Songs of Bob Marley

In the early 90’s, I had a great job as a research physicist at Culham laboratory, but it was also a very difficult period healthwise. Years of enduring a lifelong medical condition had made me increasing prone to frequent and painful immobility. Like so many times before, I went through the usual anxious and frustrating time of waiting and eventually going through the gradual recovery process. I felt trapped in a vicious circle. There was much time for contemplation. When will I ever get better? What is this life about?

The absence of the internet or mobile phones then meant these were lonely and isolated times. My only companions were the television, radio and a small collection of books and cassette tapes. Amidst these lonesome times were the songs and music of Bob Marley who gave me much inspiration and hope for better times:

   One good . . .
   When it . . . . . .[1]
    : .
  From the track “Trench Town Rock

There is always hope. The world is too interesting a place to lose hope and the joy of living.

Ever since I bought the timeless ‘Legend’ album at 18 years old, the music of Bob Marley has always resonated and uplifted me. In fact, my first memory of Bob is seeing in a news report a diminutive black man with wild hair, singing and dancing in a trance-like state whilst uniting, joining and raising the hands of two caucasian looking men in a concert [2]. It left a powerful image in my mind even though I had no idea who he was or what his music was about.

His songs about freedom, struggle against inequalities, love and liberation are universal even if his context is different from mine. Hence, I dedicate this section to some of his songs which have so inspired me – in good and bad times. His songs speak powerfully to our soul with our own individual circumstances and destiny. Below is a selection of some of my favourites:

   Good Friends . .
   Oh good . . . . . .
   In . . . . . . .
    :
   Everything’s . . .
   Everything’s . . .
   I say . . . . .
:.
From “No Woman, No Cry

This famous track first got me into Bob Marley as a young teenager. I wasn’t really in tune with the man-woman and love-loss aspects of the song then, but the rhythm and above words so summed up the feeling of loss and yet there is still so much hope. The ‘loss’ here refers to my loss of being normal – my decreasing mobility, the loss of the freedom to roam, and be carefree about travelling the world.

:
   No chains . . . . . . .
   I know . . . . . . . .
   And . . . . . . .
   And . . . . . . . .
   Still . . . . . . .
:.
From “Concrete Jungle

This broody song was in the brilliant ‘Catch a Fire’ album which propelled BM and the Wailers to global consciousness. I like this song, instantly identifying my own past of living in the Concrete Jungles of Kowloon/Hong Kong and then that of the Sholver council estates up on the bleak Moors of Oldham. On a different tone, the words above describe so literally my loss and predicament. But just feel that last sentence!

:
   Emancipate . . . .
   None but . . . . . .
   Have no . . . . .
:.
From “Redemption Song

This is a beautiful song with just the acoustic guitar as the accompanying instrument. The differentiation and assimilation of cultures of the past and present is not an instant or an easy process – it requires an opening up of one’s mind to truly appreciate that all cultures have good and bad aspects.

Don’t be trapped by our past, but don’t be fooled by the present either. Let our minds adopt the best of our cultures. I do not fully get the last line about ‘atomic energy’, except perhaps that is like some strange new ideas (or cultures); one should not fear it.

 

Footnotes
[1] Note, due to copyright law, I could not write out the lyrics in its full original meaningful form. I urge the reader to seek out the lyrics of these songs (e.g. from web resources or hear the songs directly from Youtube) and fill in the missing words to get the inspiring feelings I felt.

[2] It was of course the famous One Love Peace Concert  on the eve of the Jamaican election in April 1978 where the two men were the opposing politicians Edward Seaga of the Jamaica Labour Party (supported by the CIA) and Michael Manley of the People’s National Party (PNP) supported by Cuba.