Why Jamaica Should Make Bob Marley A National Hero
By: Falana Fray
It's been almost 27 years since the death of Bob Marley, yet despite international appeals and a host of post-humous awards, Jamaica still fails to accord him National Hero status. Even when Bob was a young musician from Trench Town, his music wasn't even recognized by his own people in Jamaica until his debut album 'Catch A Fire' became an international hit, thanks to Chris Blackwell, who I had the pleasure of meeting last month in Jamaica, and the fact that Rastas were regarded as outcasts in the 60s and 70s.
I'm just getting warmed up!
Marley deserves to be among the fraternity of Jamaica's honored heroes. He has done more for strong>Jamaica through his music than most politicians have done to temper violence and businessmen to promote tourism to their war ravaged country. Even Bob's song 'One Love' was adopted as a theme song for the Jamaican Tourist Board. It was even voted Anthem of the Millennium by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).
Marley's laundry list of recognitions is even more reason to dub him, not just a National Hero, but an 'International Hero.' At home, his birthday, February 6th, is observed as a national holiday in Jamaica, he has the Order of Merit (OM), which is Jamaica's third highest honour, was awarded the Medal of Peace from the United Nations and voted Artiste of the Century by Billboard magazine. He was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
His album Exodus was chosen Album of the Century by TIME magazine and his Legend album received the Diamond Award. He is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by National Academy of Recording Artistes. Last but not least, Bob has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As Robert Palmer wrote in a tribute to Marley upon his induction, 'No one in rock and roll has left a musical legacy that matters more or one that matters in such fundamental ways.'
From Bob's perspective, reggae gave a voice to the poor and disfranchised citizens of Jamaica and, by extension, the world. In so doing, he also instilled them with pride and dignity in their heritage, however sorrowful the realities of their daily existence. Moreover, Marley's reggae anthems provided rhythmic uplift that induced what Marley called 'positive vibrations' in all who heard it. Regardless of how you heard it - political music suitable for dancing, or dance music with a potent political subtext – Marley's music was a powerful potion for troubled times.
To many, Marley was a true musical ambassador and a messenger of peace. Though he never aligned himself with any political party, he found an urgent calling to bring together a divided nation riped apart by political violence and hostility. At the Smile Jamaica Concert held on December 5, 1976 at the National Heroes Park, Kingston, Jamaica, Bob Marley & The Wailers performed for 80,000 people and in an unprecedented move, warranted on stage Michael Manley and Edward Seaga where he put their hands together in unity. Coincidently, this concert was held at the National Heroes Park, so why not add Bob Marley to the roster of National Heroes?
Is it because Bob Marley was a Rasta man who smoked and promoted the use of Marijuana as a religious sacrament? Fact: Jesus Christ and his apostles used a cannabis-based anointing oil to help cure people with crippling diseases. Exodus 30:23,25
Is it because he wasn't thrown in prison for civil disobedience or ignite a rebellion? Fact: Bob Marley was a champion of human rights and spread the message of Rasta fari to the world. The religion is embraced by millions of people from Japan to Johannesburg.
Is it because he was a notorios womanizer? Fact: So was John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Martin Luther King. According to a TIME magazines cover story, *'womanizing was the source of such agonizing moral conflict that MLK was compelled to confess his most enduring extramarital affair to his wife at 'her most vulnerable moment — days after she recovered from a hysterectomy.'*
Is it because he didn't hold political office? Fact: Neither did Marcus Garvey or Martin Luther King, Jr.
Is it because the national heroes committee is out of touch? Fact: Yes!
The fact remains for most casual listeners, reggae music can be reduced to one artist Bob Marley. For most tourists and travelers, Jamaica is synonymous with Bob Marley. Bob's music is a like a flag or a text book to those who have never been to Jamaica or read about the country in global studies.
Most importantly, Bob Marley is largely responsible for the worldwide popularity of reggae music and with it subjects, including faith, love, relationships, poverty injustice and other broad social issues that we can all relate to and experienced first hand, or through the eyes of others. Bob Marley has paved the way for many new and celebrated artists to compete on the international stage of music. Because of Bob, reggae music is a respected category at the annual Grammy Music Awards in America.
Bob's music bridges the cross-cultural divide, soothes the heart and mind from mental slavery, can be heard by people of every gender, race, religion, color, ethnic background and political affiliation.
Without the legendary Bob Marley, there wouldn't be a Reggae Academy Awards Ceremony set to take place on February 24th that recognizes the musical talents and achievements of celebrity reggae artists from Jamaica and around the world, or the Smile Jamaica concert that is guaranteed to pump sun bathers, tourists and the almighty dollar or strong Euro into Jamaica's inflated economy.
Award Bob Marley the Order of National Hero and continue to make Jamaica proud.