As a child, I remember being engulfed in the many diverse and colorful sounds of jazz, rock & roll, country, Afro-Cuban/Latin, Afrobeat, and reggae. However, out of the superabundance of music that I was being fed, the positive vibrations of one genre infused itself with my being: reggae. I was probably born with the hunger for music, but after I listened to Bob Marley’s album ‘Legend’, I grew a thirst for rhetoric. Yes, my mother holds my entire house down, but she doesn’t use music as a gateway to the cold hearts of men. My father was gifted with the ability to speak with the utmost eloquence, but he never once challenged the oppressive powers that be with just the strum of a guitar. Out of all the heroes I can identify, Bob Marley, due to his life, essence, and impact, will remain the steadfast epitome of a hero in my life.
Robert Nesta Marley, more famously known as Bob Marley, was a perfect example of one who lived his life and did not settle for mere existence; he once said: “My music fights against the system that teaches to live and die”. Many people in this life are constantly waiting on their tomorrow, but never making the best out of their today. Despite poverty, despair, and various unsavory activities that sustained some ghetto dwellers (like rude boys and bad men, as they are called in Jamaican vernacular), Trenchtown was also a culturally rich community where Bob Marley’s astounding and abundant musical talents were nurtured. Marley’s mother, unaware of how far music would actually take him, encouraged Marley to take up a realistic trade, however, he refused to allow any career that would not benefit his musical pursuit to persist in his life. Soon enough, Marley, began recording with a local Trenchtown artist. Although the music he made went absolutely nowhere, Marley refused to throw in the towel, but instead began taking music classes from another local artist, and from that, with some old friends and new connections, was able to form ‘The Wailing Wailers’. Bob Marley, unlike many people I am surrounded by, was able to look adversity and horrible circumstance dead in the eye and overcome. Marley taught me that, in order to be a hero, you must look at trials, tribulations, and tests, and with perseverance and determination overcome them. Marley once said: “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So, when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and live!”. In addition, along these lines, during the winds and waves that one must endure during the course of overcoming, one must not lose himself.
Bob Marley also believed in individuality and embracing all the parts that made up his nature. It’s very well known that Marley loved the game of football (soccer). There are dozens of pictures around the Internet of him playing ball with friends, and he’s been quoted as saying: “Football is freedom, a whole universe. Me love it because you have to be skillful to play it”. Marley’s passion for football even went as far as him making the access to a football a requirement in all his contracts. Another aspect of Marley’s essence was the pan-African consciousness, progressive political ideologies, and deep spiritual convictions which were heard in his music. These were derived from his assertive and firmly rooted commitment to Rastafarian beliefs and its attendant lifestyle. Although Marley was not raised a Rastafarian, after his epiphany, it became a vital part of his being and as permanent as the color of his skin. Despite the fact that I am not a Rastafarian and do not agree with a few of the things that they practiced and preached, Marley’s devotion to the Rastafarian lifestyle, movement, and their devotion to God was quite rebellious, yet, in a way, heroic. Rastafarians were ridiculed and sneered at, however, that did not stop them for embracing their way of life. Many people in my everyday life compromise who they are and what they believe in because of a couple laughs or scornful remarks; this should not be the case. Self-acceptance and self-assurance in the midst of mockery and rejection are amazing heroic traits that not just any hero, but Bob Marley possessed. Many can also testify of Marley’s positive, wholesome, and wise essence; you did not even have to know him to feel his energy in his words and music. This positive vibration that Marley carried with him was one of the key roles in his impact not only on society worldwide, but on myself as well.
Bob Marley, in addition to his positive vibrations which changed every atmosphere that he found himself in, was also a man who truly left his mark on the earth. For example, Marley broke boundaries and wasn’t afraid to challenge the authority of oppressive powers that be. The music that Marley produced was a sole reflection of his yearning for change and deliverance out of the hands of ‘Babylon’, or the ‘evil’ powers that persecuted and abused the black man. Rebellious songs like ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, ‘War’, ‘Crazy Baldheads’ and ‘Redemption Song’ are only a small list of the inspirational and soul-stirring productions of Marley that set the world on fire for justice and change. Marley’s dynamic protest music is even played in movies, stores, and many other settings across the world. Growing up, Bob Marley’s music was consistently played around the house, in the car, at my father’s friend’s house, in their cars, etc. It even got to the point where I truly believed that I was in some way related to the man! The wise, positive, jovial, free-spirited, and legendary nature of Bob Marley drew me to him and caused me to cherish him. I eventually decided to label him as a grandfather due to his heroic and timelessness. Marley also persistently preached about ‘home’. Home, to Marley, was Africa, the place from which all life originated. In his music, although he was not born in Africa, he set a mood of nostalgia as if he had known Africa all his life. Marley knew his identity and was conscious of his history, because of this, many shared his longing to join the ‘return back to Africa’ movement and lift the heavy hands of suppression from over their lives. For better or worse, no individual in history is more closely associated with smoking marijuana – or ‘herb’, as it’s called in Rastafarian culture – than Bob Marley. Indeed, you would be difficult to find a college dormitory anywhere in the United States without at least one poster of Bob ‘lighting up’ proudly displayed on a dorm room wall. But, it’s important to note that Marley did not just enjoy weed as a recreational habit. He was instead a staunch supporter of the plant’s meditational, spiritual and healing abilities, and a fierce opponent to those (‘political forces’) who tried using marijuana as a vehicle for oppression, ridicule, and to keep certain groups of people out of the societal mainstream. It has always taken me aback when stoners or ignorant beings can only associate Bob Marley with marijuana and his well-known songs such as ‘One Love’, ‘Jamming’ or ‘Three Little Birds’ to stigmatize him and belittle all of the courageous acts of truth and justice that he undertook. Marley was not the epitome of an ideal smoker; he was the epitome of a hero. Bob once said in an interview: “Now, when you smoke, it makes you cool, you know? It makes you stimulate your mind, and make you sit down and meditate. Instead a get foolish, you sit down and you can meditate and be someone. Rum teaches to you be a drunkard, and herb teaches you to be someone”.
Bob Marley’s life, essence, and impact will forever remain an important and vivid image of true heroism in my life. Many believe that a family member is an ideal representation of a hero, however, I have yet to meet a family member who is as iconic in self-truth and musical artistry as Bob Marley. I will probably never forget how my life and perspective changed after my initial introduction to the powerful and impacting sounds of Marley’s soulful, ‘punky reggae’. Out of all the music that could have potentially impacted me on spiritual and mental degree, Bob Marley and the Wailers were chosen; for this, I am grateful. In conclusion, I believe that every man and woman should find the music they love and run with it because “one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”.