Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Old Marcus Garvey

The other day I was talking about Burning Spear with my brother and about how he must see the old time Reggae great in concert this week in New York. After Bob Marley, Winston Rodney (aka”Burning Spear”) is one of the central most important figures in the history of Reggae, and one of the foremost proponents of Roots Reggae and the Rastafari movement.

Garvey’s Ghost

In the early 1970s, Burning Spear released Marcus Garvey, his signature LP dedicated to the Jamaican Pan-Africanist. While discussing the importance of this LP, Burning Spear’s unmistakable sound, and his role in the music, it hit me that no where in Bob Marley’s lyrics or discography is Marcus Garvey given any relevance. Bob Marley’s music was firmly grounded in Rastafarianism, yet strangely he makes no mention whatsoever of the prophetic Garvey. On the other hand, Garvey was consistently a major theme throughout 1970s Roots Reggae.

It would seem, in reference to Burning Spear’s song — that Bob Marley did not remember Old Marcus Garvey.



Filed under Digressions

3 responses to “Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Old Marcus Garvey

  1. Your comment is absolutely baseless. The Lp in which Marley makes reference to the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey is “EXODUS” and “Survival” ; “Survival in particular, which Lp is never featured in any Island disography due, I beleive for Bob Marley’s call for black leberation and the redemption of Africa. As the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey stated: Africa for the Africans, at ome and abroad. This Lp is never given its rightful place in the States. It also helped contribute toward the liberation of Rhodesia, now called Zimbawe.

  2. eric

    Dub Tafari,

    Actually, Survival is probably my favorite Marley LP where as Exodus is my least favorite

    I didn’t say that Marley was not a Pan Africanist, he very much was. I meant that he doesn’t make direct references to Marcus Garvey, say in the way that Burning Spear or other Roots Reggae artists have. The only reference that I have found is in the song “So much things to say” from Exodus.

    Survival is an Island release. On the Tuff Gong/Island compilation “Songs of Freedom” there are a various songs from Survival, including Africa Unite, Survival, One Drop, Zimbabwe, Ride Natty Ride, Babylon System. But I do agree that the Survival LP was underrated due to the fact that the general listening public wasn’t interested in the Pan African tone of the lyrics.

  3. Markie Raye

    Bob did not express his passion for Garvey and his philosophy the way Burning Spear did in song, but he did adhere to his teachings. The song Exodus was partly based on Garvey’s repatriation call, Bob said he “would never forget” how Garvey was treated, and Survival, my personal favourite Marley album since I first heard it in 1979 (I started to take in The Wailers in ’74 when Natty Dread came out, I was nine!) is hugely inspired by the Garvey philosophy. Bob spoke highly of Garvey in interviews too.Oh and how can we forget the huge everpresnt Garvey banner uesd in virtually all of The Wailer’s stage shows as a backdrop?? One God, One Aim, One Destiny, and One Love!

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