February 6th was Bob Marley's birthday. I was alerted to this by a post by Rethabile at Black Looks this morning. So I've been thinking about Bob Marley all day long. I'd saved a URL that Rethabile linked to at Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot. I'm just blown away by Philip's writing about Bob Marley. Philip is a master at using hyperlinks to inform, so his birthday post opens a world of very smart writing that's a pleasure to read.
I was not familiar with Geoffrey Philip's blog or his other writing. I wanted to be sure to credit the blog where I found the link, but I couldn't remember immediately where I got the link, so I searched Technorati. There I saw that Janie Mendes-Franco blogged Geoffrey Philp's post. It's unethical to do but here's what Janie Mendes-Franco wrote in its entirety:
Jamaican Geoffrey Philp realised early on that “good writing, like a good life, cannot be built solely on negation” - and credits that awareness to Bob Marley's “ability to transform through word-power the consciousness of a generation and to show how life-affirming values could be transmitted in poetry through rhythm and metaphor”.If you like Bob Marley's music, or you think that Marley was saying something, but not sure what it was, then visit Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot. You'll be glad you did.
Reflecting on Bob Marley today, first of all was the reminder how fast time has flown. I don't really feel that old, but have had some years, and my love of Bob Marley's music takes me back. The song which stuck in my head today was Burnin and Lootin. This YouTube video Burnin and Looting Tonight shows Marley playing the song and a recording of him talking about it. Marley says:
It's not really talk about burnin out the city, or burning down. But burnin out certain things in our minds to live in I-one harmony.It's hard to say exactly, I probably heard the album Burnin' because of the popluar Eric Clapton cover of I Shot the Sheriff. I'm pretty dense, still I got the implication that Sheriff John Brown was white, but the deputy black. I'm not sure really about which version I heard first, Clapton's or Marley and the Wailers. I do remember that Burnin' and Lootin' was a visceral experience and scary for a middle class white guy. It was and still is hard to listen to Burnin' without feeling outrage.
The track right after Burnin' and Lootin' is Put It On
No more cryin';The sense of gratitude becomes all the more palpable after Burnin' and Lootin' and with that the deeper meaning of Burnin' and Lootin', "Burnin out certain things in our mind to live in I-one harmony" played on me.
No more cryin';
No more cryin'.
Lord, I thank you;
Lord, I thank you.
The civil strife in Kenya weighs on me. To see pictures of young people feeling so alive as they commit violence, is at once abhorrent to me, but then again the rush of power isn't so foreign to my imagination. Bob Marley's music is sacred; sacred in the sense I learned as a boy in catechism class. A sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace." The violence in Burnin' and Lootin' isn't a metaphor. The transformation
We gonna be burning and a-looting tonight;is real and inside us.
(To survive, yeah!)
Burning and a-looting tonight;
(Save your baby lives)
Burning all pollution tonight;
(Pollution, yeah, yeah!)
Burning all illusion tonight
(Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord-a, Lord!)
Our creativity can be used to release us from the grip of desperation. My last post suggested that songs could help lead the way out of the darkness to the daylight. Surely, I understand how exasperating such comments must sound. Even here in the USA my politics of Kumbaya get mocked, and even I have to smile at my naiveté. I'm no Bob Marley. I am most grateful Marley lived. And I'm thankful that Rethabile thought to honor Marley's birthday and directed us to Geoffrey Philip's brilliant writing.