What You're Not Listening To

What You're Not Listening To

Beyond The Legend

May 16, 2021

Chances are, you only own one Reggae album and it is Legend by Bob Marley. It's a stunning collection of his hits and mostly inoffensive tracks, which has constantly drawn criticism for appealing to whites in the suburbs. This program will feature selections that you probably never knew existed, which paint a different picture than the one you are used to. #bobmarley #thewailers #reggae #Jamaica

It is one of the best-selling albums in history, an album that, for many, has come to define an entire genre: Legend, by Bob Marley. It is as iconic as in the cannon of its contemporaries like Sgt. Pepper by the Beatles, Thriller by Michael Jackson and Tapestry by Carole King.

Bob Marley on the cover of Live!, from 1975. Designed by Neville Garrick, courtesy of Island/Tuff Gong/UMG.

In fact, only one album in the history of the U.S. Billboard charts has stayed on longer than Legend: Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd, yet another landmark release that everyone seems to have a copy of. The truth of the matter is, it was packaged and marketed this way.

Charly Prevost, the former president of Marley's international label, speaking to The Village Voice in 2014, stated that Marley was a favorite at Island Records, but “U2 and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Robert Palmer is what paid your salary.” David Robinson, founder of U.K. indie label Stiff (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello) was given the responsibility to package a greatest hits set of Marley's after his death in 1981 at the age of 36 from cancer.

(l-r) Johnny Nash and Bob Marley in London, 1972, before the release of Catch a Fire on Island. Photo by Keith Baugh.

Robinson purposely shied away from the protest tracks and deeply personal songs that fans of Marley associated him with. He even chose a pensive front photo on the cover to further rebrand a political musician into a sensitive songwriter, a la early 1970's releases by soft rock artists.

The gamble paid off in spades, and Legend is the best-selling Reggae album in history, still shifting hundreds of thousands of units annually in the age of streaming.

Legend was not Marley's first posthumous album. This is the cover of Chances Are, from 1981, released on Cotillion Records. Photographer unknown, courtesy of Warner Records.

This program is not a knock at those classic tracks, but a sort of alternative to them; things you didn't get on Legend that are part of Marley's legacy will be presented here and include such topics as police violence, armageddon, non-Western religions, racism, rioting, slavery, a sexy love song, a funk groover, poverty and even a track about divorce. This may not be the Marley you know, but it is truly one worth investigating to see why he became the first true superstar of a developing nation.

First Part

* Reggae on Broadway, recorded 1972/remixed and released 1981, Chances Are* Africa Unite, 1979, Survival* Burnin' and Lootin', 1973, Burnin'* War, 1976, Rastaman Vibration* Turn Your Lights Down Low, 1977, Exodus* Them Belly Full (But We Hungry), 1974, Natty Dread* Real Situation, 1980, Uprising* Crisis, 1978, Kaya

Second Part

* One Cup of Coffee, 1962, single A-side (recorded under the name Bobby Martell)* Chant Down Babylon, recorded 1980/released 1983, Confrontation* Slave Driver (original version), 1973, remixed version on Catch a Fire* Hypocrites, 1967, single A-side


* Trenchtown Rock (live), 1975, Live!