Exodus at 40: Bob Marleys Plea for Peace and Black Liberation After Facing Death

Bob Marley‘s Exodus is one of the epochal albums in the history of popular music. There are a select few albums that are as culturally impactful and musically rich as the album Marley released in June 1977, barely six months after armed gunmen shot him and his wife at their home in Kingston, Jamaica.

” When I come here, I want to get through to the people. I don’t come here for joke …”

Bob Marley had been in a period of great transition for about two years. The Wailers had become international starrings in accordance with the success of 1973′ s Catch A Fire , but things had gone awry between the original Wailers of Bob, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston. The three would divide in 1974, with Tosh and Livingston going on to successful solo careers and Bob refashioning the Wailers as” Bob Marley and the Wailers .” His new band featured Aston” Family Man” Barrett and two brothers Carlton on bass and drums, respectively; Junior Marvin along with Al Anderson on guitar, with Earl Lindo adding keys and Junior Braithwaite singing backing vocals. Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt as backing vocalists the I-Threes.

Bob Marley and the Wailers had attained their recording debut with Natty Dread, but some ways still featured contributions from Tosh and Livingston. And Marley had delivered one of his most committed political statements on 1976′ s Rastaman Vibration . But as his new band approach was beginning to gel, the violence of the outside world arrived crashing into Bob Marley’s universe.

In December 1976, an endeavor was stimulated on Marley’s life. He’d agreed to headline the Smile Jamaica Concert–organized by Prime Minister Michael Manley. But Marley wanted to present a message of apolitical unity and love , not one of agendas and divisions. Regardless, he was assumed to be endorsing Manley and his People’s National Party, at a time when political factions in Jamaica( namely the Fidel Castro-affiliated PNP and Edward Seaga’s Jamaican Labour Party, overtly supported by the CIA) were at the high levels of violent showdowns. The concert was happening in conjunction with impending elections, which worsened the ongoing tensions.

” People work for money, den dem don &# x27; t want to split it. It &# x27; s that kind of attitude ,” Marley told Vivien Goldman, who would afterward recall the conversation in the book The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley’s Exodus .” So much guys have so much–too much–while so many have nothing at all. We don &# x27; t feel like that is right, because it don &# x27; t take a guy a hundred million dollars to maintain him satisfied. Everybody have to live. Michael Manley tell’ im wan’ assist poor people … They feel something good is gonna happen ,” he told reflectively, then continued:” We require a change from what it was. It couldn &# x27; t get worse than that .”

Marley’s headlining appearance made him a target. That December 3, gunmen descended upon Marley’s villa at Hope Road around 9:30 pm. The Wailers had been rehearsing, running through ballads” Baby We’ve Got A Date ,”” Midnight Ravers ,”” Rastaman Chant ,” and” Trenchtown Rock .” Everyone was foreseeing some high-quality marijuana to be delivered by one of the best dealers in Kingston, just before the Christmas holiday attained herb scarce. When director Don Taylor arrived, gunmen followed him into the kitchen.

” The musicians were in the other room rehearsing by themselves, Bob had taken a breaking. After a while he( Bob) joined the conversation with me and Kinsey and he was adding details to what I was asking ,” journalist Leslie Miles told the Observer in 2012.

” He was feeing half of a grapefruit at the time. After a while, I cut the interview and told good night to Bob and Kinsey. I told Rita I want to go back down to the paper now. So we went into the green VW at the back of the house .”

Suddenly, Miles heard what he initially thought were firecrackers.

” She started up the engine to move out, at about 9:20, then I heard a spate of explosions ,” Miles shared.” I said to myself,’ a weh dem Rastaman a gwaan wid ?’ Then I hear some more volleys and I realized it wasn’t any firecrackers, it was the real thing .”

Rita was shot in the head as she’d attempted to drive away with her children in the car. The gunmen opened fire in the house; Taylor was shot five times and Marley’s friend Lewis Griffiths was also shot. Both would survive the harrowing experience. Marley was shot in the arm and chest. Afterward, he would decide against having the bullet that had entered his arm removed, after he learned that surgery could mean losing the ability to control his fingers.

Despite the attempted assassination, Marley would perform on Dec. 5 in one of the most iconic indicates of his career.

” When I decided to do this concert two and a half months ago, there were no politics involved ,” he would tell the crowd of 85, 000.” I just wanted to play for the love of the people .” He would show off his wounds to the crowd.

After the prove, Marley would leave Jamaica for the U.S. He wouldn’t return to his home country for a year, recuperating in the Bahamas before departing for London in February 1977. In West London, Marley would get to know Don Letts, and insured the punk scene was flourishing in the city. He’d heard The Clash’s cover of Junior Murvin’s” Police and Thieves” from Vivien Goldman, and it inspired a new sung that he would subsequently finish with Lee ” Scratch ” Perry:” Punky Reggae Party .”

The work Marley had begun at Harry J’s studio in Kingston was resumed in earnest at Island studios at Basing Street. Making the album alongside Carlton Barrett, Marley would put together the most remarkable album of his career. Divided between two sides, one devoted to the consciousness and the other more focused on romance and positivity, Exodus amplified Bob Marley’s message of Black unity and freeing, underlining peace and love for humanity. It was a musical crystallization of everything Marley had been putting forth musically and thematically since the Wailers’ global ascension began three years earlier. And the addition of Marvin’s guitar added a new element to the audio.

” That was Bob’s choice, to its implementation of’ I need a guitarist who’s gonna rock me ,'” Rita would explain during an interview with Gibson in 2010.” Junior was that kind of person, especially onstage, although we wanted to change his hairstyle very quickly. The style he played guitar could induce you exclaim sometimes .”

The fade in of a watery rhythm guitar opens” Natural Mystic ,” and the album, with a menacing groove. The laid-back feel is livened by leads from Junior Marvin and carries Marley’s mournful lyric:

” This could be the first cornet

Might as well be the last

Many more will have to suffer

Many more will have to die

Don &# x27; t ask me why “

” So Much Things to Say” is a poetic indictment of persecution faced by figures ranging from Jesus Christ to Marcus Garvey, and “Guiltiness” echoes the sentiment. The I-Threes provide responsive backing vocals as Marley laments the individuals who seek to rule but are empty inside.” But they woe to the down pressers/ They &# x27; ll feed the bread of sorrow ,” he sings.” Woe to the down pressers/ They &# x27; ll feed the bread of sad tomorrow .”

The ghostly groove of” The Heathen” stands out even on an album with no shortfall of brilliant moments. The ballad features one of Junior Marvin’s most haunting guitar performances, and another warning from Bob Marley about the loss of spirituality and the path of religion.” As a human sow, shall he reap, and I know that talk is inexpensive. But the hotter the combat, a the sweeter Jah victory .”

The title track pushes every element of Marley’s message into sharp relief. Echoing his own deviation into a different country for sanctuary, the song’s pulsing rhythm and hypnotic chorus provoked a sense of awake. It serves as the Side One closer on the original vinyl album, and it suggests movement out of the more harrowing realities of the world into a heightened sense of self and empowerment.

The original Side Two, on the other hand, features several of Marley’s most accessible and enduring tunes.

The optimistic second half of the album announces itself with the infectious “Jammin.'” A classic Marley song that features Bible references and Bob’s most sunny vocals on the album. The I-Threes backing is note-perfect, as Bob sings that” life is worth much more than gold” as they jam” in the name of the Lord .”

Sporting an excellent guitar solo from Marvin,” Waiting in Vain” is one of the best love ballads ever recorded, with a lovelorn Marley romantically seducing the woman with whom he’s enamored. The love in question is not yet unrequited–and Marley sings it with the passion and earnestness that transcends love song cliches. And “Turn Your Lights Down Low” continues the amorous mood, as Marley delivers a smoldering ballad that ranks with some of the best ever recorded.

” Oh, let the moon arrive shining in

Into our life again

Saying ooh, it &# x27; s been a long, long time

( Long, long time )

I get this message for you, girl

But it seems I was never on time

Did I wanna get through to you, girl ?”

The positive vibes continue with” Three Little Birds ,” another of Bob’s most well-known ways. The origin of the titular birds has been debated for decades. There is no consensus, but it’s believed that pelicans perched on Marley’s Hope Road home inspired the anthem. Others have asserted that it’s a reference to the I-Threes, one that Marcia Griffiths has endorsed.

The album’s closing way” One Love/ People Get Ready ,” would become an anthem. Interpolating The Impressions” 60 s classic( which the Wailers encompassed early in their career ), Marley delivered a paean for humanity’s harmonious coexistence, while also once again evoking spirituality. “One Love” wouldn’t be released as a single until 1984, when it was released in support of the Legend compilation and the ballad was boosted by Don Letts directed video that received heavy airplay on MTV.

Upon release, Exodus would find resounding commercial success in the U.K. The album was praised for its sharp and resonate lyrical focus and themes and the somewhat smoother production elements and ballads helped make it a hitting, sitting on the charts for 56 consecutive weeks. The album wasn’t as successful in America, despite widespread acclaim from critics. It nonetheless peaked at No. 20 — despite Marley having to cancel his tour of the U.S. that year. In 1999, Time magazine declared Exodus the greatest album of the 20 th century.

Exodus was successful everywhere in the world ,” Chris Blackwell stated in 2007.” It was the record. I think it was the album that was the right record, at the right time .”

” You could see it, and you could feel it ,” Rita would recollect of the mood recording the album.” This wasn’t part of the plan, to go to London. It was a compulsory move. Exodus truly was the movement of Jah people. We had to move .”

Rita added that she believed the enduring legacy of the album and Bob’s music in general would not be surprising to the man himself.

” I think he worked hard for this moment ,” she said on the occasion of what would have been Bob Marley’s 65 th birthday.” I think he put this moment down pat, in terms of,’ I don’t know what I will be, but I know I’m doing the best I can. And I know what I’m doing isn’t just something I–Bob Marley–am doing. It’s prophetic, and it’s an assignment.’ That’s how Bob viewed his run. He did it with a really serious commitment, as if he knew he wasn’t going to be around, physically, for very long. It was as if he knew he was required to get onto right , now. He was on a mission .”

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