Get Up, Stand Up

Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:6 August 2020 

Singing along to “Is this love” or “I shot the Sheriff”, it’s easy to forget the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers is, at the core, a revolutionary music. Nesta Robert Marley was born in Jamaica on February 6, 1945, a child of mixed-race origins who spent his formative years strumming a home made guitar in the Trench Town ghetto while enduring the taunts and racial abuse constantly directed at someone whose parents came from two different cultures. It was a tough teenage-hood, one that might have made Nesta Robert angry and bitter. Instead it hardened his resolution to make is own way. A way in music.


With close friends Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, young Marley—now preferring the shorter moniker Bob—formed The Teenagers in 1961 and started on the path that would take him out of the ghetto and around the world as one of the first genuine World Music superstars.


When The Wailers, as Marley’s band was now known, arrived in Britain in 1971 they struggled to get by despite being well-received at the few small gigs they landed. All found the UK’s climate challenging, particularly Bunny Wailer, but they hung tough and finally made a connection with Island Records’ Chris Blackwell. As well as encouraging, supporting and managing the young band, Blackwell also played a vital role in helping produce their early material. With an emphasis on tighter, more concise songs rather than endless jams, and with extra sweetening from US keyboard player John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick (Eric Burdon, Free, Roger Waters), The Wailers first album—Catch A Fire—was a hit.


Burnin’, the second, consolidated the band’s success. It’s opening cut was “Get up, Stand up”, a statement of Rastafarian intent and an equally clear indication of the revolutionary nature of the music. Indeed, Peter Tosh wanted much more social commentary in the music and left to pursue his own reggae vision.


Bob Marley and the Wailers went from strength to strength during the mid-70s, releasing hit singles including “Jamming” and “One love” and highly successful albums such as Exodus and Uprising. The final Bob Marley album, Confrontation, was released two years after his death from cancer in 1981. Marley received a State funeral, the service combing elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafarianism. He was a legend.


Legend is, appropriately enough, the title of a 2 LP collection of some of Bob Marley’s best known and most accessible songs. There are several versions available but all contain a wonderful introduction to the music of Nesta Robert Marley.


© Bruce Jenkins 2020

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