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“Bob Marley: Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival”: Sons of Bob Hit the Road


Bowing to the inevitable – I wonder how long this idea has been on the table – the Marley boys are taking to the road to celebrate dad’s legacy and do a few tunes of their own as well:

    Ziggy, Stephen, Julian, Damian and Ky-Mani Marley – five sons of music legend Bob Marley – have announced the debut and launch of the “Bob Marley: Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival.” The summer concert tour will kick off in Virginia in early August with a four-week series of North American dates. The cross-continent itinerary – which will see the four brothers performing as part of one uniquely talented band – marks the first time the iconic reggae pioneer’s family has officially presented and collaborated on a tour, coast-to-coast under their father’s name.

    Launched in association with the William Morris Agency, the festival-styled performances will see the Marley siblings performing a mix of each brother’s individual solo material in addition to many of their father’s best-loved classics. With some two-dozen dates slated across North America, the tour will also feature such diverse star performers as Toots and the Maytals, Common, Nappy Roots, Blackalicious, Slightly Stoopid, Looner and Stone Love featuring MC/DJ G-Fuss.

    Bob Marley’s music – now 23 years since the artist’s passing in 1981 – remains timeless and universal alongside his reputation as one of the most charismatic and influential singer/songwriters in popular music history. In 1994, Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and five years later his celebrated song, “Get Up, Stand Up,” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In the U.S., Bob Marley & the Wailers have nine RIAA gold-certified albums and one double-platinum album, along with the 10-times platinum certified hits collection, “Legend.”

    The Marleys, Toots, Slightly Stoopid, Looner and Stone Love featuring MC/DJ G-Fuss will be on all dates. Common, Blackalicious and Nappy Roots will appear on select dates only.

    Bob’s eldest son, Ziggy, has been singing, writing and producing with the three-time Grammy Award winning Melody Makers since the age of 10. With nine studio albums to his credit with the Melody Makers, he released his solo record, “Dragonfly,” in the spring of 2003 on Private Music/Arista Associated Labels.

    Stephen Marley has long demonstrated his talents as a member of the Melody Makers – for who he has written, produced, provided vocals, and deejayed. Together with his brother Ziggy he founded the Ghetto Youths International production team. His full-length solo debut is slated for release in the fall on the Motown label.

    Since recording his first song at age five, Julian Marley, has emerged as a skillful, self-taught musician, who has mastered the bass, drums, and keyboards. Julian released his solo debut, “Uprising,” in 1989 followed in 1996 by “Lion on the Morning.” His latest album, “Time & Place,” was issued last year on Ghetto Youths / Tuff Gong Records.

    The youngest of Bob’s children, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, has been performing since the age of thirteen. His second solo album, “Halfway Tree,” (co-produced by Stephen), received the Grammy Award for Reggae Album of the Year in 2001. His Stephen Marley-produced debut, “Mr. Marley,” was released in 1996.

    The only child of Jamaican table tennis champion Anita Belnavis and Bob, Ky-Mani Marley appeared in a movie called “One Love,” which is the longest running film in Jamaica to date. Ky-mani is in the studio currently working on his third album.

    Additional tour participants include the famed reggae trailblazers Toots and the Maytals. Their newly released album, “True Love,” (V2) features performances by such acclaimed artists as Ryan Adams, Trey Anastasio, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, No Doubt, and Keith Richards, among others.

    With their unique merging of rock, reggae, and hip-hop sounds, California’s Slightly Stoopid have been turning heads since 1995, when Sublime vocalist Bradley Nowell signed them to Skunk Records. The duo released its fifth album, “Everything You Need,” in 2003.

    Influential veteran hip-hop artist Common released his widely acclaimed “Electric Circus” album in 2002. In conjunction with the release, The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “With his fifth album… Common has done it yet again, wrapping his laidback but agile rhymes around the most mature and poignant themes of his career, and expanding his musical palette to embrace a new rock ‘n’ roll drive and the Day-Glo invention of classic psychedelic soul.”

    Like a few other West Coast rap acts, Blackalicious has generally favored positive messages — its lyrics often leaning to the spiritual and uplifting rather than violent or misogynous. In April 2002, MCA released Blackalicious’ full-length album “Blazing Arrow,” which boasts guest appearances by artists who range from vocalist Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine fame) to the Roots’ ?uestlove, to veteran soul singer Gil Scott-Heron.

    Country and proud of it, Nappy Roots formed in 1995 around a sextet of students attending Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Their Atlantic Records debut, “Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz,” was released in 2002, and the follow-up “Wooden Leather” followed one year later.

    Based in Silverlake, California, the melodic pop composers known as Looner are set for what will be their most extensive touring to date. The duo’s recently released EP, “Follow the Looner,” has earned widespread early acclaim and helped fuel a growing following.

    There are over 200 sound systems in Jamaica to date, but when the question is asked as to which is the champion and reigning king of them all, without hesitation the response is Stone Love. Stone Love made their entry into the dancehall business in 1972 and for the past 27 years it has been the sound systems with he most potent and magnetic force to pull crowds and ‘cork’ any dancehall.

    The dates for the tour are as follows:

    Sat-Aug-07 – Portsmouth, VA – nTelos Pavilion Harbor Center
    Sun-Aug-08 – Vienna, VA – The Filene Center
    Tue-Aug-10 – Brooklyn, NY – Celebrate Brooklyn
    Thu-Aug-12 – Boston, MA – FleetBoston Pavilion
    Fri-Aug-13 – Trenton, NJ – Sovereign Bank Arena
    Sat-Aug-14 – Wilmington, DE – Tubman – Garrett park
    Sun-Aug-15 – Pittsfield, MA – Berkshire Music Glen
    Tue-Aug-17 – Cleveland, OH – Tower City Amphitheatre
    Wed-Aug-18 – Detroit, MI – Meadowbrook Music Festival
    Fri-Aug-20 – Chicago, IL – Chill on Kingsbury
    Sat-Aug-21 – Riverside, MO – EH Young Park
    Sun-Aug-22 – Denver, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
    Tue-Aug-24 – Albuquerque, NM – Journal Pavilion
    Thu-Aug-26 – Phoenix Mesa – Amphitheatre
    Fri-Aug-27 – Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
    Sat-Aug-28 – San Diego, CA – San Diego Street Scene
    Sun-Aug-29 – Berkeley, CA – Greek Theatre

I wonder if the cancellation of Lollapalooza will help or hurt this tour – help, i would imagine.

Here’s my profile of Bob and the Wailers, whom I selected as one of the ten best groups in rock history:

    The greatest singer, songwriter, and cultural figure in Jamaican history, Bob Marley brought the righteous message and “positive vibrations” of reggae music to the world, and is the only towering figure of the rock era not from America or the U.K.

    Marley and his band the Wailers created transcendent music around the entrancing, inverted reggae beat and unforgettable melodies that equally decried poverty and injustice and celebrated physical and spiritual ecstasy – all of it grounded in Marley’s abiding Rastafarian faith. Marley’s influence is so pervasive, his music so seductive, and respect for him so great throughout the world that it is easy to forget the beliefs and customs of the Rastas are rather, in a word, odd: reverence of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as a living god who would lead the oppressed black diaspora back to an African homeland (rather more difficult after he died in ’75), smoking the holy herb of enlightenment, ganja (marijuana), as daily sacrament, growing their hair in dreadlocks.

    Marley was born in rural St. Ann’s Parish in 1945 to a middle aged white father and a teenaged black mother, and left home for the tough Trench Town slum of Kingston at 14 in order to pursue a life in music. There he became friends, and formed a vocal trio, with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. They called themselves the Wailing Wailers, later shortened to the Wailers. They worked within the prevailing musical styles of the time, first the buoyant up-tempo ska, then the slower sinuous rock steady, which then gave way to reggae.

    The Wailers recorde with legendary producers Coxone Dodd and Lee “Scratch” Perry in the ’60s, recording great songs like “Simmer Down,” the original version of “One Love,” “Soul Rebel,” “Small Axe” and “Duppy Conquerer,” becoming greatly popular in Jamaica. But it was when the Wailers signed with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records in 1972 that their reach became global.

    The Wailer’s first albums for Island, “Catch a Fire” and “Burnin'” (both ’73), became instant classics and introduced “Stir it Up,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” and Tosh’s “Get Up Stand Up” to the world. Tosh and Wailer then both left to pursue solo careers and the Wailers became Marley’s vehicle of expression. Until his tragic death from cancer at the age of 36 in 1981, Marley generated anthem after anthem and brought hope and pride to the Third World, in addition to touching hearts and feet across North America and Europe.

    His hits collection covering the Island years, “Legend,” with sales of over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone, is the most popular and enduring reggae album of all time. Among its delights are “No Woman No Cry,” “Three Little Birds,” “One Love,” “Buffalo Soldier,” “Waiting In Vain” and “Jamming.” [MSNBC.com]

I like the new Toots duets album quite a bit, but it is essentially a redo of his greatest hits, which are better in their original form, as discussed here:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked something like this, as my son did just the other day: “Okay, I know Bob Marley is the greatest reggae dude, but who is second?”

    The complicated answer is that reggae has always been more producer/songwriter-based than artist-based, and to get a true picture of reggae and Jamaican music you have to get to know the great producers like Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Duke Reid, Leslie Kong, Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Tubby, etc.

    But the simple answer is Toots and the Maytals.

    Frederick “Toots” Hibbert is the most soulful singer in Jamaican history, with a raw, but very musical vocal intensity most comparable to the great Otis Redding. His vocal trio, the Maytals (with Jerry Mathias and Raleigh Gordon), is second only in importance to the Wailers in reggae history and spans the ska, rocksteady and reggae eras, with Toots still going strong today.

    An excellent collection, The Very Best of Toots and the Maytals, spanning the Maytal’s career from the ’60s through the ’80s, came out a couple of years ago on Island, and it’s a thorough overview of an amazing career.

    One of Jamaica’s strongest songwriters as well as a vocal powerhouse, Hibbert was born in the tiny West Jamaican village of May Pen in 1946 into a Seventh Day Adventist preacher’s family.

    In his early teens Hibbert headed for the bright lights of Kingston, where he found work with a barber who encouraged him to sing while he worked. There Mathias and Gordon (as well as Rastafarians) found him, and the trio first recorded in ’62, the year Jamaica gained independence from Britain, in a wild, gospel style at Studio One for legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.

    They next worked with Prince Buster and recorded the manic “Broadway Jungle,” which opens this collection. In addition to their call-and-response gospel/soul harmony style, the Maytals also distinguished themselves by singing in the patois of the typical Jamaican rather than trying to imitate American accents.

    They won Jamaica’s Festival Song Contest in ’66 with the Latinesque “Bam Bam,” in ’69 with the great “Sweet and Dandy” (produced by Leslie Kong who also produced “Pressure Drop,” probably the group’s most famous song), and in ’73 with “Pomp and Pride”. The latter two songs were featured on the incredible The Harder They Come soundtrack, the most important reggae album not recorded by Bob Marley.

    Other Toots classics include “Monkey Man” (covered by the Specials), “Funky Kingston,” “Reggae Got Soul,” and “54-46 That’s My Number,” the artistic product of time spent in jail in the ’60s for a ganja bust. The Maytals also recorded “Do the Reggay” in ’68, the first recorded use of the word.

    If you have any deeper interest in reggae beyond Bob Marley, pick up this CD. There’s no shame in being #2.

So far I have been pretty disappointed with Ziggy Marley’s career after a great beginning on Conscious Party – I really like his theme song for Arthur, though.

With the great Toots in tow and the emphasis on Bob’s legacy by the boys, this is a show I would love to attend.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014.Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted.Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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