Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marleyby Christopher John Farley
Bob Marley was a reggae superstar, a musical prophet who brought the sound of the Third World to the entire globe. Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley goes beyond the myth of Marley to bring you the private side of a man few people ever really knew. Drawing from original interviews with the people closest to Marleyincluding his widow, Rita, his mother,
Bob Marley was a reggae superstar, a musical prophet who brought the sound of the Third World to the entire globe. Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley goes beyond the myth of Marley to bring you the private side of a man few people ever really knew. Drawing from original interviews with the people closest to Marleyincluding his widow, Rita, his mother, Cedella, his bandmate and childhood friend, Bunny Wailer, his producer Chris Blackwell, and many others—Legend paints an entirely fresh picture of one of the most enduring musical artists of our times.
This is a portrait of an artist as a young man, from his birth in the tiny town of Nine Miles in the hills of Jamaica, to the making of his debut international record, "Catch a Fire." We see Marley on the tough streets of Trench Town before he found stardom, struggling to find his way in music, in love and in life, and we take the wild ride with him to worldwide acceptance and adoration. From the acclaimed journalist, Christopher John Farely, the author of the bestselling AALIYAH and the reporter who broke the story on Dave Chappelle's retreat to South Africa, Legend is bursting with fresh insights into Marley and Jamaica, and is the definitive story of Marley's early days.
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Before the LegendThe Rise of Bob Marley
By Christopher Farley
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Christopher Farley
All right reserved.
Stir It Up
In the summer of 2005, I traveled to the town in which Bob Marley was born in order to see the place where he was buried. Marley's hometown is Nine Miles, Jamaica, a small village in the parish of St. Ann that is a three-hour car ride from the capital city of Kingston. Getting there is a hilly, winding drive, and the road, at times, is about one and a half lanes across, forcing drivers to play periodic games of chicken with various vehicles -- cars, buses, trucks laden with day laborers -- speeding down the slopes in the opposite direction. I was born in Kingston, but I left the island when I was young and I can't do many basic Jamaican--y things. I can't, for example, tell you a single thing about the rules of cricket. I don't speak with a Jamaican accent and I can't fake one convincingly. I can't drive on the left on hilly twisty roads. I pressed on anyway. I had arranged a meeting in Nine Miles with Cedella Marley Booker, Bob's mother. She had grown reclusive in recent years and gave very few interviews. But Chris Blackwell, one of Marley's producers and the founder of Island Records, interceded on my behalf, and Mother Booker agreed to grant me an audience. At thispoint, I had been working on a book about Marley's life for several years. I had interviewed Marley's family members, friends, and fellow musicians. I had unearthed crumbling old print interviews of Marley and listened to scratchy home recordings he had made but never released. I had visited his old haunts in Trench Town and throughout Kingston. I had been given unreleased recordings of the Wailers conversing in the studio so I could get insight into how they created their music. Now I wanted to finish my book where it had all started, and where it had all ended as well.
This is a book about beginnings. The period before fame arrives is the time when most artists collect the raw life stuff that will form the core of their work. Once a musician starts writing about how hard life is on the road, and the predation of the paparazzi, it's generally over. He has lost touch with the real experiences that connect ordinary listeners to his music. In many if not most cases, an artist's initial years of struggle represent the most interesting period of his or her career. Music legends often end their lives in strikingly similar circumstances -- burdened by celebrity, hooked on drugs, haunted by the inability to live up to the greatness of earlier work. Fame can homogenize an artist, blurring parts of his identity so critics can slot him into pop cultural trends or the public can use him to fill national psychic needs. Or fame can caricature a star, exaggerating his original characteristics into something cartoony, grotesque, and sometimes unrecognizable as human. Bob Marley died young, but he managed to avoid many of the most common pitfalls and pratfalls of rock martyrdom. Marley once opined: "If something can corrupt you, you're corrupted already." He was not a drug addict (unless you count ganja). He did not die broke (though his money was poorly managed during his lifetime). And he was not all that conflicted about success (he used to joke to journalists that he drove a BMW because it stood for Bob Marley and the Wailers). He lived and died for music, but in the end it was not music that killed him.
Marley's struggle started early. His bandmate Peter Tosh made secret autobiographical recordings called the "Red X" tapes. I was given access to parts of those tapes that have never been published. On them, Tosh discusses the obstacles that stood in his way, and in Bob's way, when they were young. "I began to realize that I was coming in close confrontation with devils daily in the flesh," Tosh says. "I realized that hell is not down yonder, but right here among men. . . . But I never fear the devil."
Bob's early, dry seasons forced him to put down deep roots. "Yeah, mon, let me tell you something 'bout me," Marley said during a visit to Philadelphia in 1979. "You see me -- Negro in a sufferin' environment. I don't know how to live good. I only know how to suffer. You unnerstan? So anywhere you see me, I'm sufferin' all the while. Me don't really change . . . What is big life to some people, that is not what I call life. What I call life is I wake up and drink a likkle fish tea. Me don't know about the big life."
Blackwell recalls stopping by an upscale store in St. Martin with Marley during a world tour in 1980. It was one of the few times he ever saw Marley become furious. Inside the store, the proprietors questioned whether Marley had the money to buy their goods. When he promptly produced a wad of cash, he was interrogated about whether he had stolen it. Meanwhile, in the street, a crowd of fans had gathered to catch a glimpse of the reggae star. "Inside the store he was a thief," says Blackwell. "Outside, he was a hero."
Marley's mother is black, his father accepted as white. Very little had been known about the "white" side of Marley's family when I started this biography. The "white" part of Marley's family tree had been dismissed as fallen leaves -- tattered remnants of another season, and not worth chasing. It is unclear in every book published on the singer whether Marley's father was Jamaican or British or even exactly how old he was. Even Bob's mother was foggy on key facts about her husband. My research, however, led me to relatives on Marley's father's side of the family. Chris Marley, a great-nephew of Bob's father, has served as a kind of family historian over the years. He has spent hundreds of hours researching . . .
Excerpted from Before the Legend by Christopher Farley Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Farley. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Christopher John Farley was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in Brockport, New York. He is a graduate of Harvard University and a former editor of the Harvard Lampoon. He is the author of the bestselling biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman and the novels My Favorite War and Kingston by Starlight. He is also the coauthor of Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues. He has worked as an editor and pop-music critic at Time magazine and is currently an editor at the Wall Street Journal.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Upon reading this book I discovered a lot about Bob Marley and his music. I found that he was a simple man with a mission. That mission is to tell his peoples struggle through song. He was more that just a free-spirited, ganja-smoking Rastafarian, he was a herbsman, wild man, a natural mystic man, ladies man, island man, family man, soccer man, showman, shaman, human, and Jamaican. This book digs deep and takes you into his everyday life as a young musician trying to make it big in a society that was holding everyone down. I really liked how this book went in depth of his everyday life from birth, to death. The details made you feel like you were right there next to him from the Trenchtown beginnings to the cancerous end. I also listened to his music both early and late while reading this book. In doing so it made me understand his music on a new level. I understood ever song, every lyric, and every beat. The book gave me such a good understanding of who he was and the messages he was trying to send. His music was about liberating one nation that had been suppressed and misunderstood. He sang songs of redemption and freedom. Music was his weapon, and lyrics were his bullets. There isn't much about this book that I didn't like. Sometimes the book went into extreme detail and at times I found myself lost. I recommend this book to anyone who is a Bob Marley fan or anyone who is looking for a little inspiration. Approach this book with an open mind and a common understanding of the struggles of others and how they overcome.
Everyone should learn about one of the graetest musicians in our time. Learn about his adversities in life. Learn how he passed his love for life and music on to his family. I'm still moved by his music and lyrics to this date.
I was disappointed in this book. I was expecting tp learnn more about Bob Marley the man, before he became a legend. It had too many references to the land, dating back to 1920's. There was minimal references about his mother. This book just appeared as a way too long essay. I am an avid reader of biographies and autobiographies, I would not recommend.
So far im only on page 10 and i love this book. It is so good and i like how it says in the book he wasnt a drug actick and he isnt you will see him in pictures smooking weed but that was his religeon. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!