Bob Marley, the Wailers and the Marley Family
Bob Marley & the Wailers started their music career as a Ska band 1963. Their first big Jamaican chart hit was with the track ‘Simmer Down’ accompanied by a backing band – The Skatalites. Bob Marley was on vocals and original band members Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer eventually learned to play their own instruments and by the beginning of the 1970’s the band was ready to take on the world.
In 1973 Bob Marley & The Wailers toured the UK and the USA as their popularity grew exponentially. While in England they performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test, the popular BBC music show. This was the first Reggae band to be featured on the Rock focused show. Their performance has been named by the influential and well-respected music magazine NME (New Musical Express) as one of the most ‘unforgettable’ moments of the shows 17-year run (1971-1988). Songs performed where Stir it Up and Concrete Jungle. Catch a Fire is referred by critics “as one of the biggest selling reggae albums of all time”.
‘The song’s lyrics deal with political injustice towards blacks and poverty, as is the case in many of their albums. Catch a Fire is about “the current state of urban poverty,” and “Slave Driver – connects the present to past injustices.” But politics are not the main theme; “Stir it Up”, for example, is a love song.’ And the songs and lyrics still resonate today and carry the torch of the one love philosophy.
TRACK 1. “Don’t Rock My Boat” composed by Bob Marley taken from the ‘Small Axe: The UK Upsetter Recordings 1970 to 1972’ album released in 2010.
Performed by Bob Marley and Wailers and produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry the brilliant and eccentric Jamaican producer. The Upsetters was the in-House band he used for his studio sessions. The alliance between Perry, Marley and the Wailers only lasted a year creating some great tracks and are said to be their finest work.
TRACK 2. “Stir It Up” (Jamaican Version) released in 1973 and a track on the ‘Catch a Fire’ Album.
“Stir It Up was composed by Marley in 1967 but it was the African-American singer Johnny Nash that made it a hit. It was a track on number one selling album ‘I Can See Clearly Now’. The single by the same name reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 4, 1972. Marley had four original tracks on the album “Guava Jelly”, “Comma Comma”, “You Poured Sugar on Me”, and the follow-up hit “Stir It Up”. This was one of the tracks performed on the Old Gray Whistle Test show in London that was the start of their popularity around the world.
TRACK 3. “Concrete Jungle” (Jamaican Version) another track taken from the hit album ‘Catch a Fire’.
This track was the first single taken off the album released in 1973. It took reggae music out of the Jamaican dancehalls to the international stage, embarking on a tour. ‘The song’s lyrics deal with political injustice towards blacks and poverty, as is the case in many of their albums. Catch a Fire is about “the current state of urban poverty,” and “Slave Driver” – “connects the present to past injustices.”
TRACK 4. “Legalize It” written and sung here by original Wailers’ band member Peter Tosh released in 1976 and taken from the album of the same name.
There was an attempt to release the track a year earlier in Jamaica, but it was banned however it got the attention of the worldwide media and who Tosh’s song International fame.
In 1974 Peter Tosh and other band member, Bunny Wailer refused to play certain venues which they referred to as ‘Freak shows’ as they felt they would be defying their Rastafarian faith if they continued to play in such venues. This did not discourage Marley, however, who continued to perform as Bob Marley and the Wailers fronting the band as lead guitarist and vocalist. There was a new line of musicians as well as the female backing group ‘The I Threes’ which comprised of Bob Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.
TRACK 5. “All You Got” by Ziggy Marley and the Melodie Makers taken from their 1989 album ‘One Bright Day’. This is the fourth album from the group of Bob Marleys children and it receive a Grammy award for Best Reggae Album in 1990.
Band members Sharon, Cedella, Stephen and Ziggy Marley formed the band in 1979 following the footsteps of their father Bob, who encouraged the grouping, but it was only after his death they accomplished their father’s desire. Their aim was to write conscious lyrics that bought people together, keeping the one love philosophy alive. “Jo-Ann Greene of All Music Guide stated, “The Melody Makers had a breezy pop style, and while it was impossible not to hear Bob in Ziggy’s vocals, this only emphasized the incredible emotional qualities of his own voice.
TRACK 6. “Small Axe” by the ‘The Wailers’ released in 1973 taken form the ‘Burnin’ album.
This was the bands sixth studio album and produced by Chris Blackwell. Blackwell was the founder of Island Records which the band was signed too.
Blackwell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and is referred to as the ‘man who bought reggae music to the world’. Chris Blackwell was born in Westminster, London in 1937 and his father Joseph is a family member of the Crosse and Blackwell brand. His mother was a Jamaican heiress born in Costa Rica. They moved to Jamaica after his birth, but they would divorce when he 12 years. He spent his early years in Jamaica but returned to the UK for schooling at Harrow. He left school to pursue different careers, but it was managing jukeboxes which would take him up and down the country meeting the Jamaican music community that inspired him. He would pursue other work, but it would lead to nothing meaningful. He then began to license music master tapes from Jamaica and on one of the tapes was the fifteen-year-old Millie Small. He brought her over to England and produced and release her 1956 hit “My Boy Lollypop” it sold six million records worldwide and it launched island Records.
TRACK 7. “Turn Your Lights Down Low” written by Minnie Riperton & Richard James Rudolph taken from the ‘Chant Down Babylon’ album released in 1999 featuring original vocals from Bob Marley, remixed and featuring an array of artists from the rock, pop and hip-hop world.
The song’s original version is on the Bob Marley and the Wailers Exodus album released in 1977.
On this track we have singer and song writer Lauryn Hill duetting with Bob. She was in a relationship at the time with Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley – they have 5 children. Rohan was a professional footballer for a while, playing in the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders but would later take on the role of entrepreneur and in 2009 he became co-founder of the Marley Coffee company producing sustainable organic coffee from a farm in Jamaica’s Blue Mountain. He would also develop the ‘House of Marley’ range of ecofriendly headphones. He helps to run family charitable organisation called 1Love ,as well as the Tuff Gong Clothing company. Rohan is making waves out of the recording studio and bringing success to the Marley family in corporate world.
TRACK 8. “Bend Down Low” taken from the ‘Natty Dread’ album released in 1974.
This would be the first recording without Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. ‘Natty Dread is a spiritually charged political and social statement.’ Without the original members of the band this did not hold Bob Marley back. In fact, he found strength to start producing records that would gain him many more fans around the world. This track is regarded as a ‘smooth seductive track’ with an upbeat feel and with the I Threes backing vocalists consisting of his wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths singing sweetly.
This was not the girls first gig on the music scene. Rita had already started making music in 1964 recording tracks for the Studio One record company that the Wailers were associated with. She recorded duets with Bunny Wailer and with Peter Tosh as well as singing lead in the group called The Soulettes in the 60’s. Marcia Griffith recorded on the same label and had a hit in Jamaica with the ‘Feel Like Jumping’ and Judy Mowatt found fame in Jamaica as lead vocalist for the group The Gaylettes and later did a successful cover of the Dusty Springfield track ‘Son of a Preacher man. ‘The I-Threes released their first album as a group, Beginning, in 1986, and cut the fine Songs of Bob Marley nine years later, by which time they had removed the plural from their name as an expression of unity: they were I Three, one and all.’
TRACK 9. “I Shot the Sheriff” another track taken from the 1974 ‘Burnin’ album.
Bob Marley wanted to use other lyrics for the song, “I want to say ‘I shot the police’ but the government would have made a fuss so I said ‘I shot the sheriff’ instead… but it’s the same idea: justice” It was Eric Clapton’s version recorded in 1974 for his album ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ with its soft rock feel and reggae overtones that got it into the Billboard Hot 100 charts and reached number one and in 2003. It is Clapton’s cover that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame but we all know which version is the best.
TRACK 10 “Waiting In Vain” is one of the most popular songs by Bob Marley and the Wailers, taken from the ‘Exodus’ album released in 1977.
The album was regarded as Marley’s cry for political change in Jamaica. Before the album was conceived there was an attempted assassination on Marley. He took exile in the UK and that’s where Exodus was recorded. ‘The album is split into two halves: the first half revolves around religious politics, while the second half is focused on themes of sex and keeping faith.’ The album became a number one hit in Jamaica as well as England, Germany and in 1999 Time Magazine named it the best album of the 20th century. You may know the featured song but it’s worth getting to know the album it came from – its Marley at his best.
TRACK 11. “Who We Are” taken from the ‘Many More Roads’ album, written and performed by Ky-Mani Marley.
His name is from the East African word meaning “Adventurous Traveller”. In addition to being a performer like his father, he has also competed as an American Footballer and a table tennis champion representing Jamaica. Sports was his first love, but he was encouraged to go into the studio by his brothers. He soon signed a record deal in 1996 called “Like Father, Like Son”. He is performing and standing on his own stage making waves in the charts, he is a Marley brother to look out for.
TRACK 12. Bunny Wailer sings “Mellow Mood” written by Bob Marley.
The reason Bunny Wailer left the group in 1973 was because he felt that the band was being asked to perform at ‘Freak shows’ in the United States. He would continue to pursue his own career in the music business reworking some of the Wailers’ songs. The album this song is taken from is called ‘Bunny Wailer Sings the Wailers’ released in 1980. He would also experiment with all forms of music from disco, pop, and dancehall. He is the only living original member of the band and still resided in his country of birth Jamaica, on a farm in St Thomas. In 2012 Bunny Wailer received Jamaica’s highest honour, The Order of Jamaica and in 2019 he was awarded the Pinnacle award in New York from the coalition to Preserve Reggae. From two boys growing up in a village in Jamaica, Marley and Wailer created one of the best-known reggae band in the world and will go down in history. One Love.
TRACK 13. “Satisfy My Soul” taken from the ‘Kaya’ Album released in 1978.
This album had mixed reviews and it consisted of tracks on the Exodus album released in 1977.’ The album has a very relaxed, laid back sound, lacking much of the militant quality of the Wailers lyrically and musically. They received criticism for ‘going soft’ because of the general sound of the album, as well as the theme: songs primarily revolving around love, as well as marijuana.’ The album was also released to celebrate his welcome back to Jamaica after his exodus to the UK. His return also coincides with the One Love Peace Concert which he would be performing at. Marley was returning at a time of political civil war; he brought both parties together on stage and got both leaders of opposite sides to join hands in peace. The concert attracted 32,000 spectators who roared with joy at this historical moment. Marley became the reggae star of peace.
TRACK 14. This uplifting track is by Julian Marley taken from his album ‘As I Am’, “Family & Friends”.
Julian was born and raised in England surrounded by music. He taught himself to play bass, drums, guitar, and keyboard and at 5 years old he recorded his first demo at the Marley Family home in Jamaica. He honours his family dynasty, “I feel privileged to be part of the musical roots that my father, Bob Marley, laid in England. I look forward to relate the cultural gifts and musical creations that he has bestowed on me.” Julian performed at the 2008 Olympic Games and celebrated with Usain Bolt when he won his gold medal for Jamaica. Julian Marley now lives in Jamaica creating his own path in music close to his friend and Marley Family.
Track list created by Pepsi Demacque-Crockett. Details compiled from various online references including Wikipedia.
Pepsi was part of the UK 80’s pop scene, a member of “Wham!” and half of the duo “Pepsi and Shirlie”. She later graced the stage in several Musical theatre productions in the UK and performed across Europe with Mike Oldfield on his Millennial Bell European Tour. She now lives in St Lucia with her husband James & dog Shabby where she is a marriage officer and writer.