Revolution Soldier

Photos taken at Bob Marley’s resting place; near Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. Courtesy of Rebecca Alvy

On a recent, very brief trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, I was not surprised to experience the high quality of respect given to the memory of Bob Marley. Anything less would have been disappointing. However, as a lifetime follower of Marley, this trip highlighted a pattern much of the world is guilty of—pigeonholing Bob Marley as nothing more than a reggae artist and—thus losing sight of his revolutionary spirit.

Upon entrance of the Bob Marley Mausoleum. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Alvy

When we think about successful activists and revolutionaries of the past, Marley’s name is not commonly mentioned.  Throughout his career, Marley made a conscious effort to address social issues in a very public way. But because his revolutionary characteristics did not develop from traditional avenues of legitimacy (e.g., politician, religious leader, teacher, or even an academic degree), he was not regarded as a revolutionary.  Through music, Bob Marley spoke of many important issues such as imperialism, pan-Africanism, and religion (as a tool of mental slavery, especially for Africans and the African diaspora).

One love, taken near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Alvy

It is clear that Marley’s lifestyle, often skewed by the media, is what society enjoyed dwelling on. He was perceived as primarily an entertainer. The focus was often on his marijuana use, his love life, and his carefree “everything is going to be alright” attitude. But, Bob Marley was not merely a “feel good” musical artist. He used the platform of reggae music to protest and to bring to the surface a failed system—a system that failed the underprivileged, Jamaicans, Africans, African Americans, and the entire African diaspora.

With Bob Marley’s recent 67th birthday behind us, the African diaspora and the world is still dealing with many of the social problems and system failures that Marley spoke about. Luckily, the legacy of Bob Marley lives on through organizations like The Bob Marley Foundation, 1Love, Ghetto Youths and The Rita Marley Foundation, which work to eliminate poverty, create social awareness and bring peace to people in the African diaspora.  We must not neglect the social problems we continue to face, like we neglected Bob Marley his right to revolutionary status.

-by Rebecca Alvy

12 thoughts on “Revolution Soldier

  1. I agree… it is easy to simply categorize Bob Marley as a “hippie, drug using, feel-good” artist. After reading this post, I am re-awakened to not only the positive memory of his presence in the world, but also to the absolutely powerful messages behind his song writing. He is truly more than just a musician, he was an authentic leader that touched many lives then as well as now. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. I LOVE BOB MARLEY!! Great insight, I particularly love how he used music to voice his opinions on issues of social change. Look forward to the next piece!

  3. As is so often the case folks like Bob Marley are not recognized for their greatness while alive. Visionaries live in the present, but see the future. Folks may enjoy the melodies of Bob Marley’s songs, but the key is reading his lyrics, that is where you will find his visionary message. Thanks for bringing his message to us!

  4. Very well written, Alvy. The spirit of Bob Marley; his unconditional love for people, the planet, and all things “feel good” continue to deepen the permanent mark he has left on my soul. No judgement, no hatred, no violence — love is the key. In all matters of life, lead with one love. He is a beautiful example for all of us; a healer of the world. And continues to be. I imagine him saying to me, “Follow your heart, do your best, relax, make a difference, live well…and everything will truly be alright.”

    Peace & Love.

  5. Hey this is a really great posting (you should consider submitting a version of it as an op-ed or something)- it’s concise, well-written, and to the point… But it makes an important point! Music was more so Marley’s vehicle for getting out his broader political messages- along the way he made reggae and the Rastafarian movement famous. As you mention, most people probably don’t know this because of the Western (and arguably white) media/pop-culture framing of him as a figure. But really if you listen to his lyrics- he talks about some really important concepts!- for his time and for today

  6. Bob Marley is as popular as The Buddha, Christ, and more, written docs such as this keep the Prophet Alive, and his words in our hearts, Many Thanks Rebecca, U R Helping 2 spread the word:)

    The Very Best 2 U,

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