Just as Bob Marley and the Wailers music was exploding in Jamaica, so were the political conflicts. After an attempt was made on Bob and wife Rita’s lives, they fled to London for refuge in 1976. The Wailers arrived, unknown artists in a country that had never heard the sound of Reggae.
In continued celebration of what would be Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, the 5th episode of the YouTube docu-series, “Legacy: Punky Reggae Party,” has been released on the Bob Marley YouTube channel.
This episode covers Bob’s time in London, the effects his music had on their culture, and how it brought the punk and reggae communities together.
When Bob Marley’s music came to the UK, it forever changed the footprint of their music. Bob brought Reggae’s rebel spirit to London, encouraging the duality of the Black and British existence.
Diane Abbott, MP & Former Shadow Home Secretary, talks about being a part of the “Windrush” generation, who arrived from the Caribbean in the UK between 1948 and 1973. She shared that Bob brought Jamaican music to England and how it profoundly affected her life. She also speaks powerfully about her experience as a black woman in the House of Parliament.
Chris Blackwell, who is responsible for signing the band to Island Records, talks about the first time he met Bob, Bunny and Peter and how they were “nobodies.” But, that “they were like huge stars, their attitude and the vibe they gave.”, said Blackwell.
After spending time and money promoting their previous albums, the band found themselves broke. UK journalist and broadcaster, Chris Salewicz and author of “Bob Marley The Untold Story,” tells the story of how Island Records thought Bob and the Wailers were trouble and said Chris Blackwell would never see the money back from sending Bob and the Wailers back to Jamaica to record.
When Blackwell went to Jamaica to check up on the band, they played him “Catch a Fire.” He immediately knew that they had put every penny into that song. And just how worth it, it was going to be.
Lead commentator and music enthusiast, Don Letts, shares how society alienated white youth, so they created punk rock; music that was relevant to their feelings. He tells a personal story of how he encouraged Bob to check out punk music, telling him that their messages were the same. Both were rebels and anti-establishment using their music to channel their message. Still, Bob told him to basically “bugger off.” It’s reported that Bob finally went to see The Clash and finally got it and was inspired to write “Punky Reggae Party.”
“New wave, new craze
Wailers still be there
The Jam, The Damned, The Clash
Wailers still be there”
– Punky Reggae Party
Photographer Adrian Boot reflects on the first show he ever covered for the band. He noted how there were equal amounts of black and white kids and was amazed at how “electrifying” the energy was in the room.
It was not long before fashion started to reflect the Jamaican culture with people wearing red, green, and gold and adopting a lot of the Jamaican slang. It was clear that Bob’s music was drawing the cultures together.
British-Nigerian women’s rights activist Seyi Akiwowo told the story of how she heard Bob’s music for the first time at the Nine Hill Carnival, a carnival put on in response to the racial tension of the times. It was at this carnival when Bob realized just how big of an impact Jamaican music was having on the community. This festival still continues on today.
You also experience award-winning British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE, at the Abby Road Studios, playing a beautiful rendition of “No Woman, No Cry,” expressing how the Cello is the closest sound to the human voice. While he plays mainly classical music, he has been massively impacted by Bob Marley’s music.
The documentary also shows Musician Hak BakerMarika who shares how Bob’s music impacted him and how it drove the subcultures in London in the 60 and 70s. He also shares his song “Babylon,” and expresses his feelings about how the current times reflect so similar to the time when Bob came to London.
“Babylon (noun) – a contemptuous term for aspects of white culture seen as degenerate or oppressive, especially the police.”
The episode closes with Don Letts standing at an old school jukebox, choosing the song, “Get up Stand Up.” As the 45 record drops, the lyrics “Get up stand up. Stand up for your rights,” start playing. Letts shares how in the 21st century, the side of Bob being pushed is the love and spiritual side but that we also need the raggamuffin rudeboy attitude.
“Rejected by society, treated with impunity.” – Punky Reggae Party
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