As the launch date for The Collective Voice Lifestyle Magazine drew closer, the jabber and din within the writers’ camp grew to a defining roar. The excited discussions about inaugural posts and first articles were fervent. So many angles, so many viewpoints, and here I was, dear readers, your hero, with NO clear direction to in which to head. Everyone else was piously pitching ideas, bandying concepts; encouragement and suggestions abound. Such a diverse collective we are, the writers at The Collective Voice are from all around the world…all of us unique individuals…miles apart, yet drawn together…the wheels began to turn.
One of my favorite pastimes is discussing, debating and theorizing about music and the industry. I’m a musician by trade (by night that is, and a mild-mannered writer by day), so all things with a melody are close to my heart. One of my prized topics for debate is why Rock and Roll outweighs any other popular genre as the world’s most influential cultural advisers. Hush hush now, we are not having that debate here and now, but it was during a similar discussion that I came to a startling realization. One I think that relates very clearly to The Collective Voice.
This particular dialogue was progressing much faster than most, my adversary was very knowledgeable and more than a little bit of a devious wordsmith. It wasn’t long before she was backing me into a dark alley and beating me senseless with “gray area” rubber truncheons like The Ramones.
I insisted they were rock and roll; she maintained, with a fairly serious eye roll, they were punk. I shifted tactics and pushed the position that punk was just angry rock and roll, to which she replied, “Really? So Reggae is what? Rock and Roll doing the Tambu?” She was clever. But the point here is that the discussion eventually led to Bob Marley, as it must as soon as you mention Reggae; and when it did, I started to reflect. I spun back in my mind to Nine Mile, that small village in St. Ann Parish, a slightly overcast day, a small van-bus speeding up the side of a jungle encrusted mountain…
As the van pulled up to the gates of the Bob Marley Mausoleum, I was filled with an eerie notion that I may be entering a rebel guerrilla camp. Security is taken seriously here and the gates are a wee bit intimidating, high and strong, surrounded by thick greenery. They swung open and the minibus pulled into a very colorful and welcoming encampment. As we piled out into the parking area we seemed to be surrounded by voices, whistles and catcalls. Closer inspection revealed that there were pass through windows cut into the wall surrounding the parking lot, through which protruded many arms of local merchants…selling local produce. Nice.
We were ushered into a waiting area with some of Bob’s old guitars and assorted memorabilia. It was in this room I started to feel the very real and very large benevolent presence that seemed to hover all around us. No, no…I wasn’t sampling the produce; it was something tangible. A warm emotion, the sweet taste of honey, a distant and comforting lullaby being whispered in my ear. I’m vouching for the validity of it. I was there, feeling it and truth be told, I still do if I concentrate hard enough. I imagine for some I am speaking in tongues, trying to relay a mixture of feelings and consciousness that may be beyond them. But that is the case for most passions. People get you, or they don’t.
Our Rastafarian guide burst into the room like a hurricane and spoke 145 words in 15 seconds. “Him axetent was tick, tick, tick mon!” He was amazing. I am fairly certain he introduced himself as Moses and that seemed apropos as he was leading us to Mount Zion. Moses chattered on and babbled about, finishing every sentence with hearty laughter. I loved this guy immediately and it was very quickly obvious he loved all of us, no questions asked.
We were there to pay respect to Bob Marley and that was good enough for Moses, as he loved Bob above all else. It was unabashed, unbridled and painfully apparent. The way he spoke of him, it was more than reverence, more than simple adoration. It was as if he was speaking about his God, his Brother, his Guru, his best friend and his favorite philosopher all at the same time. In some way, I suppose we all felt that way about Bob Marley. I just have never taken the time to put the feeling into words.
We left the holding area and gathered in front of a small stage with a wonderful Rasta band playing traditional instruments, and started grooving to some Marley jams. My God, it was surreal. The only time I had felt anything close to this was when standing outside the gates of Strawberry Fields in Liverpool, but the London Philharmonic wasn’t there to provide the soundtrack. Moses jumped on stage, then off again, then on again, dancing and singing along in a horribly off-key voice. Laughing and singing, laughing and singing…he stopped and looked at us quizzically, our tiny group got the message and we ALL started dancing and singing. He laughed loud and hard and we shared that moment, 12 strangers and a mad Rastafarian; and to this day, it is still a moment locked deep in mine ‘art.
The trudge up Mount Zion wasn’t as bad as I expected. In fact, it was wonderful. There were children outside the fence up in the trees smiling and waving, looking for a few dollars or some candy. Moses was still feeding us information about The Man, The Myth, The Legend, spontaneously bursting into song whenever a lyric was relevant to what he was saying. In the five or ten minutes it took to walk up the path, I think I learned more about Bob Marley than I had ever read. Like a band of brothers, our little group trudged onward, the golden Jamaican sun finally made an appearance and we continued upward surrounded by love and truth.
The first stop was the small cottage that was Bob Marley’s home until the age of 13. It was simple and humble, and in his room Moses sang out loud and clear:
“I want to love you, and treat you right,
I want to love you, every day and every night,
We’ll be together, with a roof right over our heads,
Come share the shelter, of my single bed,
We’ll share the same room, yeah! For Jah provide the bread.
Is this love, is this love, is this love,
Is this love that I’m feelin’?”
Just outside his home was the rock where Bob would lay his head for inspiration, and again Moses sang:
“Yeah! Oh, yeah! Now!
Cold ground was my bed last night (bed last night)
And rock was my pillow, too; (doo-oo-oo-oo-oo!)
Cold ground was my bed last night (bed last night)
And rock was my pillow, too. Yeah!”
I was moved, overwhelmed, affected, overpowered…the purity of it, the clean acoustic resonance of Redemption Song was right before my eyes in living, breathing colour. It was too real, too vivid; I was having trouble grasping it. Feeling weak, I sat on a small stone wall outside the cottage. I must have looked a little lost. My princess bride smiled at me from across the courtyard and my son walked over and stood beside me. He put his hand on my shoulder and chuckled. “I know, Dad,” he said. “This is so cool.” Yes, it was. I smiled up at him and we ducked back inside the cottage to get a picture in Bob’s bedroom.
From there we moved to the tomb of Cedella Booker, “Mama Marley.” We passed through wordlessly, respectfully, and then on to Bob’s tomb. He is buried with his half-brother Anthony Booker in a large mausoleum beside his mother’s tomb and across from his childhood home. There were no pictures allowed. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have taken one anyway. I believe some things are meant just for memory. The tomb was bright, almost cheery, not at all like the dismal crypts and cold sarcophagi I had seen in the past. I wasn’t filled with that mixture of sorrow, dread and humble respect one feels in such places. Not at all. I was filled with hope.
I took a moment and looked at each person in that tomb with me – the merry little band of travelers that had stumbled on to our minibus this morning, all strangers from different parts of the world, different religions, different politics, beliefs and value systems as varied and vastly different as coconuts and asparagus…and right then, I got it, brother. Clear as the sunshine streaming through the slim windows. It was love. That’s what brought us here. Not just for the man or his music, but for what Moses had been speaking about during the entire tour. Love for the belief that all of us are connected, a cosmic bond. That we are all inexplicably tied to each other and that my fate will always, somehow, be the fate of my brother.
Years later, that’s how I ended that argument I was speaking of earlier. Bob Marley can’t be classified. He’s not Reggae, he’s not Rock and Roll, jazz, classical, hip hop or pop. He is love. Bob’s music was the embodiment of all men and women, speaking together. It doesn’t matter if you like Snoop Dog, The Beatles, Mozart, Van Halen or Britney Spears. We all love Bob Marley. Think about that. Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t like his music? He spoke for us all, in a Collective Voice and that is why I could see no better subject, or find a greater truth that I would rather share for my inaugural post here. So on this, the happy launch of The Collective Voice, let us all revel in community and be at peace with our world, but most of all, with each other. Thank You Bob…