Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Bob Marley & The Wailers' 'Exodus' | For The Record
There is high praise and there is high praise. While Bob Marley & The Wailers' 1977 LP, Exodus, is universally heralded as a classic reggae opus, in 1999 Time magazine went so far as to label it the best album of the 20th century.
Exodus certainly shines as one of legend Bob Marley's finest time capsules, a work that fused political and cultural ideas and drew Third World inspiration. But this musical triumph came with a cost as the result of Marley coming to grips with the dangerous side of international stardom.
In late 1976, during a period of political turmoil in Jamaica, local hero Marley headlined The Smile Jamaica concert in Kingston, with the thought that some music would help pacify the growing discord. After the announcement of the concert, then-Prime Minister Michael Manley called for elections to be held shortly thereafter, which resulted in the event being branded as having political motivations.
Subsequently, just two days prior to the concert, Marley was the victim of an assassination attempt in his home in Kingston. Though a bullet did penetrate his arm, and no doubt still phased from the hostilities, Marley decided to go through with his Smile Jamaica performance, performing with his arm in a bandage.
Afterward, Marley decided to lead the Wailers to London to set up shop. During their 14-month musical sojourn, the group recorded a variety of songs. The resulting Exodus proved to be an authentic reggae album, but one embellished with elements of British rock, blues, soul, and funk. Thematically, it was split into two halves: the first half centering around revolutionary calls to action and the second half focusing on peace and love — all in alignment with Marley's philosophy.
"After the shooting, me never want to just think about shooting," Marley told Sounds. "So me just ease up me mind and go in a different bag. What me stand for me always stand for."
"Guiltiness," one of the tracks on side one, comes off as a warning to the gunmen who infiltrated Marley's home as evidenced by the lyrics "guiltiness rest on their conscience." Meanwhile, side two classics such as "Jamming" and "Three Little Birds" are infused with feel-good sentiments, while the final track, "One Love/People Get Ready," arguably bottles the Rastafarian-infused spirituality and inspiration Marley incorporated into his daily life.
The album climbed as high as No. 20 on the Billboard 200 on its way to attaining gold certification by the RIAA. In recognition of the album's timeless standing, as well as its impact on raising Marley's profile as an international icon, Exodus was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2006.