Whether it is bigotry or just plain stupidity, there are some who believe that Bob Marley is bigger than reggae and the music died with him.
According to some, reggae music was born with Bob Marley and it died when Bob Marley died. While the statement couldn’t be farther from the truth, it is a sentiment that is held by many outside of the “Real Reggae Fans” community.
No one can deny Bob Marley’s greatness and what he meant to reggae. The truth is, however, there are lots of reggae artists just as talented as Bob Marley, some even more so.
The reggae story and how it is told can be compared to the Terrorist attacks in Kenya and France. After the attack in Kenya, the media was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. The reason was, these were Black people and to those who run the media and the audience their programs are geared toward, Blacks dying in huge numbers is not of huge importance.
On the other hand, when the terrorists struck in France, 24/7 it was on every television and radio stations. This is the exact reason why Chris Blackwell encouraged Bob to leave the Wailers and go solo; because he knew white audiences would be more attracted to a biracial Marley alone than with a Black Tosh and Bunny. Pretty much, it is the the same reason why the picture of Jesus Christ hanging in almost every living room is white, because had he been rendered with his true pigmentation, many would not have accepted him. It is also the same reason why it is Barack Obama and not any other Black candidates who became “the first Black president of the United States.”
So while talent and hard work is a major part of success in the entertainment business, marketing and marketability is equally important. In a world where less than 10% of music and concert tickets are bought by Blacks, they have very little say in entertainment success. Likewise, when less than 1% of the media is controlled by Blacks, they hardly count when it comes to what is broadcast over the world.
The real reggae fans, regardless of ethnicity, know that there was reggae music before Bob Marley and the music still lives strong today.
The truth is, only a few people here the word “Rasta” and think of Leonard Howell and Marcus Garvey, most poeple think of Bob Marley. Likewise, most people don’t think of Duke Reid, Bunny Lee, Clement Dodd or Toots Hibbert when they think of reggae; they think of Bob Marley. Fame and facts are two different things, however, and the fact is, these men have way more to do with the creation of reggae than Marley; just like it is Howell and Garvey, who created Rasta and not Bob. Bob Marley took the message to people that would not have accepted it from a pure Black man.
While Bob Marley is in the top ten greatest reggae artists of all time based on talent alone, there is a strong possibility he is not in the top 5 and he is definitely not the greatest when based on pure talent.
So to all the bigots who would like to give him all of Jamaica’s glory so you could credit it to his white father, please stop it. Saying reggae was born and died with Bob Marley does not only show stupidity, it is disrespectful.