It has never been clear about exactly who tried to kill Bob Marley back in 1976. In fact, it is not even clear if it was really an assassination attempt on the life of the king of reggae.
At the time many believed that Bob just happened to be caught up in the crossfire. There are rumors that the target of the shooting was really Bob Marley’s manager, Don Taylor. Don was addicted to gambling, had a huge gambling debt and was constantly receiving threats from his debtors. In fact, the night of the shooting, Don Taylor had just arrived at the house where it took place. It is almost like they knew Don would be there that night and was somewhere waiting and watching for his arrival. There was also rumors that Bob’s personal manager, Alan “Skill” Cole, was the real target after being accused of fixing a horse race where many lost large sums of money.
Reggae historian and archivist Roger Steffens’ new book So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley is now bringing up new theories never before discussed. In an interview with white political observer, Gayle McGarrity, McGarrity claims that the uptown white elite had a problem with Bob mingling with uptown people and wanted him gone.
See the Full Gayle McGarrity excerpt below:
Bob Marley was always seen as, and I think was considered by most who knew him well, as being more on the PNP than the Labourite, i.e. JLP side, as he had lived in Trench Town, and Trench Town was always more PNP. That was the way it was in a society in which tribal politics and warfare was the norm. But he did have some friends in Tivoli Gardens, which is JLP turf. I remember some of those really seedy characters that would hang out at Hope Road, like Tek Life. Lovely name, right? I remember a lot of those guys being Labourites, and, in fact, a lot of people feel that was why he ended up being shot up at 56 Hope Road, because he had both the Labourites and the socialists hanging around there, and it was easy for people to know his movements.
Now, many of the uptown people that Bob started to associate with are people I grew up with. The uptown social elite circle was, in those days, a small one. I’m not being a hypocrite, but many of these Jamaicans were essentially fascists. These were people who did not think twice about shooting to death black trespassers on their estates, secure in the knowledge that they would never even be charged with a crime, let alone serve time in Jamaica’s notorious prisons. We’re talking now about the really ugly side of white-brown Jamaican society – the very Babylon that moved Bob to take up his lyrical ammunition to destroy. And the fact that Bob was beginning to mingle, albeit probably to a limited degree, within these circles, was probably a reflection of his love for Cindy.
I noticed him beginning to make different kinds of decisions about how to spend his spare time, which was precious to him as he was always very disciplined and hardworking. I overheard some white Jamaican uptown types talking in Jamaican patois about how Bob was going to be made to pay for hanging out with this white girl. And when I told him, Bob just laughed. He said, “You know, I never thought of you as the type to be jealous and I-man no fear no one. Jah protect I.” But I continued trying to convince him of my fears, saying, “You know, they’re talking about this and that.” He would just brush it off, with comments like, “Miss World! I could have Miss Universe!” But I kept on trying to tell him what those who simply wanted him to disappear were saying. It was only about a week after the last time that Bob and I spoke about such matters that the assassination attempt at 56 occurred, so the whole thing began to feel very scary to me, too, and I didn’t want to be caught in the middle.
Now, Gayle’s account might seem far-fetched to those who do not understand Jamaica uptown and downtown cultures but for those who understand the culture, it is anything but far-fetched. In fact, one just has to look at recent events that took place with someone like the great Usain Bolt. When he moved uptown with his millions, he was quickly reminded that he was still a downtown man as people made it clear, publicly at that, that he was not welcomed uptown and they wanted him to go back downtown where he belong.
We might never know the real reason Bob Marley got shot or if he was even the intended target but with this new book, it is sure to open up many more discussions.