meta-scriptIn Celebration Of Bob Marley: Late Reggae Hero’s 75th Birthday Commemorated With Special Releases & Events | GRAMMY.com
Bob Marley

Bob Marley in 1973

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In Celebration Of Bob Marley: Late Reggae Hero’s 75th Birthday Commemorated With Special Releases & Events

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the timeless classic "Redemption Song"

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2020 - 05:42 am

There are few artists whose legacy of activism, global impact and fostering human connection through music surpasses that of Jamaican-born reggae legend, Bob Marley. In celebration of the late musical and cultural icon's 75th birthday on Feb. 6, 2020, the Marley family will host a year-long run of events and releases in collaboration with UMe and Island Records.

Dubbed Marley75, the commemorative plans will include live events and the release of exclusive digital content, recordings and other "unearthed treasures" that are said to encompass music, fashion, art, film, technology and sport.

Kicking off Marley75's first of many live celebrations to come, this spring Marley's sons Ziggy and Stephen Marley will come together to perform an extensive selection of beloved Marley hits. They will headline Redondo Beach's immersive three-day music experience, The BeachLife Festival on May 1-3.

Related: Bob Marley's London Home Honored With English Heritage Blue Plaque

2020 also marks the 40th anniversary of Redemption Song," which appeared on Marley's final studio album, Uprising. Today, the Marley family and Island Records premiered a new music video for the track that features animations from over 2,700 original drawings by French artists Octave Marsal and Theo De Gueltzl. The video is inspired by Marley's homeland, Jamaica, and takes viewers inside the imaginary and self-reflective world of Marley's guitar while highlighting his messages of hope and empowerment.

In 2001, Marley posthumously received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award. His music has also received multiple entries into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, as well as a 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Nearly 25 percent of all reggae listened to in the United States can be credited to Marley's discography, according to a statement.

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Additional information on Marley75 events has yet to be revealed. In the meantime, you can celebrate Marley's legacy by tuning in to his official YouTube account where upcoming content from the artist's estate archives will be posted throughout the year.

Bob Marley & The Wailers' 'Exodus' | For The Record

Hector "Roots" Lewis, Romain Virgo, Iotosh, Lila Iké, Samory I and Tarrus Riley in collage
(From left) Hector "Roots" Lewis, Romain Virgo, Iotosh, Lila Iké, Samory I, Tarrus Riley

Photos: Courtesy of the artist; Johnny Louis/Getty Images; Courtesy of the artist; Yannick Reid; Horace Freeman; Courtesy of the artist

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10 Artists Shaping Contemporary Reggae: Samory I, Lila Iké, Iotosh & Others

In honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, meet 10 artists who are shaping the sound of contemporary reggae. From veterans who are hitting great strides, to promising newcomers, these acts showcase reggae's wide appeal.

GRAMMYs/Jun 19, 2024 - 01:51 pm

The result of audacious experimentation by studio musicians and producers, reggae originated  in Jamaica circa 1968 in Kingston, Jamaica. Along with its various subgenres of lovers rock, roots, dub and dancehall, reggae has influenced many music forms and found adoring audiences all over the world.

An authentic expression of the singers and musicians’ surroundings and experiences, reggae evolved from its 1960s forerunners, ska and rocksteady, shaped by contemporary influences such as American jazz and R&B, and mento, Jamaican folk music. Likewise, today’s reggae music makers draw from genres such as hip-hop (especially its trap strain) to create a generationally distinctive sound that still remains tethered to Jamaica's musical history.  

In the 2020s, the Best Reggae Album GRAMMY winners reflect the diverse musical palette that comprises contemporary reggae. EDM influences and reggaeton (a genre built upon digitized dancehall reggae riddims) remixes dominate the 2024 winner Julian Marley and Antaeus' Colors of Royal. The award’s 2023 recipient — Kabaka Pyramid's The Kalling, produced by Damian and Stephen Marley — intertwines traditional roots reggae with Kabaka’s love of hip-hop. The late, great Toots Hibbert was posthumously awarded the 2021 GRAMMY for Time Tough, a hard rocking, R&B influenced gem that captured Toots’ soulful exuberance. In 2020 Koffee became the youngest and first female awardee in the category for Rapture, which features the most experimental soundscapes among this decade’s winners. Ironically, the most traditional approach to reggae is heard on American reggae band SOJA’s 2022 winner, Beauty in the Silence.

Read more: Lighters Up! 10 Essential Reggae Hip-Hop Fusions

In honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, which was officially designated by a Presidential proclamation in June 2006, here are 10 Jamaican artists who are shaping contemporary reggae. Some are veterans who are currently hitting the greatest strides of their professional lives, others are newcomers at the threshold of extremely promising careers. All are committed to their craft and upholding reggae, even if their music ocassionally sounds unlike the reggae of a generation ago.

Kumar Bent (and the Original Fyah)

In the mid 2010s, Jamaican band Raging Fyah had a significant impact on the American reggae circuit, with their burnished, inspirational roots reggae brand as heard on such songs as "Nah Look Back" and "Judgement Day." They toured the U.S. with American reggae outfits including Stick Figure, Iration and Tribal Seeds, and supported Ali Campbell’s version of UB40 in the UK. Raging Fyah’s album Everlasting was nominated for a 2017 Best Reggae Album GRAMMY.

The following year, charismatic lead singer and principal songwriter Kumar Bent (along with guitarist Courtland "Gizmo" White, who passed away in 2023) left due to differences with their bandmates.

In 2023 Kumar teamed up with Raging Fyah alumni, drummer Anthony Watson, keyboardist Demar Gayle and backing vocalist/engineer Mahlon Moving to create The Original Fyah. In February they performed at the band’s annual Wickie Wackie festival in Jamaica and they’ve recorded an album due for upcoming release (Demar has since moved on to other projects.)

Kumar, 35, a classically trained pianist, has recorded two solo albums, including Tales of Reality with Swiss studio band 18th Parallel; they’ll tour Europe together in October. Kumar’s acoustic guitar sets have opened several dates for stalwart Jamaican band Third World this year.

Each of his musical endeavors are focused on bolstering Jamaica’s signature rhythm.

"Reggae from the 1970s and ‘80s was special because Jamaican artists made the songs exactly how they felt, and found an audience with the sounds they created," Kumar tells GRAMMY.com. "If we (Jamaicans) keep making R&B, hip-hop sounding music, we are giving away what we have for something else that we are not as good at."

Lila Iké

Lila Iké's multifarious influences run deep. "I am a Jamaican artist who is influenced by different music and you’re going to hear that coming through," she said in a June 2020 interview with The Daily Beast, following the release of her debut EP The ExPerience

While Jamaican music expanded beyond what Iké called "the purist reggae vibe," she told The Daily Beast that "it’s important to maintain the music’s indigenousness. I incorporate that into the rhythms I use and my singing style because I want young people to know, this music doesn’t start where you hear it, it has transcended many years and changes." 

Born Alecia Grey, she chose the name Lila, which means blooming flower, and Iké, a Yoruba word meaning the Power of God. Her vocals are a singular, mesmerizing blend of smoky, soulful expressions with a laid back yet poignant rendering. Lila’s effortless versatility is rooted in her upbringing in the rural community of Christiana. Her mother listened to a wide range of music, R&B, jazz, soul, country and reggae, with Lila, her mom and sisters singing along to all of it. 

Lila moved to Kingston to pursue her musical ambitions; she performed on open mic nights and posted her songs on social media. Protoje reached out to her via Twitter with an invitation to record. From that initial meeting, Protoje has managed and mentored her career. Through his label In.Digg,Nation Collective’s deal with RCA Records, Lila will release her debut album later this year; Protoje also produced the album’s first single, the reggae/R&B slow jam duet "He Loves Us Both" featuring H.E.R.

Hezron

A passionate singer whose vocals marry the grit of Otis Redding with the cool of Marvin Gaye, singer/songwriter and musician Hezron has yet to achieve the widespread impact his talents merit, although he's been planting seeds since 2010. That year, his single "So In Love" was the first of Hezron's substantial musical fruits and exceptional catalog.

On his 2022 self-produced, remarkable album Man on a Mission, Hezron explores a range of Jamaican music and history. On the rousing ska track "Plant A Seed," Hezron's guttural, gospel inflected delivery is reminiscent of Toots Hibbert as he warns his critics, "You think you bury me and done but you only planted a seed." The album also features a scorching R&B jam "Tik Tok I’m Coming"; an acoustic, mystical acknowledgement of Rastafari, "Walk In Love and Light"; and a stirring plea to "Save The Children." The album’s title track is a spirited reggae anthem offering support to anyone in pursuit of their goals while underscoring Hezron’s own purpose.

"Man on a Mission is about my personal journey, the obstacles I’ve had to overcome in the music business and beyond. I’m telling myself, telling the world, this man is on a mission to restore Jamaican music to a prominent place internationally," Hezron tells GRAMMY.com. 

In November 2023 Hezron embarked on a global mission: a two-month tour of Ghana, followed, this year, by summer shows in Canada and the U.S. before returning to Africa, with dates in Ivory Coast, Kenya, and South Africa.

Iotosh

A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and vocalist, Iotosh (born Iotosh Poyser) made his name as a producer who can seamlessly blend disparate influences into progressive reggae soundscapes. He’s produced singles for several marquee acts who emerged from Jamaica’s reggae revival movement of the previous decade including Koffee’s "West Indies," the title track on Jah9’s Note to Self featuring Chronixx, and Jesse Royal’s "Rich Forever", featuring Vybz Kartel. He also produced five of the 10 tracks on Protoje’s GRAMMY-nominated album Third Time’s The Charm.

Iotosh’s parents (Canadian music TV journalist Michele Geister and Jamaican singer/songwriter/producer Ragnam Poyser) came from different musical worlds, so he heard a multiplicity of genres growing up, including hip-hop, rock, funk, soul, reggae and R&B. Iotosh wanted to replicate all of those sounds when he started making music, which led to his genre blurring approach. 

As an artist, his 2023 breakout single the meditative "Fill My Cup" (featuring Protoje on the remix) was followed this year by "Bad News," which explores grief that follows losing a loved one, both on one-drop reggae rhythms. He describes his debut eight-track EP, due in September, as "a mix of traditional reggae and elements of contemporary music, pop, hip-hop and R&B." 

"In my productions, I try to have some identifiable Jamaican aspects, usually the bassline, which I play live," Iotosh tells GRAMMY.com. "Reggae is based on a universal message, it’s peace and love but contextually it comes from a place of enlightening people about forces of oppression. If that message is in the music, it’s still reggae, no matter what it sounds like." 

Iotosh will make his New York City debut on July 7 at Federation Sound’s 25th Anniversary show, Coney Island Amphitheater.

Read more: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Kabaka Pyramid On Embracing His Voice & The Bold Future Of Reggae

Mortimer

Producer Winta James first heard Mortimer while working on sing-jay Protoje’s acclaimed 2015 album Ancient Future, and decided he was the right singer to provide the evocative hook on the opening track, "Protection." About a year after they recorded the song, Mortimer became the first artist Winta signed to his company Overstand Entertainment.

In 2019 Mortimer (born Mortimer McPherson) released his impressive EP, Fight the Fight;  single "Lightning," was especially noteworthy for its roots-meets-lovers rock sound anchored in a heavy bass and delicately embellished with a steel guitar. Mortimer’s sublime high register vocals express a refreshingly vulnerable perspective: "Girl, my love grows stronger each day, baby please don't hurt me just because you know I'll forgive." 

"The songs that get me the most are coming from a place deep within," Mortimer told me in a January 2020 interview. "I started out writing what I thought was expected of me as a Rasta, militant, social commentaries, but it was missing something. Before I am a Rastaman, I am a human being, so I dig deep, expressing my feelings simply, truthfully."

Mortimer’s debut album is due in September and his latest single, "Not A Day Goes By," addresses his struggles with depression: "I’ve given up 1000 times, I’ve even tried to take my own life," he sings in a haunting tone. Mental health struggles remain a taboo topic in reggae and popular music overall; Mortimer’s raw, confessional lyrics demonstrate his courageousness as an artist, and that bravery will hopefully inspire others going through similar struggles to speak out and get the help they need.

Hector "Roots" Lewis

Earlier this year, Hector "Roots" Lewis made his acting debut in the biopic Bob Marley: One Love, earning enthusiastic reviews for his portrayal of the late Carlton "Carly" Barrett, the longstanding, influential drummer with Bob Marley and The Wailers.  Formerly the percussionist and backing vocalist with Chronixx’s band Zinc Fence Redemption, Hector is blazing his own trail as a vocalist, songwriter and musician. 

The son of the late Jamaican lover’s rock and gospel singer Barbara Jones, Hector’s profound love for music began as a child. In 2021, Chronixx launched his Soul Circle Music label with Hector’s single "Ups and Downs," an energetic funky romp that’s a testament to music’s healing powers.  The song’s lyric "never disrespect cuz mama set a foundation" directly references Hector’s mother as the primary motivating force for his musical pursuits. 

In 2022 Hector toured the U.S. as the lead singer with California reggae band Tribal Seeds (when lead singer Steven Jacobo took a hiatus) taking his dynamic instrumental and vocal abilities to a wider audience. The same year, Hector released his five-track debut EP, D’Rootsman, which includes regal, soulful reggae ("King Said"), 1990s dancehall flavor ("Nuh Betta Than Yard") and R&B accented jams "Good Connection." 

Co-produced with Johnny Cosmic, Hector’s latest single "Possibility" boasts an irresistible bass heavy reggae groove. On his Instagram page, Hector dedicates "Possibility" to people who are facing the terrors of "warfare, colonialism, depression and oppression," urging them to "believe in the "Possibility" that they can be free from that suffering." 

Read more: 7 Things We Learned Watching 'Bob Marley: One Love' 

Hempress Sativa

The daughter of Albert "Ilawi Malawi" Johnson, musician and legendary selector with Jah Love sound system, Hempress Sativa was raised in a Rastafarian household where music played an essential role in their lives. Performing since her early teens, she developed an impressive lyrical prowess and an exceptional vocal flow, effortlessly switching between singing and deejaying. 

Consistently bringing a positive Rasta woman vibration to each track she touches, Hempress Sativa’s most recent album Chakra is a sophisticated mix of reggae rhythms, Afrobeats ("Take Me Home," featuring Kelissa), neo-soul ("The Best") and cavernous echo and reverb dub effects ("Sound the Trumpet"), a call to action for spiritual warriors. On "Top Rank Queens" Hempress Sativa trades verses with veterans Sister Nancy and Sister Carol, each celebrating their deeply held values and formidable mic skills as Rastafari female deejays. 

Hempress Sativa is featured in the documentary Bam Bam The Sister Nancy Story, (which premiered at the Tribeca Festival on June 7) recounting the legendary toaster’s influence on her own artistry. Speaking specifically about Sister Carol, Hempress tells GRAMMY.com, "She is my mentor and to see her, as a Rastafari woman from back in the 1970s, maintain her standards and principles, gives me the confidence moving forward that I, too, can find a space within this industry where I can wholeheartedly be myself."

Learn more: The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall

Tarrus Riley

One of the most popular reggae songs of the 2000s was Tarrus Riley’s dulcet lover’s rock tribute to women "She’s Royal." Released in 2006 and included on his acclaimed album Parables, "She’s Royal" catapulted Tarrus to reggae stardom; the song’s video has surpassed 114 million YouTube views.

Tarrus has maintained a steady output of hit singles, while his live performances with the Blak Soil Band, led by saxophonist Dean Fraser, have established a gold standard for live reggae in this generation. Tarrus’s expressive, dynamic tenor is adaptable to numerous styles, from the stunning soft rocker "Jah Will", to the thunderous percussion driven celebration of African identity, "Shaka Zulu Pickney" and the EDM power ballad "Powerful," a U.S. certified gold single produced by Major Lazer, featuring Ellie Goulding

His 2014 album Love Situation offered a gorgeous tribute to Jamaica’s rocksteady era (during which time his father, the late Jimmy Riley, started out as a singer in the harmony group the Sensations). Tarrus’s most recent album 2020’s Healing, includes meditative reggae ("Family Tree"), trap dancehall with Teejay referencing racial and political sparring on "Babylon Warfare," and the pop dancehall flavored hit "Lighter" featuring Shenseea (the song’s video has surpassed 102 million views). 

Healing’s title track ponders what the new normal will be like, "without a simple hug, so tight and warm and snug/what will this new life be like, without a simple kiss, Jah knows I'd hate to miss."

Recorded and released at the height of the pandemic, Healing is deserving much greater recognition for its luminous production (by Tarrus, Dean Fraser and Shane Brown) brilliant musicianship, nuanced songwriting and forthright expression of the myriad, conflicting emotions many underwent during the lockdowns.

Samory I

Samory I is among the most compelling Jamaican voices of this generation, whose mesmeric tone is both a guttural cry and a clarion call to collective mobilization. Born Samory Tour Frazer (after Samory Touré, who resisted French colonial rule in 19th century west Africa), Samory I released his critically acclaimed debut album, Black Gold, in 2017.  

His latest release Strength is produced by Winta James, and was the only reggae title included on Rolling Stone’s Best 100 albums of 2023. The modern roots reggae masterpiece features the affirming "Crown," on which Samory commands, "I stand my ground, I will not crumble/I keep my crown here in this jungle."  Mortimer is featured on "History of Violence," which details the generational trauma that plagues ghetto residents over a classic soul-reggae riddim. "Blood in the Streets" is a blistering roots reggae anthem, an anguished exploration of the conditions that have led to the violence: "Shame to say the system that should be protecting Is still the reason we suffer/The perpetrators blame the victims, do they even listen? Can they hear us from the gutter?" 

Despite the societal and personal suffering that’s conveyed ("My Son" bemoans the death of Samory’s firstborn), Samory I offers "Jah Love" urging the wronged and the wrongdoers to ‘Show no hate, hold no grudge, seek Jah love," It’s an inspirational conclusion to Strength, rooted in Rastafari’s deeply meshed mysticism and militancy.

Romain Virgo

There’s a scene in the video for Romain Virgo’s 2024 hit "Been there Before" where he sits alone in an  empty room cradling a gold object with three shooting stars; those familiar Romain’s career beginnings will recognize it as the trophy the then 17-year-old won in the Jamaica’s talent contest Digicel Rising Stars, in 2007. "Been There Before" is a compelling sketch of Romain’s life’s struggles, yearning for something better, as set to a throbbing bassline: "To be someone was my heart’s desire/so me never stop send up prayer," he sings in a melancholy, quavering tone.

Growing up poor in St. Ann, Jamaica, the trophy represents the contest victory that changed Romain’s life. One of the Rising Star prizes was a recording contract with Greensleeves/VP Records. On March 1, Romain released his fourth album for VP The Gentleman, one of 2024’s finest reggae releases, evidencing Romain’s increasing sophistication as a writer and nuanced vocalist.

Throughout his career Romain has vacillated between romantic lover’s rock stylings ("Stars Across The Sky"), reggae covers of pop hits (Sam Smith’s "Stay With Me") that are so good, you’ll likely forget the originals, and organic, tightly knitted collabs including the aforementioned "Been There Before" featuring Masicka, all of which has created Romain’s large, loyal fan base and a hectic international performance schedule.

Yet, Romain’s greatest success might be maintaining the wholesome, humble personality that captivated Jamaican audiences when he won Rising Stars 17 years ago. "People have seen me grow in front of their eyes," Romain tells GRAMMY.com. "I enjoy singing positive music, knowing my songs won’t negatively impact kids. Being a husband and father now comes with much more responsibility in holding on to those values, it feels like a transition from a gentle boy into a gentleman." 

Remembering Coxsone Dodd: 10 Essential Productions From The Architect Of Jamaican Music

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Coxsone Dodd in his studio circa 1980 color
Coxsone Dodd circa 1980

Photo: David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Remembering Coxsone Dodd: 10 Essential Productions From The Architect Of Jamaican Music

Regarded as Jamaica’s Motown, Coxsone Dodd's Studio One helped launch the careers of legends such as Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, and the Wailers. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Dodd’s passing, learn about 10 of his greatest productions.

GRAMMYs/May 3, 2024 - 02:17 pm

On April 30, 2004, producer Clement Seymour "Sir Coxsone" Dodd — an architect in the construction of Jamaica’s recording industry — was honored at a festive street renaming ceremony on Brentford Road in Kingston, Jamaica. The bustling, commercial thoroughfare at the geographical center of Kingston was rechristened Studio One Blvd. in recognition of Coxsone’s recording studio and record label.

Dodd is said to have acquired a former nightclub at 13 Brentford Road in 1962; his father, a construction worker, helped him transform the building  into the landmark studio. In 1963 Dodd installed a one-track board and began recording and issuing records on the Studio One label. 

Dodd’s Studio One was Jamaica’s first Black-owned recording facility and is regarded as Jamaica’s Motown because of its consistent output of hit records. Studio One releases helped launch the careers of numerous ska, rocksteady and reggae legends including Bob Andy,  Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Alton Ellis, the Gladiators, the Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, Marcia Griffiths, Sugar Minott, Delroy Wilson and most notably, the Wailers.

At the street renaming ceremony, a jazz band played, speeches were given in tribute to Dodd’s immeasurable contributions to Jamaican music and many heartfelt memories from the studio’s heyday were shared. In the culmination of the late afternoon program, Dodd, his wife Norma, and Kingston’s then mayor Desmond McKenzie unveiled the first sign bearing the name Studio One Blvd. Four days later, on April 4, 2002, Coxsone Dodd suffered a fatal heart attack at Studio One. His productions, however, live on as benchmarks within the island’s voluminous and influential music canon.

Born Clement Seymour Dodd on Jan. 26, 1932, he was given the nickname Sir Coxsone after the star British cricketer whose batting skills Clement was said to match. As a teenager, Dodd developed a fondness for jazz and bebop that he heard beamed into Jamaica from stations in Miami and Nashville and the big band dances he attended in Kingston. Dodd launched Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat sound system around 1952 with the impressive collection of R&B and jazz discs he amassed while living in the U.S., working as a seasonal farm laborer.

Many sound system proprietors traveled to the U.S. to purchase R&B records — the preferred music among their dance patrons and key to a sound system’s following and trumping an opponent in a sound clash. With the birth of rock and roll in the mid-1950s, suitable R&B records became scarce. Jamaica’s ever-resourceful sound men ventured into Kingston studios to produce R&B shuffle recordings for sound system play. 

Recognizing there was a wider market for this music, Dodd pressed up a few hundred copies of two sound system favorites for general release, the instrumental "Shuffling Jug" by bassist Cluett Johnson and his Blues Blasters and singer/pianist Theophilus Beckford’s "Easy Snapping," both issued on Dodd’s first label, Worldisc. (Some historians recognize "Easy Snapping" as a bridge between R&B shuffle and the island’s Indigenous ska beat; others cite it as the first ska record.) When those discs sold out within a few days, other soundmen followed Dodd’s lead and Jamaica’s commercial recording industry began to flourish.

"Before then, the only stuff released commercially were mento records that were recorded here, but our sound really hit so we kept on recording. When I heard 'Easy Snapping,' I said 'Oh my gosh!'" Coxsone recalled in a 2002 interview for Air Jamaica's Skywritings at Kiingston’s Studio One. "I thank God for that moment." 

Dodd was the first producer to enlist a house band, pay them a weekly salary rather than per record. Together, they had an impressive run of hits in the ska era in the early ‘60s; during the rocksteady period later in the decade, Dodd ceded top ranking status to long standing sound system rival (but close family friend) turned producer Duke Reid. (Still, Studio One released the most enduring instrumentals or rhythm tracks, also known as riddims, of the period.)  As rocksteady morphed into reggae circa 1968, Dodd triumphed again with consistent releases of exceptional quality. 

In 1979 armed robbers targeted the Brentford Rd premises several times. Dodd left Jamaica and established Coxsone’s Music City record store/recording studio in Brooklyn, dividing his time between New York and Kingston. Reissues of Dodd’s music via Cambridge, MA based Heartbeat Records, beginning in the mid 1980s, followed by London’s Soul Jazz label in the 2000s, and most recently Yep Roc Records in Hillsborough, NC, have helped introduce Studio One’s masterful work to new generations of fans. 

"The best time I’ve ever had was when I acquired my studio at 13 Brentford Rd. because you can do as many takes until we figured that was it," Coxsone reflected in the 2002 interview. "God gave me a gift of having the musicians inside the studio to put the songs together. In the studio, I always thought about the fans, making the music more pleasing for listening or dancing. What really helped me was having the sound system, you play a record, and you weren’t guessing what you were doing, you saw what you were doing." 

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Coxsone Dodd’s passing, read on for a list of 10 of his greatest productions.

The Maytals - "Six and Seven Books of Moses" (1963)

In 1961 at the dawn of Jamaica’s ska era, Toots Hibbert met singers Nathaniel "Jerry" Matthias and Henry "Raleigh" Gordon and they formed the Maytals. The trio released several hits for Dodd including the rousing, "Six and Seven Books of Moses," a gospel-drenched ska track that’s essentially a shout out of a few Old Testament chapters. 

Moses is credited with writing five chapters, as the lyrics state, "Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers Deuteronomy," but "the Six and Seven books" are in question. Many Biblical scholars say Moses wasn’t the scribe, believing those chapters, including phony spells and incantations to keep evil spirits away, were penned in the 18th or 19th century. 

Nevertheless, there’s a real magic formula in The Maytals’ "Six and Seven Books of Moses": Toots’ electrifying preacher at the pulpit delivery melds with elements of vintage soul, gritty R&B, and classic country; Jerry and Raleigh provide exuberant backing vocals and seminal ska outfit and Studio One’s first house band, the Skatalities deliver an irresistible, jaunty ska rhythm with a sophisticated jazz underpinning. 

The Wailers - "Simmer Down" (1964)

A flashback scene in the biopic Bob Marley: One Love depicts the Wailers (then a teenaged outfit called the Juveniles) approaching Dodd for a recording opportunity; Dodd inexplicably points a gun at them as they recoil in terror. Yet, there isn’t any mention of such an inappropriate and unprovoked action from the producer in the various books, documentaries, interviews and other accounts of the Wailers’ audition for Dodd. 

The Wailers’ first recording session with Dodd in July 1964, however, yielded the group’s first hit single "Simmer Down." At that time, the Wailers lineup consisted of founding members Bob Marley, Bunny Livingston (later Wailer) and Peter Tosh alongside singers Junior Braithwaite and (the sole surviving member) Beverley Kelso. When Junior left for the U.S., Dodd appointed Marley as the group’s lead singer.

The energetic "Simmer Down" cautions the impetuous rude boys to refrain from their hooligan exploits. The Skatalites’ spirited horn led intro, thumping jazz infused bass and fluttering sax solo, enhances Marley’s youthful lead and the backing vocalists’ effervescence. The Wailers would spend two years at Studio One and record over 100 songs there, including the first recording of "One Love" in 1965; by early 1966, they would have five songs produced by Dodd in the Jamaica Top 10. 

Alton Ellis -"I’m Still In Love" (1967)

Jamaica’s brief rocksteady lasted about two years between 1966-1968, but was an exceptionally rich and influential musical era. The rocksteady tempo maintained the accentuated offbeat of its ska predecessor, but its slower pace allowed vocal and musical arrangements, affixed in heavier, more melodic basslines.

Alton Ellis is considered the godfather of rocksteady because he had numerous hits during the era and released "Rock Steady," the first single to utilize the term for producer Duke Reid. Ellis initially worked with Dodd in the late 1950s then returned to him in 1967. The evergreen "I’m Still in Love" was penned by Alton as a plea to his wife as their marriage dissolved: "You don’t know how to love me, or even how to kiss me/I don’t know why."  Supporting Alton’s elegant, soulful rendering of heartbreak, Studio One house band the Soul Vendors, led by keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, provide an engaging horn-drenched rhythm, epitomizing what was so special about this short-lived time in Jamaican music.

"I’m Still In Love" has been covered by various artists including Sean Paul and Sasha, whose rendition reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2004. Beyoncé utilized Jamaican singer Marcia’s Aitken’s 1978 version of the tune in a TV ad announcing her 2018 On The Run II tour with Jay-Z. In February 2024, Jennifer Lopez sampled "I’m Still in Love" for her single "Can’t Get Enough."

Bob Andy - "I’ve Got to Go Back Home" (1967)

 The late Keith Anderson, known professionally as Bob Andy, arrived at Studio One in 1967. He quickly became a hit-making vocalist, and an invaluable writer for other artists on the label. He penned several hits for Marcia Griffiths including "Feel Like Jumping," "Melody Life" and "Always Together," the latter their first of many hit recordings as a duo. 

A founding member of the vocal trio the Paragons, "I’ve Got to go Back Home" was Andy’s first solo hit and it features sublime backing vocals by the Wailers (Bunny, Peter and Constantine "Vision" Walker; Bob Marley was living in the USA at the time.) Set to a sprightly rock steady beat featuring Bobby Ellis (trumpet), Roland Alphonso (saxophone) and Carlton Samuels’ (saxophone) harmonizing horns, Andy’s lyrics poignantly depict the challenges endured by Jamaica’s poor ("I can’t get no clothes to wear, can’t get no food to eat, I can’t get a job to get bread") while expressing a longing to return to Africa, a central theme within 1970s Rasta roots reggae. 

The depth of Andy’s lyrics expanded the considerations of Jamaican songwriters and one of his primary influences was Bob Dylan. "When I heard Bob Dylan, it occurred to me for the first time that you don’t have to write songs about heart and soul," Andy told Billboard in 2018. "Bob Dylan’s music introduced me to the world of social commentary and that set me on my way as a writer."  

Dawn Penn - "You Don’t Love Me" (1967)

Dawn Penn’s plaintive, almost trancelike vocals and the lilting rock steady arrangement by the Soul Vendors transformed Willie Cobbs’ early R&B hit "You Don’t Love Me," based on Bo Diddley’s 1955 gritty blues lament "She’s Fine, She’s Mine," into a Jamaican classic. The song’s shimmering guitar intro gives way to the forceful drum and bass with Mittoo’s keyboards providing an understated yet essential flourish.

In 1992 Jamaica’s Steely and Clevie remade the song, featuring Penn,  for their album Steely and Clevie Play Studio One Vintage. The dynamic musician/production duo brought their mastery (and 1990s technological innovations) to several Studio One classics with the original singers. Heartbeat released "You Don’t Love Me" as a single and it reached No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Several artists have reworked Penn’s rendition or sampled the Soul Vendors’ arrangement including rapper Eve on a collaboration with Stephen and Damian Marley. Rihanna recruited Vybz Kartel for an interpretation included on her 2005 debut album Music of the Sun, while Beyoncé performed the song on her I Am world tour in 2014 and recorded it in 2019 for her Homecoming: The Live Album. In 2013, Los Angeles-based Latin soul group the Boogaloo Assassins brought a salsa flavor to Penn's tune, creating a sought-after DJ single. 

The Heptones - "Equal Rights" (1968)

 

"Every man has an equal right to live and be free/no matter what color, class or race he may be," sings an impassioned Leroy Sibbles on "Equal Rights," the Heptones’ stirring plea for justice.

Harmony vocalist Earl Morgan formed the group with singer Barry Llewellyn in the early '60s and Sibbles joined them a few years later. The swinging bass line, played by Sibbles, anchors a stunning rock steady rhythm track awash in cascading horns, and blistering percussion patterns akin to the akete or buru drums heard at Rastafari Nyabinghi sessions.

Besides leading the Heptones’ numerous hit singles during their five-year stint at Studio One, Sibbles was a talent scout, backing vocalist, resident bassist and the primary arranger, alongside Jackie Mittoo. Sibbles’ progressive basslines are featured on numerous Studio One nuggets (many appearing on this list) and have been sampled or remade countless times over the decades on Jamaican and international hits.

In a December 2023 interview Sibbles echoed a complaint expressed by many who worked at Studio One: Dodd didn’t fairly compensate his artists and the (uncredited) musicians produced the songs while Dodd tended to business matters. "When we started out, we didn’t know about the business, and what happened, happened. But as you learn as you go along," he said. "I have registered what I could; I am living comfortably so I am grateful." 

 The Cables - "Baby Why" (1968)

Formed in 1962 by lead singer Keble Drummond and backing vocalists Vincent Stoddart and Elbert Stewart, the Cables — while not as well-known as the Wailers, the Maytals or the Heptones — recorded a few evergreen hits at Studio One, including the enchanting "Baby Why." 

Keble’s aching vocals lead this breakup tale as he warns the woman who left that she’ll soon regret it. The simple story line is delivered via a gorgeous melody that’s further embellished by Vincent and Elbert’s superb harmonizing, repeatedly cooing to hypnotic effect "why, why oh, why?" 

Coxsone is said to have kept the song for exclusive sound system play for several months; when he finally released it commercially, "Baby Why" stayed at No. 1 for four weeks. 

"Baby Why" is notable for another reason: although the Maytals’ "Do The Reggay" marks the initial use of the word reggae in a song, "Baby Why" is among a handful of songs cited as the first recorded with a reggae rhythm (reggae basslines are fuller and reggae’s tempo is a bit slower than its rocksteady forerunner.) Other contenders for that historic designation include Lee "Scratch Perry’s "People Funny Boy," the Beltones’ "No More Heartache," and Larry Marshall and Alvin Leslie’s delightful "Nanny Goat." 

Burning Spear - "Door Peeper" (1969)

Hailing from the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica, Burning Spear was referred to Studio One by another St. Ann native, Bob Marley. Spear’s first single for Studio One "Door Peeper" (also known as "Door Peep Shall Not Enter") recorded in 1969, sounded unlike any music released by Dodd and was critical in shaping the Rastafarian roots reggae movement of the next decade.

The song’s biblically laced lyrics caution informers who attempt to interfere with Rastafarians, considered societal outcasts at the time in Jamaica, while Spear’s intonation to "chant down Babylon" creates a haunting mystical effect, supported by Rupert Willington’s evocative, deep vocal pitch, a throbbing bass, mesmeric percussion and magnificent horn blasts. 

As Spear told GRAMMY.com in September 2023, "When Mr. Dodd first heard 'Door Peep' he was astonished; for a man who’d been in the music business for so long, he never heard anything like that." Dodd’s openness to recording Rasta music, and allowing ganja smoking on the premises (but not in the studio) when his competitors didn’t put him in the forefront at the threshold of the roots reggae era.

"Door Peeper" was included on Burning Spear’s debut album, Studio One Presents Burning Spear, released in 1973 and remains a popular selection in the legendary artist’s live sets.

Joseph Hill - "Behold The Land" (1972)

In the October 1946 address Behold The Land by W. E. B. DuBois at the closing session of the Southern Youth Legislature in Columbia, South Carolina, the then 78-year-old celebrated author and activist urges Black youth to fight for racial equality and the civil rights denied them in Southern states. The late Joseph Hill’s 1972 song of the same name, possibly influenced by Dubois’ words, is a powerful reggae missive exploring the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade from which descended the discriminations DuBois described.

Hill was just 23 when he wrote/recorded "Behold The Land," his debut single as a vocalist. Hill’s haunting timbre summons the harrowing experience with the wisdom and emotional rendering of an ancestor: "For we were brought here in captivity, bound in links and chains and we worked as slaves and they lashed us hard." Hill then gives praise and asks for repatriation to the African motherland, "let us behold the land where we belong."

The Soul Defenders — a self contained entity but also a Studio One house band with whom Hill made his initial recordings as a percussionist — provide a persistent, bass heavy rhythm that suitably frames Hill’s lyrical gravitas, as do the melancholy hi-pitched harmonies.

In 1976 Hill formed the reggae trio Culture and the next year they catapulted to international fame with their apocalyptic single "Two Sevens Clash," which prompted Dodd to finally release "Behold The Land." Culture would re-record "Behold The Land" over the years including for their 1978 album Africa Stand Alone and the song received a digital remastering in 2001.

Sugar Minott - "Oh Mr. DC" (1978)

In the mid-1970s singer Lincoln "Sugar" Minott began writing lyrics to classic 1960s Studio One riddims, an approach that launched his hitmaking solo career and further popularized the practice of riddim recycling — which is still a standard approach in dancehall production. Sugar, formerly with the vocal trio The African Brothers,  penned one of his earliest solo hits "Oh, Mr. DC" to the lively beat of the Tennors’ 1967 single "Pressure and Slide" (itself a riddim originally heard, at a faster pace, underpinning Prince Buster’s 1966 "Shaking Up Orange St.")

"Oh, Mr. DC" is an authentic tale of a ganja dealer returning from the country with his bag of collie (marijuana); the DC (district constable/policeman) says he’s going to arrest him and threatens to shoot if he attempts to run away. Sugar explains to the officer that selling herb is how he supports his family: "The children crying for hunger/ I man a suffer, so you’ve got to see/it’s just collie that feed me." To underscore his urgent plea, Sugar wails in an unforgettable melody, "Oh, oh DC, don’t take my collie." 

The irresistibly bubbling bassline of the riddim nearly obscures the song’s poignant depiction of Jamaica’s harsh economic realities and the potential risk of imprisonment, or worse, that the island’s ganja sellers faced at the time. Sugar’s revival of a Studio One riddim and reutilization of 10 Studio One riddims for each track of his 1977 album Live Loving brought renewed interest to the treasures that could be extracted from Mr. Dodd’s vaults.

Special thanks to Coxsone Dodd’s niece Maxine Stowe, former A&R at Sony/Columbia and Island Records, who started her career at Coxsone’s Music City, Brooklyn.

How 'The Harder They Come' Brought Reggae To The World: A Song By Song Soundtrack Breakdown

Morgan Heritage
Morgan Heritage

Photo: William Richards, courtesy of VP Records

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Morgan Heritage’s 'Don’t Haffi Dread' At 25: How Rasta Sibling Group Created A Roots Rock Anthem & Brought Spirituality To The World

In their first interview since the passing of Peetah Morgan, siblings Una, Gramps and Mojo of GRAMMY-winning reggae band Morgan Heritage reflect on the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough roots reggae album.

GRAMMYs/Mar 22, 2024 - 01:36 pm

In the late '90s, a time when synthesized dancehall riddims dominated Jamaica’s airwaves, Rastafarian sibling band Morgan Heritage remained steadfast in their dedication to roots reggae. Their passion would resonate internationally via 1999's Don’t Haffi Dread, an album that brought renewed vitality and youthful enthusiasm to roots reggae. 

Released via New York label VP Records on March 23, 1999, Don’t Haffi Dread was a personal and professional advancement for Morgan Heritage, earning the band widespread accolades and a designation as reggae’s future. Filled with rebel statements, spiritually empowering sentiments and R&B-infused lover’s rock, Don’t Haffi Dread is perhaps remembered most for its title track. The song's catchy and somewhat contentious lyric, "yuh don’t haffi dread to be rasta," asserted that listeners don't have to wear dreadlocks to embrace Rastafari’s teachings. 

Decades later, the song remains one of the most popular in the group’s expansive catalog. "That was the first time a Rastafarian said something like that on record," the group’s lead singer Peetah Morgan told me at the time of Don’t Haffi Dread’s release, in an interview for Air Jamaica’s SkyWritings Magazine. "It caused a lot of controversy and got us a lot of attention, even in places we had never performed."

Although it was the band’s fourth album, Don’t Haffi Dread  was the first time they recorded playing their instruments live in the studio. This was a remarkable achievement, Peetah explained, "because it was done at a time when we were told live recording would never come back to Jamaica." 

Peetah’s vocal dynamism led the band’s many heartfelt appeals for unity as persuasively as his paeans to Jah can stir the souls of the most hardened non-believers. He died at age 50 on Feb. 25. 

"The journey has been a blessing. May God continue to keep our brother Peetah," says keyboardist and vocalist Una Morgan. "Our dad used to compare us to a body with two hands, two feet and Peetah was our head; to be celebrating this album in Peetah’s honor is the greatest feeling ever."

In their first interview since Peetah's passing, members of Morgan Heritage reflected on the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough album. "Recording Don’t Haffi Dread…we honed our craft and became a force to be looked at; now we are called icons, legends," Una continues. 

Don’t Haffi Dread established Morgan Heritage as one reggae’s most popular acts and one the very few self-contained bands to emerge from Jamaica in the 1990s. "Everything opened up for Morgan Heritage with the release of Don’t Haffi Dread," comments Cristy Barber, former Head of A&R, VP Records. "They were featured on a segment on 'CBS Sunday Morning' with their father; they played a private party for Johnny Cash, performed before an audience of millions on the televised Special Olympics and became the first reggae band on the Vans Warped Tour."

Morgan Heritage are five of the 30 children of the late Jamaican singer Denroy Morgan, whose 1981 hit "I’ll Do Anything For You" reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Siblings Memmalatel "Mr. Mojo" (percussion, vocals), Nakhamyah "Lukes" (guitar), Roy "Gramps," (vocals, keyboards), and the band’s sole female member Una, and Peetah were raised in Rastafarian households. They lived in Springfield, Massachusetts, where they attended school, and spent weekends in Brooklyn, immersed in music studies.

In 1992, Morgan Heritage was an eight member aggregation that included older siblings David, Denroy Jr. and Jeffrey. Immediately following their debut performance at Jamaica’s now defunct Reggae Sunsplash festival, they were signed to MCA Records and released one album, 1994's pop-reggae leaning Miracle. Displeased with the label’s lack of support, the Morgans chose not to record a second album for the company. With their increasing personal responsibilities, including caring for their young children, David, Denroy Jr., and Jeffreyleft the group. 

However, it was papa Denroy’s decision to return to his Jamaica birthplace in 1995 that put Morgan Heritage on their path to success. Morgan Heritage’s remaining five members, now in their early to mid 20s, followed their dad to Jamaica. The band spent over a year alternating between morning recording sessions with producer Lloyd "King Jammy" James and afternoons with producer Robert "Bobby Digital" Dixon. The band wrote songs and recorded their vocals over pre-made riddims (rhythm tracks), a standard practice in Jamaican music making. Their diligence yielded two albums: the Digital-produced Protect Us Jah and One Calling, produced by Jammy.

The band returned to Bobby Digital (whose extensive production resume includes landmark albums by Sizzla, the late Garnet Silk and multiple hit singles by Shabba Ranks) to produce Don’t Haffi Dread. This time, they played their own instruments alongside other musicians live on the album’s recording sessions.

"The riddim thing is part of Jamaican culture but with Don’t Haffi Dread, our father pulled the reins and said, that’s not how the greats do it," Gramps explains, adding, with a Jamaican inflection, "yuh don’t hear Michael Jackson say to Quincy Jones, 'Let mi vibe something on di riddim!' 

"Our father always said, you have to do this at the highest level because you have great potential," Gramps continues. "Bobby trusted the process and gave us artistic freedom so Don’t Haffi Dread was a turning point: We got out our guitars, wrote songs, brought them to the studio and played/recorded them live."

Written by Gramps and Peetah, "Don’t Haffi Dread" utilizes shimmering guitar riffs that underscore the melodic sing-along chorus delivered by Peetah with innate emotional conviction and precocious wisdom that made it a 21st century reggae anthem. There are two versions of "Don’t Haffi Dread" on the album, including an exquisite acoustic guitar rendition that closes the set. 

"We wrote that song in Brooklyn, it was our truth growing up in the Twelve Tribes of Israel branch of Rastafari (Bob Marley was a member), which was about bringing together Jah’s children from afar," explains Gramps. "We saw white Rastas, Asian Rastas, Rastas in New Zealand, Australia and Mexico. We knew it wasn’t about growing dreadlocks, wearing an Emperor Halie Selassie I button or even dietary laws. It was about how we lived, the love in our hearts. By sharing our truth, many people realized they didn’t have to wear dreadlocks to identify with the messages of Rastafari."

The Rastafari way of life originated in Jamaica in the 1930s, following the crowning of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, whom Rastas recognize as the Messiah. Many early Rasta adherents wearing dreadlocks faced continuous persecution, their locks forcibly shorn, their housing settlements demolished while others were killed by authorities just for their way of life. Some listeners perceived "Don’t Haffi Dread" as insensitive to that suffering.

"The division, the uproar that took place…provided clarity like nothing else in our life," shares Mojo. "Seeing the impact of our music on a global scale, the effect it had on human lives was an epiphany; we realized that we’re here for more than just a good time and that gave us a sense of purpose. We started to understand the assignment before that term came about. The conviction and messages heard throughout our music is because of our experiences with Don’t Haffi Dread."

Rasta anthems and socially conscious statements abound on Don’t Haffi Dread. The rousing "Earthquake," is a "chant down Babylon" style tribute to Rasta elders; "Ready to Work" offers a clarion call to rise up, unify and change the world. The acoustic guitar-driven plea on "Freedom," a powerful missive that parallels the most effective songs that soundtracked the civil rights movement, features Gramps’ robust baritone, Mojo’s rapped rhymes and Una’s graceful harmonies, each complementing Peetah’s stunning vibrato rendering. 

Bobby Digital’s burnished production utilizes a few premade riddims. A bubbling interpolation of the musical backing to Bob Marley’s "Bend Down Low" undergirds "Reggae Bring Back Love," an engaging celebration of the genre's positive vibrations, highlighted by Peetah’s exuberant vocals. While not originally intended for Don’t Haffi Dread, "Reggae Bring Back Love" became one of its biggest hits, as Gramps recollects. 

"Bobby gave us a cassette of the riddim as we were leaving the studio. We got in the car, pushed in the cassette and just before we pulled off, Peetah started singing ‘reggae bring back love’ over the riddim. We went back inside and recorded the song in less than 10 minutes," he recalls. "Bobby was so excited," adds Una, "he said, ‘dis is why mi love dat group yah.’"

With the release of Don’t Haffi Dread, Morgan Heritage became — and has remained — one of reggae’s busiest touring outfits, taking their impassioned, spell-binding performances around the world, fronted by Peetah Morgan’s charismatic voice. Peetah’s passing is the profound loss of a gifted, generation-defining singer and a beloved brother whose spirit will inform his siblings’ future plans. 

"When Lukes and Una came off the road (in 2015 and 2017, respectively) Peetah, Mojo and I carried it," Gramps muses. "Now Peetah is gone. We’re still grieving but we know Peetah would have kicked us in our butts and said, ‘gwaan and do Jah work,’ so, the legacy must continue."

Living Legends: Stephen Marley On Old Soul, Being A Role Model & The Bob Marley Biopic

Kingsley Ben-Adir and Ziggy Marley attend the Los Angeles Premiere Of Paramount Pictures "Bob Marley: One Love" at Regency Village Theatre on February 06, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
Kingsley Ben-Adir and Ziggy Marley attend the Los Angeles Premiere Of Paramount Pictures "Bob Marley: One Love" at Regency Village Theatre on Feb. 6, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Getty Images

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7 Things We Learned Watching 'Bob Marley: One Love'

Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, 'Bob Marley: One Love' takes viewers inside the tumultuous world of late '70s Jamaica as Marley prepares to release 'Exodus.'

GRAMMYs/Feb 16, 2024 - 07:23 pm

For so many modern music fans, Bob Marley is more of an image than an actual person. 

The late reggae superstar died in 1981 — struck down by cancer when he was just 36 years old — and while his popularity has only grown in the 40-odd years since, audiences now might be more familiar with music’s vibes and Marley's image than they are with the man in totality. 

A new movie starring Kingsley Ben-Adir seeks to rectify that. Produced by Ziggy, Rita and Cedella Marley, among others, Bob Marley: One Love highlights Marley’s music, family, and deep passion for Rastafarianism. The biopic also takes viewers inside the tumultuous world of late ‘70s Jamaica, when crime bosses battled colonizers and Marley prepared to release his 1977 album Exodus — the record Time Magazine would come to call "the best album of the 20th century." 

Bob Marley: One Love is only in theaters. For those who can't make it out to the silver screen, read on for seven insights into Bob Marley’s life gleaned from the movie.

Bob Marley Had A Complicated Upbringing

In the movie, we learn that Bob Marley never really knew his dad. Marley's father is never shown in full, but depicted as this sort of faceless white colonist with nothing but contempt for his young son.

Bob’s mom moved to Delaware when the singer was quite young, following her marriage to an American civil servant, and a teenaged Bob was sort of left to fend for himself in Jamaica. It was then he met and fell in love with Rita Anderson, who introduced him to Rastafarianism. 

Bob Believed His Music Could Bring People Peace 

When the movie opens, we’re thrust into 1976, during which Jamaica was undergoing major political and economic turmoil. Crime bosses were warring, political rivals were clashing, and there was a lot of unrest in the street. While Bob took pains to not take sides at the time, he felt like he could help heal the country through music, planning the Smile Jamaica concert to bring people together. 

Unfortunately, as we see in the movie, Bob’s homebase is invaded just before the tour, with Bob, Rita, and their manager suffering gunshot wounds. (According to the movie, the thickness of Rita’s dreads kept a bullet from hitting her brain.) 

Read more: Living Legends: Stephen Marley On 'Old Soul,' Being A Role Model & The Bob Marley Biopic

Though people encourage him to flee the country after the shooting, Bob is committed to the show. He performs, though he appears rattled in the movie, ultimately sending his family off to Delaware and heading to London to get away from an increasingly untenable situation in his home country. 

Rastafarianism Influenced Bob's Language & Songwriting

If you’ve always hummed along to cuts like "Redemption Song" but didn’t quite understand the meaning of  lines like "Old pirates, yes they rob I," One Love is here to answer. Per the film, Rastafarians believe that "words separate people," meaning that there should be no "you" or "me," but rather just "I and I." 

Bob’s love for Rasta life features prominently in the film, and there are revelations about how he thought that his music and the Rasta message were essentially the same thing. "Reggae," the film says, "is the vehicle" to spread the gospel of Haile Selassie and the idea of a Black God. Songs like "Natural Mystic" were, in Bob’s eyes, just classic Rasta messages set to catchy music. 

That’s also partially where the idea for Exodus comes from, which we see the recording of in the film. One of Bob Marley's most important records, Exodus was inspired not only by the cinematic saga of the same name, but of the singer’s religious politics. While tracks like "Turn Your Lights Down Low" are pretty much torch songs, others, like "Exodus" are about the Rastafarians’ quest for a spiritual homeland, or, as the song puts it, the ongoing "movement of Jah people." 

Bob Marley May Was A Visionary, But He Was No Saint

While we don’t get a real clear picture of what was going on with Bob and Rita’s marriage in One Love, we do catch some glimpses at random women giving Bob the eye, as well as a blowout fight between the two in which they both rail against the other’s infidelities.

While it’s well known that Bob fathered at least six children out of wedlock, two of his 11 or so claimed descendents are solely Rita’s kids, including one daughter she had before they were married and another conceived during an affair with a former Jamaican soccer player. 

While Rita’s involvement in the movie would suggest that she doesn’t necessarily harbor any intractable feelings about what was going on outside their marital bed, the inclusion of some of the less savory parts of Bob’s personality serve to make him seem like a more complete human on-screen.

Bob Wasn't Concerned About The Almighty Dollar

Though Bob Marley’s estate is worth an estimated $500 million today, the movie makes it clear that the singer didn’t care all that much for money. 

There’s archival interview footage of him during the credits pooh-pooing the notion that he was "rich," with him saying, "my richness is life." He’s also seen during the movie doling out money to needy Jamaicans, as well as to his band. At one point, Marley tells his manager that he doesn’t really care how much they make on a potential African tour, as long as they "have enough to pay the band."

Read more: Living Legends: Reggae Great Marcia Griffiths Looks Back On Her 60-Year Legacy, Working With Bob Marley & Inspiring The Next Generation

Bob Died Of An Extremely Rare Cancer 

Though it’s generally well-known that the late reggae icon died much too young, the circumstances of his death are discussed less often. As we see in One Love, Bob found out on July 7, 1977 — an auspicious day according to Marcus Garvey — that he had acral lentiginous melanoma, an extremely rare form of skin cancer that appears in generally ignored parts of the body, like on the soles of the feet or. In Bob’s case, the cancer appeared under a toenail. 

Though his doctor recommended that Bob have his toe amputated to stem the spread of the disease, the singer rejected the notion, citing his religious beliefs as well as his performing career. The cancer would spread to Marley’s brain, lungs, and liver before he died a little shy of four years later.

The Marley Family Is Heavily Invested In Keeping Their Legacy Alive 

One Love opens with an introduction from Ziggy Marley, who says that he was on set nearly every day the movie was in production. He added that he wanted to make sure the film captured his dad’s true essence, and it’s clear both from his speech and the work that he’s done since that he really does mean it. 

Read more: Ziggy Marley Talks Working With His Kids On 'More Family Time,' The Joy Of Toots Hibbert & Bob Marley's Revolution

The Marley family has always stayed close, recording and performing together quite a lot (Bob’s sons Damian and Stephen are touring this summer, for instance).  Bob Marley: One Love seems to be just another extension of the love they have for their dad and for their whole family, as well as for the rich legacy their parents created together.

Photographer Kate Simon Details Her Time With Reggae's Greats & How Bob Marley Was "Completely Possessed By The Music"