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BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS - MUSICAL LEGENDS

BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS

MUSICAL LEGENDS

Spawned in the steaming ghetto called Trench Town, the Wailers are the masters of reggae; the acknowledged voice of Rastafari is Bob Marley. Brother Bob Marley and the Wailers touch the very core of our psyches and as the musical branches of a growing Caribbean roots consciousness, these brethrens made understandable the foundations of our being. We see ourselves reflected in their music.

 

Robert Nester Marley, internationally famous superstar was born in 1945, the son of an English army Captain and a Jamaican woman. Bob started singing professionally at the age of fifteen (15), “But why?” “That is a hard question he says, “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, I just like music.” In 1963, himself along with Peter McIntosh (later Peter Tosh) and Bunny Livingston (later Bunny Wailer) formed the Wailing Wailers. Two of their earliest hits were “Simmer Down” and “Rude Boy”.

 

In 1967 he did some work with Johnny Nash. Nash came to record in Kingston and later had a series of Reggae singles on the British charts culminating four years later with “Stir It Up” which was written by Bob Marley. 1969 emerged as one of their classic periods. Recorded by the most

famous Reggae producer of them all, Lee “Scratch” Perry, they did two LPs and the singles “Duppy Conqueror” and “Small Axe”.

 

It was at this stage that their Rastafarian religion became the core of their music. Bob Marley believed the concept that His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I as being the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He says, “Haile Selassie is the Almighty. We belong to Africa. Everyone in the world will have to respect that. Until we all realize that civilization started from Ethiopia and we multiplied from that and spread out, there will be pure war and our lives will be in torment and vexation. We have to respect Africa to find peace of mind.” “The devil may tell you we have no link in Africa but we have to stop letting the devil tell us – white people and black people both – and we have to think for ourselves.”

 

In 1970 they successfully launched their own label, Tuff Gong. Their breakthrough to recognition came when they signed to the British label, “Island”, for which they did the albums “Catch A Fire” and “Burning” (including “I Shot The Sheriff” which Eric Clapton made into a hit single in 1974).

 

In 1975 the Wailers split up, Peter and Bunny both went solo. It was then that Bob released the album “Natty Dread”. He then recorded the “Live” album, which produced the group’s first UK hit single “No Woman, No Cry”. Marley’s first platinum was from the L.P. “Rastaman Vibration”.

 

Marley’s works are among the most powerful songs of black rage ever written. Some of Marley’s songs talk about Rastafari, some about slums in Jamaica. At times songs are about situations that exist in Jamaica but they are international situations – they also exist in other parts of the World. People suffer everywhere, in every city and ghetto.

 

Bob Marley’s presence in the music halls throughout the world has cleared a path that has established listing posts in Britain, the United States, Africa, France, Germany, Canada and Japan. His music has created thousands of faithful disciples in the home of Reggae music.

 

Marley, who has pu…

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GREGORY ISAACS - COOL RULER [1951 -2010]

GREGORY ISAACS

“COOL RULER 1951-2010”

Another musical genius succumbed to the dreaded cancer disease. The reggae fraternity lost Gregory Anthony Isaacs, another pioneer of the genre. Gregory’s career spans over four decades and he was one of Jamaica’s most beloved balladeer. This musical stalwart is said to have appeared on over 500 albums, many of which are compilations.

“Oh What A Feeling”, “Rumours”, “Love Is Overdue”, “Night Nurse”, “Top Ten”, “Soon Forward”, “Front Door”, “Hard Drugs”, “All I Have Is Love”, “Red Rose For Gregory”, “One Man Against The World”, “I’m Just A Stranger In Your Town”, “I Am Wanted”, “Turn Me On”, “Tune In”, “Number One”, “Heng On”, “I Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight”, “Give Me A Chance”, and “Sad To Know That You Are Leaving”  are just a minute fraction of his musical arsenal that remains in our archives to cherish for generations to come. But how did it all started?

Gregory Anthony Isaacs affectionately dubbed “Cool Ruler” was born on July 15, 1951, in the Fletcher’s Land community in Kingston, Jamaica. As a teenager and like so many of Jamaica’s other musical stalwarts, Gregory participated in several talent concerts, wooing audiences with his unique singing style. In 1968 his debut recording was a duet with Winston Sinclair entitled “Another Heartache”, for producer Byron Lee. However this song failed to create the impact that the young Isaacs was anticipating. Gregory decided to team up with two other vocalists to from a trio, naming the group “The Concords”.

In 1970 the members of the group parted ways launching Gregory’s solo career. In 1973, in partnership with Errol Dunkley (another great Jamaican vocalist), they launched the “African Museum” record label and record shop. To keep the label afloat Gregory recorded with several record producers. His massive hit “My Only Lover” was dubbed as one of the first lovers rock record ever made. A string of hits was to follow as glimpses of his versatility began to unfold. Songs like “All I Have Is Love’, “Black a Kill Black”, “Extra Classic”, and a cover version of Dobby Dobson’s “Loving Pauper”. The period between 1973 and 1976, resulted in several classics. Gregory released more songs than most artistes did in their lifetime.

In 1974 Isaacs top the charts with the hit single “Love Is Overdue”. Throughout the 1970s Gregory had recorded with most of Jamaica’s top producers. By the late 1970s he had become one of the biggest Reggae act globally. This resulted in him doing several tours throughout the United States and Europe. The 1970s also produced the hit singles “Border” and “Number One” for the Alvin Ranglin’s “GG’s” record label. In 1978 Gregory inked a deal with “Front Line Records” (an offshoot of “Virgin Records”). This union produced the albums “Cool Ruler” and “Soon Forward”. He also appeared in the film “Rockers”. In 1977 Isaacs released the album “Mr. Isaacs” on Dennis Brown’s “DEB” label. Dennis Brown had also released several classic albums on Gregory’s “African Museum” label.

In 1981 Gregory “Cool Ruler” Isaacs made his debut performance at “Reggae Sunsplash’. For the next decade he was to become a permanent fixture on this annual music festival. “Cool Ruler” next career move was to link up with “Charisma Records”, which result…

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ALTON ELLIS

 

THE GODFATHER OF ROCKSTEADY (1938-2008)

Alton Nehemiah Ellis, O.D. was known as the “Godfather of Rocksteady”.   He was born on September 1, 1938 and grew up in Trench Town, Kingston, Jamaica.  A soft spoken and humble individual, his music reflects his philosophy.  Alton is the elder brother of the late Hortense Ellis (one of Jamaica’s popular female vocalists).  As a youngster he learned to play the piano by sneaking into a local youth center to practice at nights. He attended Ebenezer and Boys’ Town schools excelling in music and sports. Alton initially was a dancer and competed in the “Vere Johns Opportunity Hour” contests and was quite successful.  He was a fashion designer by trade, so he was one of the slickest dressers on stage.  In 1959 he decided to switch to singing and teamed up with Eddy Perkins to form the duo Alton and Eddy. They recorded the massive hit single “Muriel” for producer Coxsone Dodd on his Studio One label. Alton had written this song whilst working as a laborer on a building site.

 

“M y Heaven”, “I Know It All”, I’m Never Gonna Cry, “Lullaby Angel” and “Yours” were to follow. The duo also did some recording for Vincent Chin on his Randy’s label. The group split when Perkins migrated to the United States, while Ellis remained in Jamaica, working as a printer.  Alton next joined up with John Holt for a short stint before Holt moved on to join the group The Paragons.  Not being hindered he started another group calling it “The Flames”.  This group was comprised of Alton, his brother Leslie Ellis and floating members David Gordon and Winston Jarrett.  The group worked with producers Coxsone Dodd and his arch-rival Duke Reid.  During this era the music was changing from ska to rocksteady and the birth of the rude boy sub-culture began to emerge in the dancehalls. Many of the artistes during this period were glorifying the rude boys.  Ellis however was turning out songs like “Dance Crasher”, and “Don’t Trouble People”. The Flames scored with the massive hits “Girl I’ve Got a Date”, “Cry Tough”, and “Rocksteady”. Alton’s “Mr. Soul of Jamaica” album was regarded as the definitive rocksteady album.

 

His friends and fans hold Alton in high esteem. It is sad that a singer of such talent was never given the financial rewards he richly deserved. What was remarkable about Alton is that with over four decades of experience in the business, he didn’t complain. The music of his time was of far more superior quality than most of the crap that is on the market today. Between the late 1960s to the early 1970s Alton recorded for some of the top producers, resulting in the hit singles “Deliver Us” and “Back to Africa”. Most of his biggest hits of the late 60s came out of Studio One, with songs such as “Willow Tree”, “I’m Just a Guy”, and “Sitting in the Park”. In 1967 Ellis along with Ken Boothe and the Soul Vendor Band toured the United Kingdom. On his return to Jamaica he released his debut album “Alton Ellis Sings Rock and Soul”. He also began to produce his own records, releasing “My Time Is The Right Time” and “The Message”.

 

Alton Ellis is one of those artistes who created the sound of the 60’s that we are now focusing on. The secret behind his high quality recordings is that he placed great emphasis on melody and proper orchestration. No two of his …

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EQUAL RIGHTS AND JUSTICE: REMEMBERING PETER TOSH

EQUAL RIGHTS AND JUSTICE: REMEMBERING PETER TOSH
 
Winston Hubert McIntosh, popularly known as Peter Tosh was one of the original members of the group, the “Wailing Wailers”, along with the late Bob Marley, and Bunny Wailer. When Peter was fifteen, his aunt died and he went to live in Trench Town in Kingston, Jamaica. He acquired the love for guitar after watching a man playing one song for half a day, memorizing everything the man’s fingers were doing. He then picked up the guitar and played the song back to the man. The man then asked Peter who had taught him to play; Peter told him that he had.
 
 
 
 During the early 1960s Tosh, Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer went to vocal teacher Joe Higgs, who was giving out free vocal lessons to young people, in hopes of forming a new band. He then changed his name to become Peter Tosh and the trio started singing together in 1962. Higgs taught the trio to harmonize and while developing their music, they would often play on the street corners of Trench Town.
 
 
In 1964 Tosh assisted in organizing the band the “Wailing Wailers”, with Junior Braithwaite, a falsetto singer, and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Initially, Tosh was the only one in the group who could play musical instruments. According to Bunny Wailer, Tosh was critical to the band because he was a self-taught guitarist and keyboardist, and thus became an inspiration for the other band members to learn to play. Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith left the band in late 1965.
 
 "Simmer Down” and “Rude Boy”, were two of the group’s earliest hits. In 1969 the Wailers released the monster hits, “Small Axe”, “Soul Rebel” and “Duppy Conqueror” with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. It was during this era that they decided to accept the Rastafarian faith, and it became the core of their music.
 
 
The collaboration had given birth to reggae music and later, bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett and his brother, drummer Carlton Barrett would join the group in 1970. The band signed a recording contract with Chris Blackwell and Island Records company and released their debut album, “Catch aFire”, in 1973, following it with “Burnin” the same year. The Wailers had moved from many producers after 1970 and there were instances where producers would record rehearsal sessions that Tosh did and release them in England under the name "Peter Touch".
 
In 1973, Tosh was driving home with his girlfriend Yvonne when his car was hit by another car driving on the wrong side of the road. The accident killed Yvonne and severely fractured Tosh's skull. He survived, but became more difficult to deal with. After Island Records’ president Chris Blackwell refused to issue his solo album in 1974, Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the Wailers, citing the unfair treatment they received from Blackwell, to whom Tosh often referred with a derogatory play on Blackwell's surname, 'Whiteworst'. Tosh had written many of the Wailers' hit songs such as "Get Up, Stand Up", "400 Years", and "NoSympathy".
 
Bob and Bunny both launched their separate careers, while Peter formed his own group. Tosh began recording and released his solo debut album, Legalize It”, in 1976 with CBS Records company. The title track soon became popular among endorsers of marijuana legalization, reggae music lovers and Rastafarians all over the world, and was a favourite at Tosh's…

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