From humble beginnings growing up in the impoverished island of Jamaica, the nucleus of the Wailers - Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh - turned to music at an early age. Music not only provided the boys with a creative form of expression, but also offered them their best chances for rising out of poverty. The Wailers' sound and energy, bound together by artistic and spiritual integrity, was fostered during their teens. Joe Higgs' Third Street Yard Before becoming professionals, Bob, Bunny, and Peter, along with other area youths learned the finer points of music performance from Joe Higgs, a devout Rasta. From his home on Third Street, Higgs offered free music clinics. Higgs used the clinics as an opportunity to help motivate the youth by teaching them harmony techniques, breath control, music theory, and songwriting. At the age of sixteen, Bob's first taste of the music business, while attracting some attention with his songs, "One Cup of Coffee" and "Terror," ended bitterly. In 1961 Bob broke off his relationship with Leslie Kong, after the producer failed to pay him money for songs he recorded for his Beverley label. Despite the bitter experience, Bob decided to take the next step forward by forming a group with Bunny and Peter, along with Junior Braithwaite and back up singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith, calling themselves The Teenagers which became The Wailing Rudeboys,then The Wailing Wailers. They eventually shortened the name to The Wailers, which represented more than their style of singing. The name also reflected the pain and anguish the boys felt deep within their souls while growing up in Trench Town. "The word 'wail' means to cry or to moan," said Peter Tosh later. "We were living in this so-called ghetto. No one to help the people. We felt we were the only ones who could express their feelings through music, and because of that, people loved it. So we did it." Clement Dodd and Studio One The Wailers auditioned for Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label who was impressed enough to offer the group a contract. After recording "I'm Still Waiting" and "It Hurts to Be Alone," Cherry and Junior, who sang lead on "It Hurts to Be Alone" left the group. In Junior's absence, Bob took over lead vocals to record "Simmer Down" for Studio One. In February 1964, "Simmer Down" hit Number 1. The group continued recording more hits for Dodd, but determined to earn enough money to finance his own record label, Bob left for his first visit to Delaware. Johnny Moore, a studio musician at the 'Simmer Down' sessions, noted "Bob didn't necessarily seem like the leader. The thing was so closely knit, the sound, whatever they were trying to get at: that was the objective, the force of what they were trying to accomplish. Rather than worrying about you lead or me lead: everyone would put their shoulder and heave-ho. They seemed to realise that it's much easier to get things done that way." During Bob's absence, Rita continued to record with the Soulettes, having a hit with her version of the current U.S. pop hit, "Pied Piper." But her cousin Dream was spending more and more time filling in for Bob with the renascent Wailers, who, after having shut down for several months after Bob's departure, were now doing live appearances again, sometimes with Rita singing backup instead of Beverly Kelso, who was losing interest. With a basic lineup of Bunny singing lead, Peter second lead and Dream on harmony, they worked up new material and performed it at the State Theater, where they were booked to open shows for visiting American R&B singers Betty Everett ("The Shoop Shoop Song [It's in His Kiss]") and sometime Drifter Ben E. King ("Spanish Harlem"). Coxsone like the new stuff, cut it and released it as "Wailers' material: "Let Him Go (Rude Boy Get Gail)," "Dancing Shoes," "Jerk In Time," "Who Feels It Knows It," "What Am I to Do," "I've Got to Go Back Home," "Sinner Man," "Hoot Nanny Hoot," "Dream Land," "Rolling Stone," "Can't You See." Photographs copyright Adrian Boot, 1997. Text from CATCH A FIRE: THE LIFE OF BOB MARLEY rev. ed. by Timothy White © 1983, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996 by Timothy White. Used by arrangement with Henry Holt and Co., New York and the author. Text also from BOB MARLEY: SONGS OF FREEDOM by Adrian Boot and Chris Salewicz. Text copyright © 1995, by Chris Salewicz. THE WAILERS | AL ANDERSON | ASTON "FAMILY MAN" BARRETT | CARLTON BARRETT BUNNY WAILER | PETER TOSH | I-THREES Upon returning to Jamaica, Bob revealed to the other Wailers that he intended to launch his own operation, the Wail 'N' Soul 'M record store, in honour of its first two acts, The Wailers and The Soulettes. This was also to be the name of The Wailers' first label; the first single released, Bend Down Low, was recorded at Studio One but produced by Bob, while Mellow Mood appeared on the B side. The sound was rougher and tougher than the Studio One material had been; the feel was looser, freed-up, though that was partially the effect of the slower rhythm of rock steady. However, facing grim financial realities, the label had to close down. Danny Sims In 1968, The Wailers hooked up with Danny Sims after one of his artists, Johnny Nash spotted Bob covering several of his tunes at a grounation ceremony. Over the course of their relationship which ended in 1972, The Wailers recorded over eighty songs for Sims including a rock steady version of "Put It On" and an original hit called "Soul Rebel." As Sims was trying to break Bob as an R&B artist in America, he tried to keep Bob from writing about Rastafari. Sims didn't have an exclusive agreement with The Wailers, however, and the group was free to record for whomever they liked. Accordingly, the band returned to the Beverley label and Leslie Kong who was having great success with rocksteady. The Wailers' atypical approach to rocksteady was characterized by a visceral, feisty flamboyance fighting a tugging backbeat. Their philosophy was "Give the drummer some!" (as soul giant James Brown liked to shout), but be sneaky about it. However, the songs The Wailers cut from these sessions, "Caution," "Soon Come," and "Do It Twice," sold poorly as The Wailers were losing flavor with the local record charts. Lee "Scratch" Perry This misfortune proved to be a rich opportunity for The Wailers as they would soon record with Lee "Scratch" Perry, a producer who sold his records in his Upsetters Records shop. The Wailers teamed up with Perry's studio band, the Upsetters, to record "My Cup," "Duppy Conqueror," and "Soul Almighty." The musicians became friendly after discussing the exploitive practices of Jamaica's music scene which lead to a fusion between the Upsetters and the Wailers, providing Perry with a new studio band. The Upsetters' rhythm section, bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett and his brother Carlton on drums, were happy to join the Wailers as they were aware that they were dealing with a spiritual message. Their first collaboration was "Small Axe," a warning to Jamaica's Big T'ree studios that the Wailers were ready for any competition. --Bob Marley, August 1979 We remember the brilliant and evocative music Bob Marley gave the world; music that stretches back over nearly two decades and still remains timeless and universal. Marley has been called "the first Third World superstar," "Rasta Prophet," "visionary," and" "revolutionary artist." These accolades were not mere hyperbole. Marley was one of the most charismatic and challenging performers of our time. Bob Marley's career stretched back over twenty years. During that time Marley's growing style encompassed every aspect in the rise of Jamaican music, from ska to contemporary reggae. That growth was well reflected in the maturity of the Wailers' music. Bob's first recording attempts came at the beginning of the Sixties. His first two tunes, cut as a solo artist, meant nothing in commercial terms and it wasn't until 1964, as a founding member of a group called the Wailing Wailers, that Bob first hit the Jamaican charts. The record was "Simmer Down," and over the next few years the Wailing Wailers -- Bob, Peter Mclntosh and Bunny Livingston, the nucleus of the group -- put out some 30 sides that properly established them as one of the hottest groups in Jamaica. Mclntosh later shortened his surname to Tosh while Livingston is now called Bunny Wailer. Despite their popularity, the economics of keeping the group together proved too much and the two other members, Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso, left the group. At the same time Bob joined his mother in the United States. This marked the end of the Wailing Wailers, Chapter One. Marley's stay in America was short-lived, however, and he returned to Jamaica to join up again with Peter and Bunny. By the end of the Sixties, with the legendary reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry at the mixing desk, The Wailers were again back at the top in Jamaica. The combination of the Wailers and Perry resulted in some of the finest music the band ever made. Tracks like "Soul Rebel," "Duppy Conquerer," "400 Years," and "Small Axe" were not only classics, but they defined the future direction of reggae. It's difficult to properly understand Bob Marley's music without considering Rastafari. His spiritual beliefs are too well known to necessitate further explanation. It must be stated, however, that Rastafari is at the very core of the Wailers' music. In 1970 Aston Familyman Barrett and his brother Carlton (bass and drums, respectively) joined the Wailers. They came to the band unchallenged as Jamaica's HARDEST rhythm section; a reputation that was to remain undiminished during the following decade. Meanwhile, the band's own reputation was, at the start of the Seventies, an extraordinary one throughout the Caribbean. However, the band was still unknown internationally. That was to change in 1972 when the Wailers signed to Island Records. It was a revolutionary move for an international record company and a reggae band. For the first time a reggae band had access to the best recording facilities and were treated in the same way as a rock group. Before the Wailers signed to Island, it was considered that reggae sold only on singles and cheap compilation albums. The Wailer's first album, Catch A Fire broke all the rules: it was beautifully packaged and heavily promoted. And it was the start of a long climb to international fame and recognition. The Catch A Fire album was followed a year later by Burnin', an LP that included some of the band's older songs, such as "Duppy Conquerer," "Small Axe," and "Put In On," together with tracks like "Get Up Stand Up" and "I Shot The Sheriff" (which was also recorded by Eric Clapton, who had a ..1 hit with it in America). In 1975 Bob Marley & The Wailers released the extraordinary Natty Dread album, and toured Europe that summer. The shows were recorded and the subsequent live album, together with the single, "No Woman No Cry," both made the UK charts. By that time Bunny and Peter had officially left the band to pursue their own solo careers. Rastaman Vibration, the follow-up album in 1976, cracked the American charts. It was, for many, the clearest exposition yet of Marley's music and beliefs, including such tracks as "Crazy Baldhead," "Johnny Was," "Who The Cap Fit" and, perhaps most significantly of all, "War," the Iyrics of which were taken from a speech by Emperor Haile Selassie. In 1977 Exodus was released, which established Marley's international superstar status. It remained on the British charts for 56 straight weeks, and netted three UK hit singles, "Exodus," "Waiting In Vain," and "Jamming." In 1978 the band released Kaya, which hit number four on the UK chart the week of its release. That album saw Marley in a different mood -- Kaya was an album of love songs, and, of course, homages to the power of ganja. There were two more events in 1978, both of which were of extraordinary significance to Marley. In April that year he returned to Jamaica (he had left in 1976 after the shooting that had almost cost him his life), to play the One Love Peace Concert in front of the Prime Minister Michael Manley, and the then Leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga. And at the end of the year he visited Africa for the first time, going initially to Kenya and then on to Ethiopia, spiritual home of Rastafari. Marley returned to Africa in 1980 at the official initation of the Government of Zimbabwe to play at that country's Independence Ceremony. It was the greatest honor afforded the band, and one which underlined the Wailers' importance in the Third World. In 1979 the Survival LP was released. A European tour came the following year: the band broke festival records throughout the continent, including a 100,000 capacity show in Milan. Bob Marley & the Wailers were now the most important band on the road that year and the new Uprising album hit every chart in Europe. It was a period of maximum optimism and plans were being made for an American tour, an opening slot with Stevie Wonder for the following winter. At the end of the European tour, Bob Marley & The Wailers went to America. Bob played two shows at Madison Square Garden but, immediately afterwards he was seriously ill. Cancer was diagnosed. Marley fought the disease for eight months. The battle, however, proved to be too much. He died in a Miami Hospital on May 11,1981. A month before the end Bob was awarded Jamaica's Order of Merit, the nations' third highest honor, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the country's culture. On Thursday, May 23,1981, the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley was given an official funeral by the people of Jamaica. Following the funeral -- attended by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition -- Bob's body was taken to his birthplace where it now rests in a mausoleum. Bob Marley was 36 years old. His legend lives on.
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