cooper: “Reggae-Vibes.” (Laughter from Cooper and other tour participants.)

Roger Steffens: “Reggae-Vibes.” And today he’s going to film my talk. So I would like you to be aware of his position, and try not to step in front of him. And I always tell people, if you have any questions at all or you want to make any comments, or add to something I say, or contradict me, by all means, don’t hesitate. Okay? And I will be glad to try to answer any questions you might have.

Now for those of you who have no idea who the heck this white guy is: My name is Roger Steffens. And I have had a very severe, chronic case of “reggaemylitis” for 50 years. It started in 1973, when nobody in America had ever even heard the word “reggae” before. And “The Harder They Come”—the Jimmy Cliff movie—had just opened, and Bob’s first international album “Catch a Fire” had just come out. And an Australian gonzo journalist [named Michael Thomas] wrote a piece for Rolling Stone, in June of that year, called “The Wild Side of Paradise.” And on the cover was this spaced-out, red-eyed, madman-looking character with long dreadlocks called “Cunchyman.” And of course that’s “Countryman,” about whom they made the movie years later. And the author said: “Reggae music crawls into your bloodstream like some vampire amoeba from the psychic rapids of Upper Niger consciousness.” (Laughter from tour participants.) And I said, “I don’t know what that means, but I’ve got to find this right now.”

And I was living in Berkeley, and I went to a used bookstore and I found a $2.25 copy of “Catch a Fire,” which in those days opened up like a Zippo lighter. And is worth about $500-600 now if you’ve got a copy of it. And the next night they were showing “The Harder They Come” in a little theater on the north side of campus that seated 40 people. And it was filled. And when the bong scene came on, everybody in the theater lit up and there was so much smoke you couldn’t see the screen. (Steffens pretends to bat smoke clouds away; tour participants laugh.) And on the way home, I bought “The Harder They Come” soundtrack. And the following—well, a couple of summers later, I met my wife, Mary. Where’s Mary? Mary’s in the back there; say “hi” to Mary. If it weren’t for her, none of us would be here right now. And her incredible tolerance and patience. Mary and I met on an acid trip in a pygmy forest in Mendocino under a total eclipse of the moon—as one does. Been together ever since. We’re about to celebrate our 48th anniversary. (Tour participants applaud.) So, in 1976, wanting to find all this music that I’d been reading about in the British press, we went to Jamaica. And they declared a national state of emergency the week we arrived. Put tanks on all the street corners. And guys with sub-machine guns. And I thought I was back in Saigon, in the Tet Offensive. And I just wanted to buy records.

Tour participant: When was the date?

Roger Steffens: It was June, 1976.

Tour participant: I remember July, 1977, as being the same thing. In Negril. Tanks everywhere.

Roger Steffens: Yeah, crazy. They were under martial law then. Civil war, basically. So we went to Bob Marley’s tiny record shack on the block behind the main square, Parade. And we weren’t on the ground in Kingston for more than two minutes when I looked down, and there’s a hand in my pants. And it’s not mine. (Laughter from tour participants.) And I had $400 U.S. in that pocket that I’d saved for a year to go buy all these records I’d been reading about. And I grabbed this guy so hard I must have stopped his blood circulation, and he had to let go. And he opens up his jacket, and he pulls out a .45—record (laughter from tour participants), called “Jah Jah, a hymn to God.” And he says: “Buy my record.” And I said, “That’s you on the record?” [He says,] “Yeah.” So I got off for $1.25. I’m not gonna tell you who it [was]. But every Jamaican I tell that story to knows instantly. (Laughter from tour participants.)

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So, in 1976—’78 we’re in L.A., and I hear about a guy called Hank Holmes. And his wife was just here [on today’s previous tour] along with our board operator, Jim Milne. Hank had 8,000 reggae records in 1978, and had never left L.A. in his life. And I’ve had a radio career that goes back to 1961 in New York. My first guest was [Babatunde] Olatunji, the Nigerian drummer. And Hank had this incredible knowledge and collection. And I figured we could do a really good reggae show. There was virtually no reggae on the radio anywhere in Southern California at that time. And we went to every rock and roll station in town, and they laughed us out of the building. And then we figured, well, you know, radical music, let’s go to KPFK—perfect home for us. They wouldn’t put us on because we were white. So they lost a chance to make millions of bucks. And they’re still begging for money to this day.

And so in desperation, we went over to this little tiny station in this junior high school classroom in Santa Monica, called KCRW. And they had a 110 watts. And the signal hit the 405 and died. But they had great plans to grow, so we ended up going there. And it became the most popular non-commercial radio show in L.A., especially in the early 80s when we were introducing—for those of you who were there, it was like church. And a graduate seminar. And someone once told us that everybody on the beach used to listen. So we did an experiment one day. And we put somebody on the cliff over the St. Monica Pier. And at 2 o’clock, I said “Okay, everybody on the beach in Santa Monica listening to the Reggae Beat, stand up and wave.” And the guy came running back to the station, and he said: “Everybody on the beach stood up!” (Steffens and tour participants laugh.) So you didn’t even need a radio to listen on the beach. Everybody else had it. And our first guest was Bob Marley. We started on October 7, ‘79. And in November, we got a call from Island Records. And they said: “Would you mind going on the road for two weeks with Bob Marley?” And Hank and I spent two weeks on the road with him. And I took this picture (Steffens indicates picture of Bob Marley on his t-shirt) in San Diego, in the dressing room. It’s also the cover of my latest book (pulling out book from bag). I’ve written seven books about Bob, and the history of reggae. And this (indicating image on book cover) was at a press conference in the dressing room at the San Diego Sports Arena. The only time in the whole hour conference [Bob] smiled. And every flashbulb went off at once. So that was an experience. The happiest guy on the road with us was the bus driver.

Tour participant: Why?

Roger Steffens: Because at the end of each evening, he got to sweep up all the roaches. (Steffens and tour participants laugh.) And my friend, Lachette, was here with her parents last weekend. And when I told that story, her mother turned to her father and said, “Why was Bob Marley’s bus full of bugs?” (Tour participants laugh. Steffens laughs and whispers: “Not that kind of roach.”)

There’s a lot more I’ll tell you as we go through. And that’s the set up [for] why this white guy is telling you Bob’s story. There are a lot of things that aren’t here, and I’m here to fill in the blanks. This is sponsored by Universal and Cedella Marley—for the Marley family. Universal handles all of Bob’s copyrights. So it begins, in 1973, with the release of Bob’s first international album, “Catch a Fire.” And I will fill in all the blanks, from his birth forward. So we’re kind of beginning in the middle here, and that room (pointing) is Bob’s birthplace, and we’ll talk about his early life in there. There’ll be five stops [on this tour], [and] we’ll give you time in between my talks to look around. And at the end you can come back and go through everything you want to see more of. And it ends when we “exit through the gift shop.” (Tour participants and Steffens laugh.) As someone once said. How many of you have seen that movie? The other guy with Banksy in the movie is “Mr. Brainwash.” And he did that collage down there (pointing). There’s a whole lot of his work all through the exhibition. It’s really clever stuff. And down at the end of the room [are] handwritten lyrics by Bob that are on loan from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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So let us begin now. You can come a little closer because I’m gonna talk about each of these albums (Steffens approaches a wall with Bob Marley album covers affixed to it.) This album (pointing to “Catch A Fire”) was released initially under the name “The Wailers.” Chris Blackwell wanted to promote them as a rock band, like “The Who” or “Traffic.” And Bob’s name didn’t appear on it. And it looked like a Zippo lighter—you opened it up in the middle. When it was re-released they used this cover. “Catch a Fire” had a really interesting opening. It had that wonderful song, “Concrete Jungle,” which is my wife’s favorite song. And it opened with a guitar riff. And up until that point, there was no lead guitar in reggae music. That’s an innovation that Chris Blackwell put in with a foreign guitarist and a pianist that he overdubbed on the original tracks. And the album had “Concrete Jungle,” “Slave Driver,” “400 Years,” and a little touch of bawdy-Calypso with a song like “Kinky Reggae” with that famous line, “She had brown sugar all over her booga-wooga.” (Tour participants laugh.) That’s not what that means.

Tour participant: We know.

Roger Steffens: (Laughing) In Jamaica, when they cut the cane plant down, there’s nothing left but this dark brown stem that you can’t do anything with. And the women and men who work in the fields wear these cheap canvas shoes, they call “booga-woogas.” So if you see a girl in Kingston who has brown sugar all over her booga-wooga, you know she’s a cane field worker in from the country. So it also means that. (Tour participants laugh.)

This is a very interesting one (pointing at album cover of “Burning”). It’s the final album by the original Wailers. In the winter of 1973, Chris Blackwell brought them to England to record this album. And when they weren’t in the studio, they were doing “live” shows. And Chris says, “I will cover all your expenses on the tour. And at the end of the tour he gave them a bill for $41,000. And Bunny flipped out. He didn’t understand how the music business worked, you know? The label gives you tour support, but they deduct it from the royalties of your recordings. And he got very upset. And Chris says, “Well, I’m gonna have to build you up you know for four or five years, because right now you’re nobody.” And Bunny says, “Well, a ‘body’ is dead people. And I’m not dead. Where you gonna put us?” And Chris says, “I’m gonna start you out in ‘freak clubs.’” [Bunny] says, “What does that mean?” Chris says, “Well, that’s where guys go to meet guys, and girls go to meet girls.” [And Bunny replies,] “Well I’m not going with any of the degeneracy stuff.” And [Bunny] quit the group on the spot. After 10 years.

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And the cliché of the rollercoaster career is so apt for The Wailers. Because right from the start they were working with top producers who gave them great promises—and dashed their hopes over and over for 10 years. Until they meet [Chris] Blackwell. So they finish recording this album, and in the fall they are the opening act across America for Sly & The Family Stone. And there were never two more mismatched bands on tour ever than that. (Steffens and tour participants laugh.) And all of these guys and girls in mink coats and bling—and The Wailers looked like they just stepped off of a Ford production line. In their denim jackets. And singing in patois—in a language people couldn’t understand. And doo-wop rhythm at the time, of, you know, the early stages of psychedelic rock. And they got kicked off of the tour after 5 shows. They did not blow Sly Stone off of the stage. Ever. They were kicked off of the tour because they just weren’t connecting. And they were left literally on the side of the road in Las Vegas, sitting on their suitcases. And they were rescued by Tom Donahue who ran KSAN, the great underground radio station in San Francisco. He brought them back there in October of ’73, and they did a week at Marty Balin from Jefferson Airplane’s nightclub, called “The Matrix.” And that really opened up the Bay area to reggae music, and it’s been a hotbed ever since. So that’s the final album by The Wailers—yes and no. This is Bob’s debut album (pointing to the album cover of “Natty Dread”) as a solo artist. And all three [original] Wailers are on this, just as all three Wailers are on “Blackheart Man” by Bunny Wailer, and “Legalize It” by Peter Tosh. Those are all the final Wailers’ albums, really.

Tour participant: Excuse me. Who were the other two Wailers?

Roger Steffens: You’ve got (pointing at the album cover of “Burnin’”) Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, that’s Wya Lindo, and the Barrett brothers—that’s the lineup as The Wailers end. Following that, the “Natty Dread” album comes out and this is really—oh, wait a moment, I forgot to tell you a story here. The interior of this album (pointing at album cover of “Burnin’” again) has a whole bunch of beautiful pictures of The Wailers, taken by [Bob’s] girlfriend at the time, Esther Anderson. Fascinating woman! A light-skinned Jamaican actress who had lived with Marlon Brando for seven years. And then she lived with Chris Blackwell for three years. And then she took up with Bob. And she told me that she wrote “I Shot the Sherriff,” and it’s about birth control. (Tour participants and Steffens laugh.) And I said, “How exactly does that work, Esther?” And she’s the fastest talking human being I have ever met in my life. And this is what she told me. (Steffens takes a deep breath and gets in character, then begins speaking very fast.) “Well Bob was very proud of his powers of impregnation and I’d been with going with him for months and I hadn’t gotten pregnant. You want to know why? And I said, ‘Well Bob I’m not gonna get pregnant, I’m on the pill. And he got very upset. And that’s where ‘Every day I plant the seed but you kill dem before they grow?’ comes from. And the Sherriff is the doctor.” (Tour participants laugh.) I don’t know. I wasn’t there. That’s what she said.

So “Natty Dread” comes out. “No Woman, No Cry,” and “Them Belly Full,” “Rebel Music.” This is Bob’s most militant work. This is the “eye for the eye.” “I feel like bombing a church,” he’s saying, “now that I know the preacher is lying. Who’s gonna stay at home when the freedom fighters are fighting?” This is “eye for an eye.” This is militant Bob. And it introduced him especially to the British audience. The following summer, in June of ‘75, Bob does three nights at the Lyceum Theatre. And they’re recorded. (Pointing at the cover of Bob’s “Live” album from that performance.) You had “Burning & Looting,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” and “I Shot the Sherriff.” “No Woman, No Cry” had a great seven-minute version with the audience singing along. And Chris liked it so much he released it as a 7-inch single, seven minutes long—which was unheard of in those days. And it became a top 5 single in England. And the following year—when he played the Hammersmith Odeon, there were all these huge crowds waiting to go in. And at the Hammersmith there were a bunch of dreadlock guys standing at the entrance saying, “Tickets! Tickets!” And people would hand them the tickets, and they’d run back into the audience and sell it to somebody else. (Steffens and tour participants laugh.) There was a riot and headlines the next day. Don Taylor, Bob’s new manager, didn’t care what they wrote about him as long as they spelled his name right. So now that [Bob] was a big star in England, the people in Jamaica recognized him as their star too. They gave him a lot more attention than he’d had before.

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So the following year there’s a unique album (pointing at the album cover of “Rastaman Vibration”), because you had two lead guitarists on it that don’t play on any other records [of Bob’s]. Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith from the Soul Syndicate, the prime studio band at the time in Jamaica. And a blues guitarist from Gary, Indiana, named Donald Kinsey. And that album has “Crazy Baldheads.” And Bob’s favorite song of all-time, “War,” which was a speech that Haile Selassie made to the U.N. on October 4th, ’63. You all know it: “Until the color of a man’s skin is no more significant than the color of his eyes, everywhere is war.” But this is his announcement that he’s a prophet. Because on the back [of the album cover] he identifies himself as the Joseph of the Bible who brought spiritual food to America, and Europe, and all over the world—for seven years. Just as Joseph in the Bible had fed the children of Israel for seven years in the desert. And announcing that he is the Joseph of the Bible in these times. And on the back he wrote, “The archers have sorely grieved at him. And shot at him. And hated him.” And six months later, the assassins came and shot him, and his wife and his manager. So prophecy fulfilled.

Bob was also a psychic. As early as the age of three-and-a-half, he could read people’s palms and tell them intimate things about them. And when he was twenty-four—that Woodstock summer of ’69—he was living in America with his mother in Delaware. And he had two young friends, Ibis Pitts and Dion Wilson. And they were talking one day, and they said: “Oh Bob, you’re gonna be a big star. Lots of money. Lots of kids. Long life. Everybody’s gonna know you.” And Bob said, “No, when I’m 36, I’m gonna die.” And they were so shaken by this that they went to [Bob’s] mother. And the epigram in my new book is: “There are no facts in Jamaica, only versions.” But I have three versions that all agree. I spoke to Ibis and Dion. They both swore it was true. And I had Bob’s mother on my TV show years ago, and she said: “I remember distinctly the day in ’69 that they came to me and told me that Bob had said that.” So, you know, with that knowledge it explains why in later years [Bob] only basically slept for two or three hours a night. He had a mission. It was to alert the world that the Almighty God was alive today among us—as the man among us—Haile Selassie. And until the world came to that recognition, his work would not be fulfilled. That was his mission in life. And he knew he had a short time to fulfill it. So this is a historic figure.

At the end of the year, six months after the album comes out, Bob is shot. Goes into exile for fourteen months. To England. And he makes enough material in the first three months of 1977, in London, to fill “Exodus” (Pointing at the “Exodus” album cover) and “Kaya.” “Exodus” was Time Magazine’s album of the century. It had “Natural Mystic”—if you remember it opens really soft. That was Chris Blackwell’s idea. If it started soft, people would think that’s the level of the album. So they would turn the volume way up. And then it would build and build, and then: “Boom!” It would come right up, and just blow you back from the speakers. Blackwell accomplished his task with that. So “Natural Mystic,” “So Much Things to Say”—the name of my new book—“One Love.” Interesting deal here (pointing at the “Exodus” album cover) with the cover that Neville Garrick, [Bob’s] new art director did. He took a bunch of Ethiopian and Amharic letters and twisted them in various ways so that they would spell the word “Exodus.”

This is the same period of time (pointing at the “Exodus” album cover) when the cancer was discovered. Bob was playing a team of French music journalists, in June of 1977, and one of them had a very sharp steel spike on his soccer shoe. And [he] stepped on Bob’s right foot, pierced the shoe and big toenail. And they carried him off the field and discovered that not only did he have cancer, but it was already “third stage.” So they wanted him to amputate the toe, but they couldn’t give him a 100 % guarantee that that amputation would have stopped the spread of it. So he never did that. And he never really took proper care of that. And I think he was fatalistic with that idea that he was going to die at 36. [So] let nature take its course. It’s really a shame, because I think, these days, he might have been cured.

So after that, they released more of the same sessions as “Kaya.” And [Bob] gets accused of being “soft.” “Is this Love” is on there. “Running Away.” He says he’s not running away. It’s better to live on a housetop than to dwell in house filled with confusion. And that album was pilloried by the critics. They tore it to pieces. It’s much more respected now with a little bit of history behind it. And then [Bob] did a “live” album (pointing at the album cover of “Babylon by Bus”). Neville Garrick—who’s lived in California for 40 years—puts a map of California on the back, and he puts Berkeley here (pointing) and Santa Cruz (pointing) one hundred miles North of Berkeley. (Tour participants laugh.) I think he’s still embarrassed by it.

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And now, we come to the end of Bob’s career (pointing at the album cover for “Survival”). The original title of “Survival”—[Bob’s] other most militant album—was “Black Survival.” Blackwell said, “That’s not commercial. Can’t use it.” So Neville puts “Survival” against the hold of a slave ship (pointing to cover). And puts the flags of newly liberated African former colonial countries to carry that message forward. And Survival had “Ambush in the Night,” “Wake Up and Live,” “Babylon System [is the Vampire],” “Africa Unite.” This is no more an “eye for an eye” after Bob got shot. Bob realized that an eye for an eye just makes everybody blind. And this is his “One Love” mature philosophy. If you’re going to change the world, you must first change yourself. And that change will radiate outward toward the rest of the world. And that’s how we heal ourselves, and the planet. This is [Bob’s] peace-filled message.

Of course, after that his final album was “Uprising.” Really his farewell. He knew it was over. “Coming in from the Cold” is on there. “Zion Train” is coming my way. Check out the “Real Situation.” “Forever Loving Jah.” “Redemption Song.” And “Work,” which was one of those songs that Bob is given credit for, but really didn’t write. “Work” was written by Seeco Patterson who along with Joe Higgs [was Bob’s] very first teacher. And in the early part of the 1960s, they trained Bob. They played Curtis Mayfield songs. They played Miles Davis, John Coltrane—jazz records for Bob when he was just 14 years old. Taught him stagecraft. And Seeco played with [Bob] throughout [Bob’s] entire career. He’s the old man on percussion that you see in the films. And Seeco was coming into a recording session for the “Uprising” album, and he was counting off the miles in the mini-bus. And singing “Five miles to go. Four miles to go.” And when he got to the studio, he sang it for Bob, and Bob said, “I like that, but change the miles to days.” So on the final album of his life, and on the final song, [Bob] sang live in Pittsburgh—it was a medley of “Work” and “Get Up, Stand Up”—and Bob counts off the final days of his life in that song. Very important song. Another interesting factor here is that, although he took the art director credit for this cover, Neville Garrick did not make this image (pointing at the album cover for “Uprising”). It was made by a man who was here a couple of weeks ago named Ras Tesfa, an extraordinary, talented dub poet. It was the cover of his book of poetry and was also an album cover. And all Neville did was take the image and flip it. But that’s Ras Tesfa’s image right there.

So after Bob passed, the only collection of original songs—practically the only one was “Confrontation,” in 1983 (pointing at “Confrontation” album cover)—which yielded his biggest posthumous hit, “Buffalo Soldier.” And I think if Bob really knew who the Buffalo Soldiers were he never would have recorded that song. It wasn’t written by [Bob]. It was written by “King Sporty,” who was an old friend of Bob’s and had a nightclub in Miami. He was married to Betty Wright, the soul singer. And he used to sing that song when Bob came to the club. And Bob liked it. But the Buffalo Soldiers were freed slaves at the end of the civil war who were inducted into the army to kill Indians. And the whole Westward thrust of the American experience was these guys with dreadlocks who terrified the Indians—the Indians thought they looked like buffalo with their dreadlocks. And they just murdered Indians all the way across the country. So these were not people to make heroes out of. And I think Bob didn’t understand that at that time.

Then the only other real collection of unheard songs was the album that I did the covers for, “Soul Almighty.” This was on the reggae charts for 56 weeks. And the back cover had just a picture of Bob from the side, and all you saw were the dreadlocks. And I wonder, how many people can you recognize just from their hair? Marge Simpson, Bob Marley—(tour participants laugh). The other album of note is “Legend,” of course, (pointing at “Legend” album cover). Thirty-nine years after its release, last week, it was #1 on the reggae chart in Billboard, if you can imagine that. And it has been longer on the Billboard catalog charts than any album in the history of popular music, including “Dark Side of the Moon,” which came out ten years earlier. Yeah. And it’s always toward the top of that catalogue list. Young people tell me when they go to college, if in freshman year your dorm-mates hear you say you’ve never heard of Bob Marley, by the end of the first week, everybody will have brought their Marley records down and you become an instant fan (smiling broadly). So Bob predicted the music would just get bigger and bigger until it met all of its rightful people. But I think he was talking about himself as well.

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So that brings us to the end of the first part of the five-part tour. As I [said], there’s handwritten lyrics on loan from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame down there (pointing). The next room has a huge spliff that was forbidden to be shown in London when the exhibition started there. The Brits don’t like herb. And that’s a Mr. Brainwash mural (pointing). And the next room symbolizes the birthplace of Bob up in the mountains of northern Jamaica—in the “Jungle Room” there. And I’ll give you about five minutes to look around in there, and then I’ll tell you [about] Bob’s birth and childhood. Thank you.

[Steffens and tour participants reconvene in next exhibit room.]

Roger Steffens: Tour people gather around. I’ll be doing this in my sleep.

Tour participant: But last time, right?

Roger Steffens: This is the very last time. This is number 65.

Tour participant: Oh!

Tour participant: Was he 36 when he died?

Roger Steffens: He was 36 when he passed. Okay. So this section represents the birthplace of Bob Marley, which was about a half a mile high up in the mountains of north central Jamaica, in a little, tiny village called “Nine Mile”—where his grandfather owned a lot of land. And Bob was born on February 6, 1945. His mother was 18 years of age, Cedella Malcolm. And his father, Norval Sinclair Marley, was 64. And if that makes you think he was dirty old man, you’re absolutely right. He was disowned by his family at an early age. What have you heard about Bob Marley’s father? What do you guys know about his father?

Tour participant: He was white.

Roger Steffens: He was white.

Tour participant: He was in the service, right? He was in the army, right?

Roger Steffens: He was in the army. Anybody hear he was a naval captain? You heard that? Yeah. Well I had a long talk with his nephew, Christopher Marley, from the white Marley family. They were a wealthy family. In the 1800s, they built much of the infrastructure of Jamaica—the roads and the bridges. And in the first World War, Norval was a private. And he poured cement. He was never a captain of anything. And he was well-traveled for those times. He went to Nigeria. So [Bob’s] father basically is a world traveler, getting into trouble all over the world. He went to Nigeria and Cuba. One day he went out for cigarettes, in Kingston, and came back 6 months later and said he’d been to Capetown, South Africa, working on a ship.

So in World War II, he was sent to work on rural lands—subdivisions that they were giving to World War II veterans. And he saw this 18-year-old girl, and fell in love with her. And actually married her. But he was disowned by the family at that point. And they wanted nothing to do with him or the child, who he rarely saw. And when Bob was about three-and-a-half, he started evincing psychic powers. He began reading the palms of people in the village, and telling them intimate things about their private lives. So much so that they went to Bob’s mother and they said: “Keep an eye on this kid. There’s something strange going on here.” And when he was 5, [his] father showed up in the village. And he said, “Give the boy to me, and I’ll take him to Kingston and put him in a better school. Give him a better shot at life.” And against her better judgment, Bob’s mother said: “All right, take him.” And he took him off to Kingston, and instead of enrolling him in a school, he sent him to live with an old woman named Miss Gray, who was dying, and abandoned him. So for the next two years, Bob was basically an abandoned child on the streets of one of the worst slums in the Western Hemisphere, taking care not only of himself, but this elderly woman. And in those situations, you can go one of two ways. You can turn really bad really fast—become a pickpocket or worse—just to survive. Or you can do what Bob did, which was to develop an incredible empathy for the sufferers. For people living this life through an accident of birth—through no fault of their own. And it infected his lyrics throughout the rest of his life, that empathy for the sufferers. You hear it in almost every song he writes.

And finally, when [Bob] was 7, a woman from Nine Mile saw him on the streets in Kingston, told his mother where he was, and she came and got him and bought him back. And [Bob] continued to work in the fields that he’d been working at since he was about 3 years of age. And he used to have a donkey he really loved, called “Nimble.” And he was so agile a rider he could ride Nimble backwards. He could even jump fences backwards on Nimble. And he loved to do that. When he was 11, a man from Kingston named Thaddeus Livingston, “Toddy,” moved up to Nine Mile to grow herb. And he brought his son, Bunny, with him. Now, of course, that’s Bunny Wailer. Toddy fell in love with Bob’s mother. And they moved together with their sons back to Kingston. But Bob was a light-skinned, mixed-race person, and Black people didn’t want him mixing up their bloodlines. So they refused to let him date their daughters. And white people had no use for him at all either, so Bob was a very solitary figure, very self-possessed. And when he was 14, he finally decided he’d had enough of Babylonian education. And he gave his books away, and told his mother he wanted to pursue a singing career.

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And one of the first people who helped him was Joe Higgs. He’s the man we call the “Father of Reggae Music.” He’s a friend of many people in the room here tonight. He lived here [in Los Angeles] for 20 years. And Joe Higgs coached [Bob] along with Seeco Patterson, the percussionist. [They] played rare jazz records. Taught him stagecraft. All the things you need to become a professional singer. And between the ages of 14 and 17, [Bob] was firmly under Joe’s control. In 1962, he decided he wanted to start recording, and Joe said: “No, you’re not ready yet.” So behind Joe’s back [Bob] went to Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records studio. [Kong] had a lot of hits at the time for Desmond Dekker and Jimmy Cliff, and others. And so Bob auditioned with a song called “Judge Not.” “Judge Not” was released on a single under the name “Robert Marley.” And [Bob] was credited as the writer. But, in fact, he didn’t write a word of it. It was a Country & Western cover song. And the follow up (the first record flopped) was called “One Cup of Coffee.” And it was credited to “Bobby Martell.” Can you imagine “Bobby Martell & The Wailers?” (Tour participants and Steffens laugh.) And that was “One Cup of Coffee,” and it was released under that name. And it flopped. And it turned out it was a Country & Western cover also—Bob didn’t write a word of it. So he goes back to Trench Town, and he and Bunny Wailer start rehearsing and singing with a new fellow who’s just arrived in town—from Savanna-la-Mar—called Winston Hubert McIntosh, who we know as Peter Tosh. And [Tosh] had a guitar. And he was the only person they had actually ever met who owned a guitar. So they brought him into the group immediately. And there was a woman who rehearsed for two years with [them], who rarely gets mentioned by anyone. And her name was Cherry Green. Her real name was Ermine Bramwell. And when it came time to audition for Coxsone Dodd in June of ’64, she couldn’t get off work. So the night before they had heard a woman in Trench Town singing, named Beverley Kelso. And they went to [Beverley’s] mother and they said, “We’re going to record tomorrow, can we use your daughter? Can she be in The Wailers?” So depending on who you talk to, she was a Wailer for 24 hours when she cut “Simmer Down” for Coxsone Dodd. However, there were 3 people—at least—there at that same time. Beverley told me that she auditioned Sunday morning, [and] she recorded it the same night—Sunday night. Seeco took them to the audition. Seeco said they auditioned Sunday afternoon, and recorded Monday morning. Coxsone, who recorded and produced the record, said it was two weeks after the audition. (Tour participants and Steffens laugh.) And they were all there. And you weren’t. So I put it all in the book (laughing), and we’ll let the historians argue over it.

I wanted this book initially to be all the interviews I ever did, so it was the raw material of history. Then my editor died. And a new editor, Tom Mayer, made it into readable chapters with 75 different people telling their stories. Mostly women. Mostly Jamaicans. So, where are we now? We’re at Coxsone, and Bob begins to record for Coxsone. And they record country songs, gospel songs. Bob Marley sang, “What’s New Pussycat?” They covered Dion & The Belmonts. “Teenager in Love.” A lot of originals. At one point they had 5 of the top 7 songs in Jamaica at once. And they began to be called the “Jamaican Beatles.” And during all that time, making over 100 songs in an eighteen-month period, they never got more than three pounds a week. It was about $7-8. They’d be selling 25,000 records in a week, and they’d get $7. The first song, “Simmer Down,” sold an astonishing 80,000 copies in a country of only two million people.

And at the end of that period, Bob was so disgusted at the lack of financial rewards, he decided to move to Wilmington, Delaware, where his mother had married a man, in 1962, named Booker. So when we talk about “Mother Booker,” “Mother B,” that’s Bob’s mom. And the circumstances were really interesting when Bob left, because Coxsone said: “You’ve been coaching ‘The Soulettes,’ and that girl Rita Anderson has become your girlfriend. If you decide to stay in the States with your mother, they’re not gonna let her in. But if you’re married to her, they’ll have to let her in.” So Bob didn’t even tell Bunny and Peter he was getting married. And that caused a rift between them. And so he married [Rita], and left in February, and by October he was sweeping floors in the Du Pont Hotel in Wilmington when the army asked him to register for the draft for that groovy little thing they had going in Vietnam. I’m a Vietnam vet. I spent the last 26 months in the army in Saigon during the Tet Offensive—and everything else. The last 26 months of the ‘60s. So I’m glad Bob didn’t have to go. They probably would have put him in the infantry.

So [Bob] flees back to Jamaica, and he has just enough money saved to start The Wailers’ own label. And they’re gonna call it “Wail ‘n Soul”—a combination of Rita’s “Soulettes” and “The Wailers” themselves. So, in the next room I will tell you about the period between the end of Coxsone and the beginning of Island Records, and all the tribulations they were going through. But from here, you will all go into the “Silent Disco.” And they’ll give you earphones. There’s two settings. In the second room, there’s a big screen with all the names of all the cities Bob Marley ever played at in his entire life. And it’s got a video of The Wailers rehearsing for the Sly Stone tour, in October of ’73, when Joe Higgs replaced Bunny Wailer. So you’ll see Joe with the black beret. That’s one of the very last times Peter Tosh and Bob Marley sang together. And there are some points where Bob starts to sing different lyrics to try to screw Peter Tosh up. It was in litigation for 50 years. And last year, they finally settled the legal claims, and it was released as an album and a video. And it’s just some brilliant, brilliant music by The Wailers at their absolute prime—at the end of their career. And I’ll see you in about 10 minutes in the room where you hang up the earphones. And we’ll talk about the other labels for which they recorded.

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[Steffens and tour participants reconvene in next exhibit room.]

Roger Steffens: We’re missing people. I want to wait until everybody’s here. Are they coming? And would you turn the jukebox down, please? So this is where we talk about the pre-Island recording career—when the sound gets turned off. So several people have asked, there’s a few copies of my book (holding up a copy of “So Much Things to Say”) left in the bookstore; I’d be glad to sign them for you. Thank you! (Directed toward people in charge of turning down the sound.) So Bob is about to go out on his own with his own record label. And one of his closest friends there at Coxsone’s Studio One was this wonderful man, called Bob Andy. Now Bob Andy had a huge hit in England in 1970 with Marcia Griffiths—a cover of Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted & Black.” It was top 5. And he was a writer at Coxsone’s studio, as well as a performer. And I want to—this was a beautiful passage—so I wanted to share this with all of you (reading from “So Much Things to Say.”) Bob Andy said: “There was a room at Studio One where we used to listen to records. Coxsone would give artists music to listen to on this turntable and speakers, but there was another room between Coxsone’s inner office and the music room where you could go and lock yourself in and no one else could enter. The Wailers had access to that, and I did too. One particular day, I was witness to a very special performance. It was like being let into a secret. I was very high from smoking, and they were always high too. It was the first time I had seen each of The Wailers with a guitar, and each time I remember this, it’s like remembering a dream. I sat there, and they were just messing around with various songs for a while, but finally it climaxed with a song called ‘Ten To One,’ which I learned was a Curtis Mayfield song. Bob sang the first line, then Bunny came in on the second, and all three came in on the next line. Peter sang a line, and then all three sang in harmony, then Bob and Bunny sang solo again. When they started that song, I saw a side of The Wailers I felt no one else had ever seen. It was like my own personal revelation. I’ve never heard music so beautiful, and I’ve never seen such love and camaraderie in all my life. I knew then that The Wailers were special people, but they were special by being The Wailers, as a unit. When I reflect on that occasion, it was divine. It was like being on a spaceship, listening to the music of the spheres. I was spellbound, and that memory will stay with me forever.” Don’t you wish you could have been in that room? (Steffens and tour participants laugh, and some say “Yes.”)

So that was The Wailers as they embark on their own finally. They get just enough money to cut their first record. And as a gesture of good will they record it at Coxsone’s studio, and Coxsone immediately bootlegs it. It was called “Freedom Time,” a cry of liberation from the oppressive system of the greedy producers. And The Wailers had two goals in mind for their whole career. One was to reach the African American audience. And the other was to earn enough money that they could build their own house, where they could live communally with all of their families, and have a studio in it. So whenever the inspiration struck, they could go right into the studio, day or night, and make their music. And that unfortunately never happened. And they had to now pay for the pressing of their own records. So they never really got enough money in front of them. They went around, Rita and Bob, on bicycles with racks full of records that they would sell on the street—or take to record stores. It was a really, really primitive operation. And, in 1968, they meet, how shall I put this delicately, they meet a “mafia-adjacent” producer [and] label owner, named Danny Sims. Danny Sims partnered in the JAD record label (Johnny—Arthur—and Danny); Johnny was Johnny Nash. Remember: “I Can See Clearly Now?” And Arthur Jenkins, the producer. But their backer, their money man, was Joe Armone, one of the chief hitmen for the Gambino family. So Bob was basically owned for the next four years by the Mafia. And they made a lot of records, and tried to get airplay on the American Black stations, and no one would touch them. I mean they sounded like Doo-Wop, and this is late ‘60s when psychedelic rock was coming in. And they were singing in patois that people couldn’t understand. And the rhythm was too slow. And they never got airplay. And it was a great frustration to them.

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And after a couple of years with Danny, they returned to Leslie Kong who had recorded “Judge Not,” Bob’s first solo record. And he had had two enormous international successes with “My Boy Lollipop,” the ska song by little Millie Small. And then, in 1969, in America and England, with “The Israelites” by Desmond Dekker. And so they realized this guy can break the international market—he knows the way to do it. So let’s do something with him that nobody else has ever done in Jamaica before. Let’s make an album of all original new music that nobody’s heard before. Up to that point, albums were basically just collections of singles. So they cut an album, and Leslie Kong says: “Well I’m gonna call this, ‘The Best of The Wailers.’” And The Wailers flip out, especially Bunny. “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. We’re young people. You don’t know what’s ‘The Best of The Wailers.” We don’t know what’s “The ‘Best of the Wailers.’ We got long careers in front of us.” So Bunny says: “If you think this is ‘The Best of the Wailers,’ that must mean you’re not gonna be around much longer. So don’t do it.” So Kong put out the record [and,] called it “The Best of the Wailers.” And a few weeks later, [Kong] dropped dead at 38. So from that point forward, the words of Bunny Wailer carried a little more weight than they had enjoyed prior to this. But again: Great promise, great disappointment.

So finally they turn to an old spar of theirs, a little short guy that had been a gofer at Coxsone’s Studio One when they first worked there, the elfin Lee “Scratch” Perry—whose goal was to hijack the earth. And he’s a combination of Spike Jones, Frank Zappa, and George Clinton. And he was a good producer. He had a top 5 song with his band, The Upsetters, who had a rhythm section of the Barrett brothers—Carly on drums and Family Man on bass. And their first record with Scratch and The Wailers was called, “My Cup (Runneth Over).” And from that point forward, they were with Bob to the very end of his life—the Barrett brothers. And to tell the truth and for the record, Family Man should be credited as co-writer on almost every song The Wailers ever did, and every solo song Bob did. Because he created the backing tracks. Often he had the whole backing track finished, and Bob just wrote words to go with it. Family Man never got the satisfaction he should have.

Tour participant: Is he still alive?

Roger Steffens: He’s still alive, yeah.

Tour participant: Is Bunny Wailer still alive?

Roger Steffens: No. Bunny died about 3 years ago. Bunny’s gone. Peter’s gone—Peter was murdered in ’87. So we get—

Tour participant: Bunny Wailer is buried in Jamaica?

Roger Steffens: Yeah.

Tour participant: In what town?

Roger Steffens: I think in Kingston. It might be in the country somewhere. But he was raised in Kingston, so probably in Kingston. I spent three weeks locked in a hotel room with Bunny Wailer and my writing partner, Leroy Jody Pierson from Nighthawk Records, back in October of 1990. [Bunny] wanted me to co-write his autobiography with him, and we got 64 hours of interviews. Because [Bob and Bunny] were raised as brothers from the time they were little kids. And no one knows the story to tell it that way like Bunny. And he abandoned it—I have 1800 pages of transcriptions sitting in a box under my desk.

Stephen Cooper: Release it.

Roger Steffens: It’s—I can’t. He abandoned the project. And I have a lot of disappointments in my life about Bunny, and things he did to people that were not nice. So I don’t want to waste any of my precious time left—I’m gonna be 81 next month. I have a museum to build. My archives which now fills 7 rooms of our home in Echo Park—floor to ceiling—has been bought by Joe Bogdanovich, who owns the Sumfest Festival. And Joe’s grandfather founded Starkist tuna, and left him half a billion dollars. So he bought Sting and cleaned it up. No more gunplay, no more bad words. No more homophobia in Sting. And he bought Sumfest. And he wants to build a museum on the grounds of Sumfest in Montego Bay to house my archives. (Tour participants applaud.)

Tour participant: So, Peter Tosh always seemed to have a lot of attitude. Was he a bad-ass guy or what?

Roger Steffens: (Laughing) Well Peter was a bad-ass guy, but he was so funny. What he did with the language was so incredible. He was like a French deconstructionist. He called his manager his “damager.” His producer was his “reducer.” (Tour participants laugh.) He called the Queen of England, “Queen ‘ere-Lies-A-Bitch.” (Tour participants laugh.) And he said he played in “Hell-A,” “Folly-wood,” “San Fran-disco,” “Folly-fornia,” “United States of Asadica.” Because there’s nothing “merry” about “America.” It’s “A-sad-ica.” (Tour participants laugh and boo.) And the “Crime Minister who shit in the house-of-represent-the-thief.” (Tour participants laugh.) It was wonderful. And, you know, one of the last songs he made, “be careful of your friends, they will fry you in the end.” He broke it in half, and it was his so-called friend who came and murdered him. So a lot of his songs were equally prophetic. But Peter was something else. I loved Peter. He never had any of his own records. He used to call me all the time from the ends of the earth. And just before he was murdered, he asked me to send him a record. Because “No Nuclear War” had finally come out that week and he was already working toward his next album. And he wanted to redo “Here Comes the Judge,” which he made for Joe Gibbs back in 1970 naming Bartolomé de Las Casas, and Henry Morgan, and all the great pirates of history. He wanted to remake it with 20th century villains. I’m sure he would have said something about Coxsone, and Joe Gibbs, and all these—

Tour participant: He was murdered in a robbery, wasn’t he?

Roger Steffens: Yeah. They thought he had a bundle of money. He hadn’t made money in four years—he’d been so ripped off. Yeah, they thought he had a bundle of money in the basement. It was terrible. Anyhow, on to happier things. So now we’re at the end of—well, not so happy. They get the Leslie Kong album out. And then [Kong] dies, so the album’s stillborn. And then they record two albums for Lee Perry. And that’s kind of proto—what do you call it?—“rockers” music. Very bare. Great bass and drums. And the bass basically carries the melody in Jamaican music. And the secret of reggae music is that it is the beat of the heathy human heart at rest. That’s—it’s what you hear in the womb. So dogs like it, and babies like it. And so they make these two albums, and Scratch, without their permission, takes them into England and sells them for $18,000 to Trojan Records—a label owned by Chris Blackwell. And he comes back to Jamaica with $18,000, which is probably more money cumulatively than The Wailers had made in their entire lives. And [Scratch] doesn’t give them a penny of it. And Bunny found out and almost beat him to death in a nightclub—when he found out. So that relationship soured.

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So at the end of that period, Bob goes off in the winter of ’71 to Sweden. In the midst of this bitter cold winter. And lives with Johnny Nash in a house full of musicians, while Johnny is preparing to make a movie that he and Bob are writing the soundtrack for. And the movie opens and closes in a day. And that flops. And Bob ends up at the end of ’72 in England, and brings Bunny and Peter over to try to make a breakthrough—play little clubs. And at the end of the year, they are finally introduced to Blackwell. Now all these years beginning with Bob’s first records, Chris Blackwell has been re-releasing everything, from “Judge Not” forward. All the Coxsone records. All the others. On his Island label in England. And Coxsone has told The Wailers that they can never talk to the “big boss,” Blackwell. [According to Coxsone], Blackwell doesn’t want to see them, “he doesn’t deal with artists, don’t even bother wasting your time talking to Chris Blackwell.” Meantime, Blackwell has been told that “The Wailers are a bunch of thugs from Trenchtown. They’re killers. So for Godsakes, protect yourself. Never let them come anywhere near you.” So when they finally get introduced to Chris at the end of ’72, they share these stories. And they have a good laugh until Chris says to them, “What did you do with the hundreds of thousands of pounds of royalties I sent Coxsone for your records that I’ve been releasing here in England?” And they were as flabbergasted as you appear to be. And they just couldn’t believe that. I don’t believe it’s true—I think it was Chris trying to drive a bigger wedge between them and Coxsone. But regardless, Chris says “I’d like you to make an album for me. How much do you need?” And they told him, and Chris wrote them a check for $8,000 bucks with no contract, no signature on anything. He just gave them $8,000. They go back to Jamaica, and everybody says, “Oh Chris, you’ll never see that money again. It’s all gonna go up in spliff smoke—or worse.” And instead, two months later they deliver “Catch a Fire.” And Chris puts those wonderful overdubs on it, does a remix in England, and from that point forward The Wailers are on their way to world stardom. So now we’ve got up to the point in the front room where we’ve talked about “Catch a Fire” through “Confrontation.” And there will be one more stop—two more stops. And I’ll meet you around the corner through the small playroom in about ten minutes. And there’s a room with some chairs and benches you can sit on. And we’ll talk about the two most incredible musical events of the 20th Century, both of which involved our friend Bob Marley.

[Steffens and tour participants reconvene in next exhibit room.]

Roger Steffens: Okay, so in this room I want to talk about the two most important events in Bob’s professional life. And I know you know what I’m talking about, “Smile Jamaica” and [the] “One Love Peace Concert.” So, in 1976, after Bob toured Europe, he came back to Jamaica and he wanted to do a free show for people in Jamaica. Because he’d become this huge star now abroad, playing to 20,000-30,000 people. And he’d done almost nothing in Jamaica since—since ’75; three concerts I think. So he came back, and he found posters all over Kingston saying he was going to do a free show on the grounds of the socialist Prime Minister Michael Manley’s house. And for an artist in Jamaica to identify themselves with a politician can be suicidal. And he didn’t want any part of that at all. So he went and complained to Manley. And [they] had a long negotiation, and they ended up with Manley giving him Heroes Park Circle in downtown Kingston. And he said it will have no political overtones at all. You can go and do your free show there [on] Sunday, December 5th. And a few days later, Manley announced that national elections would be held in the aftermath of the Smile Jamaica concert.

And, of course, Bob immediately came under death threats from the right-wing party of Edward Seaga. They called him “C.I.A.-ga.” So Bob was placed under guard 24-7 by members of both political gangs. And they were with him day and night for weeks, until the night of Friday, December 3rd, two nights before the concert, when they were rehearsing at Bob’s Tuff Gong headquarters—in uptown Kingston. Just down the road from Manley’s house. And that night the guards who’d been with Bob constantly for weeks, day and night, suddenly disappeared. And as Rita Marley was driving out of the compound, two carloads of mostly teenage gunmen crashed through the gates [and] shot Rita Marley in the head. [They] jumped out, started shooting everyone they could find. And Bob was in the back of the house with his manager, Don Taylor, peeling a grapefruit in a little pantry. And the gunman came in the backdoor and saw Don Taylor, and shot him five times in the groin. And then he turned to shoot Bob. And Bob had a vision three nights earlier in which his mother was the object of assassins. And she froze. And she said, “Don’t run.” And Bob remembered that. And as the gunman turned to Bob, [Bob] froze and the bullet came right across his heart and lodged in his left arm. And he went to the grave with that bullet in him. Bob, his wife, his manager, were rushed to the hospital. Somehow they kept Taylor alive until the following morning when he was medevacked to Miami, and his life was saved. Rita had a bullet lodged in her skull. They put her in the hospital and told her to lie flat, not move. And Bob had his wound treated, and took refuge at Chris Blackwell’s house in the hills above Kingston, a place called “Strawberry Hill.”

And over the next 36 hours, all of Bob’s best friends, members of the Twelve Tribes (to which he belonged), other friends came up begging him not to do the show. They were certain that if he went down to the concert on that Sunday night—out in the open like he would be—they’d kill him. And no matter what other people said, Bob had no interest in doing the show. He was too frightened. But he had a publicist with him named Jeff Walker who still lives here in town, a few blocks away. He’s Kim Gottlieb’s husband—the photographer. And he was Bob’s publicist at Island Records. And he said to Bob, “Look, if you don’t go down there and at least make an appearance, it will be just the same as if they had killed you. Their objective was to keep you from making an appearance there. So if you don’t make an appearance, they will have accomplished that objective. So you’ve got to at least go down and show yourself.” And Bob says, “I’m not going down there without a machine gun.” And Jeff said, “Bob, your guitar is your machine gun.” And something clicked. And Bob said, “All right, I’ll do it.” And at that moment, according to Rita who told me this story, Rita pulls up in a car that she had stolen from the parking lot of the hospital—she was so sick and tired of just lying flat on her back [with] nobody doing anything for her, she stole the car and drove up to Chris’s house, jumps out in a hospital gown with a bloody bandage on her head—where a bullet was lodged in her skull. And Bob grabs her hand and says, “Come on baby, we’re gonna do a show.” And they jump in the police chief’s car. And they go screaming down the mountain to the site where there are now 80,000 people waiting to see if Bob was going to come.

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And the stage is filled with over 100 people willing to put their bodies on the line. A lot of famous people in Jamaica up there. If they’re gonna come and try to shoot Bob, they’re gonna have to take a lot of Jamaicans with them. And Bob arrives, and it’s a frenzy. And he’s carried on people’s shoulders, [and] passed on to the stage like a reverse stage-dive. And he gets up on stage, and instead of just making an appearance, he sings for 90 minutes. And at the end of the set, he makes that gesture that you often see in some of the films, like he’s holding the invisible grapefruit, you know? Which some people think is an ancient Egyptian gesture of mass hypnosis. And he goes a cappella. And he sings “So Jah Say,” a song he rarely performed live. With those lines “If puss and dog get together, what’s wrong with you my brothers? Why can’t we love one another?” And he opens up his jacket, and he shows where the bullet came across his heart. And then he pulls his sleeve up, and points to the bullet in his arm. And he goes: “Bang! Bang! I’m okay.” And he disappears off stage into a 14-month off-island exile. That was the night that Bob went from showman to shaman. Nothing impresses a Jamaican more than someone who has just avoided a point-blank assassination attempt. And to me, that is the single most impressive, incredible, unprecedented event in 20th Century popular music history. What can you compare that to? Woodstock? It rained at Woodstock. People got mud on their shoes. (Tour participants laugh.) No, that to me—and that coupled with what happened two years later, is assuring Bob’s immortality.

So, right after this Bob goes into an off-island 14-month exile—almost 15 months. And national elections are held. Michael Manley is overwhelmingly re-elected. And he decides to do something strange. He takes Bucky Marshall and Claudie Massop, the two leading opposing gunmen from the different parties, and he puts them in prison. In the same cell. Maybe he thought they’d beat each other to death? I don’t know. Instead they start comparing notes, and they realized they’d both been played for suckers by the [people] up on the hill who run things. And they [declared] a peace truce between themselves. And word leaks out to the ghettos in Western Kingston. And a spontaneous peace movement starts. And eventually, by the end of the year, they’re let out of prison and they fly to England in January of ’78 to beg Bob to return to Jamaica and headline the “One Love Peace Concert”—another concert named after a song of Bob’s. And Bob realizes one of these guys was in the party who came to kill him. And he’s afraid of this guy to this day. And he says, “No, I’m not going to go back.” And it takes them a long time to eventually convince Bob that he’s gonna be safe if he returns to Jamaica.

At the end of February, he comes back to prepare for the concert, which is going to be held on April 22nd, 1978—the 12th anniversary of Haile Selassie’s visit to Jamaica. And it’s a full moon. And the stadium is packed with 40,000 people. In the second row is Michael Manley and his wife. And a few seats down in the second row from him is his mortal enemy, Edward Seaga, in whose names so many thousands of people have been killed in the gang warfare. And in the front row they put all the journalists. And one of them was Gary Steckles, who’s also a Marley biographer—an old friend of mine, the editor of the Montreal Gazette. And he was seated right in front of Manley and his wife. And he said all day long Manley’s wife was saying [to her husband], “They’re gonna call you up there tonight. You better not go. I know they’re gonna call you, don’t you move out of this seat. If you try to go up there, I’ll shoot you. Don’t go anywhere near there.”

The concert lasted 8 hours, beginning in the mid-afternoon. And the third act from the end is Peter Tosh. And Peter Tosh did one of the most incredible sets of his life. And he’s standing up there in front of 40,000 people, and he’s blowing spliff smoke in the cops’ faces. And he looks down, and he sees Michael Manley. And he says, “Mr. Manley, you tell me that I can talk to you anytime I want. But every time I go to your office, they tell me you’re too busy to see me. So now I’ve got to talk to you in front of all these people. Why is it you play the slavemasters’ game for them? Why is it all the white man’s vices are legal? Sugar, tobacco, alcohol. The one thing the Black man loves all over this planet—his little draw of herb—you make illegal so the slavemasters can control you, and control our country when we could be making money off this. Why do you do that for the slavemaster?” And he said a lot of words that kinda rhymed with bad words in patois, but they really weren’t. And people mistook it, and the next day The Gleaner had headlines about “Tosh Vulgarity Shocks Prime Minister.” And five months later, seven cops arrested Peter and brought him to a jail cell and beat him for 90 minutes with batons, and left him for dead with his skull cracked open—you could see his brain. So [Peter Tosh] not only talked the talk, he walked the walk too.

When his set was over, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus did a set of Nyabinghi hymns. And at 1:30 in the morning with lightening flashing on the horizon—you know, you see in the films sometimes like a bolt of lightning hits the stage—totally phony, never happened; it was spliced in from a different movie. [I] hated it. You don’t have to make up anything for Bob, just tell Bob’s story. So [Bob] comes out on stage, and he begins in a very low key way with “Rastaman Chant,” [and] works his way up to the end of his set. And at the end of the set, he calls the two leading people of this land to come onstage and shake hands. To “show the people that you love them right, to show the people you’re gonna unite.” And almost immediately, Seaga is pulled up out of the audience. And he stands behind Bob onstage, hovering. And they keep waiting for Manley. Bob starts singing, “I’m waiting. I’m waiting.” Manley never comes. So finally [Bob] turns to Seaga (whose forces came to murder him and his wife), and he brings him up to the microphone, and just at that moment they look up, and here comes Manley striding across the stage. And Bob’s just beside himself—leaping up and down. And he grabs them, and he makes them shake hands in front of 40,000 people. And he holds their hands aloft in a benediction to Rastafari—the moment that Neville Garrick compares to Christ on the cross, between the two thieves. And that moment will live forever in the history of Jamaica. And combined with the Smile Jamaica concert, guarantees Bob’s immortality.

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Those are unprecedented moments in musical history that have no obvious comparison anywhere, in any other country. And that’s why I love Bob so much. That he could triumph with those messages of peace and love. And I had the great honor when I was traveling with him—in ’79, here in L.A.—of showing the films of both those events to Bob. And he had never seen either of them before. So I got to watch Bob watch Bob. And at the end, a colleague of ours, John Sutton Smith, said to Bob, “What was going through your mind as you were standing there between these two men in whose names so many people had been murdered? What were you thinking?” And Bob said, in effect, “Well I-man no politician, but if I’m not a politician, only one thing for me to do—kill them both.” Peace and love, huh Bob? (Steffens and tour participants laugh.) So thank you for letting me tell those stories. It’s just—I mean, what a man we had among us, you know? So, in the next room I have a quick story to tell you all, and then there’s a little room—like an antechamber—and there is the tape of Bob recounting to Gil Noble, a Jamaican ABC correspondent, in 1980, in New York, the vision he had of his mother where she was shot. And she said, “Don’t run. Don’t run.” That’s what Bob remembered. It’s only a couple of minutes, but it’s well worth hearing. Then you’ll go through that into the last room which has the genealogy of the Marley family, and a place where you can write a little note about what “one love” means to you. And I will talk about the final days of Bob’s life, and talk about whether Bob’s doctor in Germany really was a Nazi, and clear up some other rumors that have gone around. And then we’ll exit through the gift shop, and if there are any books left, I’d be glad to sign them.

[Steffens and tour participants reconvene in next exhibit room.]

Roger Steffens: Okay everybody, gather around. We got Jonathan here? Where’s Jonathan? Okay, don’t go away—you and Mindy. So two months after the One Love Peace Concert, Bob Marley received the United Nations “Medal for Peace” on behalf of 500 million Africans—a great honor for him. And he only played a couple of times in Africa; he did play at the Zimbabwe independence ceremony, in April of ’80—100,000 people came to that performance. He brought the stage and light with him, because they’d never seen a live show. And there was a riot on the opening night, and he came back the second day and did a free show. And after 45 minutes, he sang “Exodus,” and he went off stage waiting to come back for the encore. And they hadn’t seen a live show in 20 years there, so Bob sang “Exodus,’ “Okay, I guess it’s time to go.” Everybody walked out of the stadium, [and] Bob was ready to play all night long for them. The biggest crowd of his life was perhaps as big as 120,000 people in the soccer stadium in Milan, San Siro. And the Pope had appeared there the week before, [at] the same stadium, and Bob Marley out-drew the Pope in Italy; [Bob] loved that. (Steffens and tour participants laugh.) He does a tour filling stadiums all over Europe in the summer of 1980, goes to New York as [the] opening act for Lionel Richie and The Commodores. He wanted desperately to reach the African American audience, and he never did. Most of the audience there was white to see him, and when his opening set was over, half the audience got up and walked out, much to the chagrin of Lionel. Those were the 3rd and 2nd shows from the end of his career.

The next day, [a] Sunday, [Bob] was jogging in Central Park with Skill Cole, his best friend—the soccer player—and Danny Sims, who had come back into his life. And [Bob] collapsed. And he started frothing at the mouth. And he was taken to a local hospital. And they did tests and they said, “You have more cancer in your body than we’ve ever seen in a living human being. You’ve got less than 3 weeks to live. Get your affairs in order.” Instead Bob got on an airplane the next day and flew to Pittsburgh to do his final show—September 23rd, Tuesday. And you heard in that show—which has been released—no diminution of his powers. He did [an] incredible, strong set. And the final song he sang was “Work,” with “Get Up, Stand Up”—counting off the final days of his life. They couldn’t do anything for him at Sloan Kettering Hospital. His locks were shorn. They gave up on him, and in my book there’s a story toward the end of the book [where] they discover Doctor Josef Issels’ clinic in Germany. A variety of crazy things they learn about him. And he agrees to take Bob as a patient. Now you’ve heard, I’m sure, that [Issels] is a Nazi. Well that happens to be true. But the story is so much broader than that, and his wife tells me the story for the first time in the book. This book was designed to put all the rumors and all the false stories to rest. And that’s why a lot of people who never talked publicly all those years trusted me with their stories, because they don’t want the lies to go down [forever in history]. And one of them is the story of Issels who, in 1932, got his MD in Germany and went to work at a Catholic hospital. And the priest in charge of the hospital said, “If you want to make career advancements, you must join the S.S.”—the people who built the concentration camps, the worst of the Nazis. So he did. And in 1938, he was ordered never to treat any more Jewish patients. And he refused, so they arrested him, and eventually put him in the army, and sent him to Russia. And he was captured and spent all of World War II in a Russian prisoner of war camp. And when he came out he started a cancer clinic, and by the early 1970s he had at least a 10 % cure rate with patients who had been given up as hopeless by other doctors. And at this point in Bob’s life, he was thinking of going to the cancer clinic where Steve McQueen—the actor—was being treated. But McQueen died. So [Bob] said: “I’m not going there.” (Some tour participants laugh.) So they send him to Germany, and Dr. Issels keeps him alive for 7 more months until the end, until May of 1981, when [Issels] says: “There’s nothing more I can do.”

Bob wanted to fly back to Jamaica. He got as far as Miami, [and] they took him to the hospital. And, on the morning of May 11, 1981, Judy Mowatt was in her apartment in Kingston, and a bolt of lightning came through her living room window and lodged for a full second on the metal frame of a picture of Bob Marley; a symbol she said that one of the earth’s great spirits had transcended to the celestial plane. Jamaica went into immediate mourning for the next 10 days. Parliament recessed. And guess who did the eulogy at Bob Marley’s funeral? Edward Seaga, the new Prime Minister, the guy whose forces came to kill [Bob]. And I think [Seaga] probably thought he was finished with Bob—didn’t have to worry or think about him anymore. But don’t forget, Bob said that the music would just find its rightful people and get bigger and bigger. And I think he was talking about himself, too. He got bigger, and bigger, and bigger—and is still growing. The funeral was held ten days later. The cortege from Kingston all the way back up to the mountains of Nine Mile was lined the entire stretch of the way with over a million people. And after Bob’s life [ended], one honor after another came to him. In 1994, he became the first Third World star to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The only other one is Jimmy Cliff, so far. At the millennium, so many things happened in a nice way for Bob. Time Magazine picked “Exodus” as the best album of the 20th Century. And the New York Times built a time capsule to be opened in the year 3000—in act of incredible optimism (Steffens and tour participants laugh)—like there’s gonna be anybody here to see it. And they wanted to put one work of musical art from this century into the time capsule, so people a thousand years from now would see the finest musical moment of the century. And what they decided to put in there was Bob Marley “live” at the Rainbow [theater] in England, in 1977. At the same time, the millennium coverage around the world that the BBC did, began in each of the 24 time zones with the local people in each of those countries singing the anthem of the millennium: The one song that everybody on earth knew, “One Love.” And the New York Times said that Bob Marley was the most influential musician of the second half of the 20th Century. The first half they said was Louis Armstrong. Both of them: daily herb smokers. (Tour participants laugh). Bob got a star on Hollywood Boulevard, a couple of blocks away from here, on the corner of Hollywood and La Brea.

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“Burnin’” was accepted into the Library of Congress’s registry of historic albums. When they did the reissue of that album, they asked me to write the liner notes for it. And I told the true story which is contained in the book fully. And it’s the only time in my life—I’ve written over 100 [liner] notes—it was the only time in my life that I’ve been rejected. And the people at Island Records said, “We can’t publish this, it’s too honest.” So a few years later, the Library of Congress chooses “Burnin’,” and they asked me to write the essay on the Library’s website to explain the importance of the album. So I just took the liner notes that were “too honest,” (Steffens and tour participants laugh) and they’re on the Library of Congress website right now—and they’re in the book, too. And last week, #1 on the reggae charts? “Legend,” a 39-year-old album by Bob Marley, his greatest hits.

The best words for me to close, before I introduce some people to you, are by the eloquent chief pop critic of the New York Times, John Pareles. In 1976, the New York Times Sunday Magazine celebrated its 100th anniversary of publication, and they asked each of their critics to choose one work of art in their fields that they felt would last 100 years into the future. And John Pareles chose “Burnin’,” the last album by Bunny, Bob, and Peter. And he wrote these words: “Bob Marley became the voice of Third World pain and resistance, the sufferer in the concrete jungle who would not be denied forever. Outsiders everywhere heard him as their own champion. If he could make himself heard, so could they without compromise. In 2096, when the former Third World has overrun and colonized the former super powers, Bob Marley will be commemorated as a saint.” Thank you. (Tour participants all vociferously applaud, and Steffens bows.) So there are thanks in order before you all leave—I would like you all to stay just another moment. Jon, come up here—Jonathan. Where’s Jonathan? (Jonathan Shank approaches Steffens.) The man responsible for this—the whole creation—from shepherding it into existence—is my friend, Jonathan Shank. (Tour participants applaud.) I have a little story to tell about Jonathan. The night before this opened, I get an email—(speaking to Shank) did you say “Mr. Steffens?” (Jonathan smiles and shakes head, and Steffens continues.) “Dear Roger, do you happen to know anybody in L.A. who is a Marley expert who might be willing to guide our VIP tours?” (Steffens smiles mischievously.) Mother-fucker, you’re talking to him! (Everybody laughs.) And it’s been the greatest job of my life. (Tour participants and Steffens applaud.)

Jonathan Shank: Such an honor to have Roger here.

Roger Steffens: Lachette? Where’s Lachette? Lachette, come up [here]. It was her mom who said, “Why was Bob’s bus full of bugs.” (Everybody laughs, and Steffens and Lachette embrace.) She runs things here, and the people that were put together for this crew had to embody that “One Love” vibration of Bob Marley or else they shouldn’t work here. And I don’t think there was a bummer in the place. So many people with smiles on their faces for everybody who came through. And I want to acknowledge them. They include Jonathan Shank, Steve Lundy, Josh Winik, Lachette. Is Brandy here? Brandy didn’t leave, did she? Brandy is the little, tiny dynamo. Ryan, Kim, Jessica, Lucretia, Alex, Rudi, Amy, Marco, Chris, Felicia, Alessandra, and Leah. Who’d I leave out? Anybody? So I am off to exit through the gift shop, and I’ll be glad to sign your books for you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Everyone applauds.)


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