Happy Birthday, Bob

“He wanted everything at the same time and was everything at the same time: prophet, soul rebel, Rastaman, herbsman, wild man, natural mystic man, ladies man, island man, family man, Rita’s man, soccer man, showman, shaman, human, Jamaican!”

— U2’s Bono, inducting Bob Marley
into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 1994


Imagine. If Bob Marley were alive still, he would be celebrating his 59th birthday today. How time flies while we are not having fun. How could we? We live in a world drowning in the Babylonian shitstem Marley decried in song.

So much trouble in the world now
So much trouble in the world now …

You see men sailing on their ego trips
Blast off on their space ship
Million miles from reality
No care for you, no care for me

Thank Jah we still have his music to inspire us and keep us standing up against the evil and greed of the downpressors…

bob livelies up himself Forget your troubles and dance.

Forget your sorrow and dance.

Forget your sickness and dance.

Forget your weakness and dance.

Cost of living get so high,

Rich and poor, they start a cry.

Now the weak must get strong.

They say, “Oh, what a tribulation.”

Woe to the downpressors; they eat the bread of sorrow

Woe to the downpressorsl they eat the bread of sad tomorrow…

Twenty-three years after Marley went home to Zion, he still is heralded by many as a voice for the sufferers, for the poor, for those maligned by the majority. As the Jamaica Observer notes, even Babylon has embraced the Tuff Gong — to an extent:

Marley used his music to spread his message of social development and religion. He ended up being respected as a musical prophet and 23 years after his death he remains an icon of rebellion.

Marley has been named in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has earned a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame and been awarded posthumously a Grammy lifetime achievement award.

His album, Exodus was nominated by the prestigious Time Magazine as the album of the century and his song, One Love, named Song of the Century by the BBC.

I repeat — only to an extent:

Despite winning so much global appreciation, Marley is still considered by many to be without honour in his homeland. …

Olivia “Babsy’ Grange, Opposition spokesperson on culture, says she will be resurrecting her proposals, made in Parliament in the year 2000, for a national award to be named in honour of Marley to inspire more Jamaicans to follow his lead.

Grange said that she is concerned that after so many years, despite a commitment from the government in Parliament to pursue the proposal, she has heard nothing since. That same year, then government MP Ronnie Thwaites also proposed in Parliament greater national honour for Marley, which was also approved after a long debate.

In fact, the word in 2000 was that Marley was on the verge of being made Jamaica’s eighth National Hero, after the national committee, which advises the Governor General on such decisions was re-energised and discussions started. But, to date, nothing has happened.

The “haves” of Jamaica have no problem using Marley’s music to sell tourism, but when it comes to presenting Marley with national honors, they drag their feet.

Build your penitentiary, we build your school

Brainwash education to make us the fools

Hate is your reward for our love

Telling us of your God above …

Here comes the conman
Coming with his con plan
We won’t take no bribe, we got to stay alive

We gonna chase those crazy
Chase those crazy baldheads
Chase those crazy baldheads out of town

No matter. I suspect Marley would not care what the raas claats and crazy baldheads think. Those whose opinions would matter, in my opinion, would be those he helped emancipate from mental slavery, those who followed his advice to “get up, stand up,” those who understand and appreciate the importance of this reggae revolutionary. The Associated Press reports that Marley’s birthday was not forgotten in his home country. In fact, this day is being celebrated all over the world by people who recognize Marley’s musical mastery and revel in his songs of freedom.

Right now, I am listening to WEAA-FM in Baltimore, whose “Caribbean Affair” show is presenting 24 hours of Marley music in tribute to the musician’s memory. Naturally, the groove is righteous, but the message is what is most important. If you treasure the work and gift of this man, if you believe in freedom and justice for every person on this planet, stand up — speak out — work for peace and a new world worthy of us all. And remember, Rasta don’t work for — or support — no CIA…

Open your eyes and look within
Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?
We know where we’re going; we know where we’re from
We’re leaving Babylon, we’re going to the fatherland

Happy birthday, Bob. And thanks.

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