Labour Research April 2016


Bob Marley

Roots, reggae & revolution

Brian Richardson, Redwords, 112 pages, £7.99

Bob Marley was an immensely political figure, once declaring “mi see myself as a revolutionary”. His first number one, Simmer down, expressed young people’s frustration at the time.

By 1976 he was well on his way to international stardom. As a result, he was also becoming an increasingly influential figure in Jamaican society. Two years later he famously brought Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, the respective warring leaders of the PNP and the Jamaican Labour Party, together at a “One Love Peace” concert in Kingston. He was probably the only person who could have achieved this in a country dominated by corrupt, divisive and often violent patronage.

This short book by Brian Richardson locates Marley by exploring the liberation struggles and rich cultural traditions of the Caribbean and wider African diaspora that inspired his songs of freedom.

He also shows how the development of the music was itself linked to political and cultural changes — from the need to challenge the influence of American music, to the development of dance hall culture, ska and rocksteady to the eventual emergence of reggae itself.

This review was contributed by the Bookmarks socialist bookshop. 

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