Clive Williams - Photo Credit: Toni Dubois

Publisher’s Vibe – Bob Marley’s Message… Celebrated or Appropriated?

Bob Marley

Just imagine for a minute a world-famous Indian doctor unfamiliar with the story of Reggae Music and its inspiration visiting the world’s most famous Rasta man, (aka Bob Marley) at Hope Road, in St. Andrew, Jamaica circa 1975, and honoring him as a Yogi. Your first reaction would almost certainly mirror Bob’s, (he was a very wary and suspicious man) “who or what the f*#k is a Yogi, and why are you calling me one? I man is a Rasta!” Ok, so this encounter never happened exactly the way I told the story, but it did happen, and in the most deferential and salutary way that makes me wonder …Hmm! I have been saying for years that what set’s Marley apart from his peers is his very resonant and relevant philosophical quotations, which are usually pithy comments on life, religion or politics; but some of his pronouncements were eerily prophetic, leaving one with the impression that he was in possession of a spiritual awareness which was overshadowed or swallowed up by the impact of his music. Enjoy a few gems from the Marley philosophy:

“One good thing about music, when it hits, you, you feel no pain.”

“Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I am not perfect – and I don’t live to be – but before you start pointing fingers…. make sure your hands are clean.”

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.”

“Don’t Gain the World & Lose Your Soul, Wisdom is Better than Silver & Gold.”

“Love the life you Live. Live the life you Love.”

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

But here’s the quote that is reverberating in the self-help space and reaching an audience who are invested in improving their lives: “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” Why is this Marley quote receiving so much attention? Let us go back to that famous Indian medical doctor who remains one of the most consistent and vocal proponents of Alternative Medicine, a leading practitioner of meditation and ayurvedic medicine and who writes voraciously on self-help strategies. You guessed it he is none other than world-renowned Deepak Chopra who has written yet another book titled: “Abundance – The Inner Path To Wealth,” which is underpinned by the immortal Marley quote highlighted above. In a recent interview about his new book in WMV magazine Dr. Chopra unabashedly credits Marley’s words as the basis for his new philosophical treatise on the abundance mindset. Dr. Chopra declares that those lyrics are worthy of a Yogi. Robert Nesta Marley aka Bob Marley has now unwittingly joined the hallowed pantheon of Philosopher /Poets who perennially influence and uplift our lives. Mind you Chopra has just introduced Bob to his millions of readers who may look beyond the lyric and discover the music, either way the legend of Marley grows larger with time.

Dr. Deepak Chopra

The backstory is as fantastic as the latest encomium; in the Jamaica of the 1970’s, Marley’s music was mostly reviled by middle and upper-class folks as ghetto music; back then as a radio and tv personality I attempted to introduce Marley’s music to a cross section of my friends who refused to listen to “dutty (dirty) Rasta music.” I had to exercise great care while on radio in the early to mid-eighties as to which Marley songs I played on my rotation; a similar policy existed for Peter Tosh. Now Marley’s lyrics are being immortalized as memes throughout the globe. This is a real case of “the stone that the builders refused has become the main cornerstone.” Now I know many of my brothers and sisters are going to yell – appropriation! But I am looking at the bigger picture – at the time when our children will quote Marley along with Garvey, Fanon, King, Gandhi or Nietzsche for that matter.

A sad fact though, is that appropriation has taken place, certain mainstream print and digital platforms are crediting a popular radio sports personality by the name of Patrick Meagher who was born in 1979 with originating the now immortalized lyric. So, let’s do the math Mr. Meagher; Bob Marley was born in 1945 and died May 11, 1981, at which time you were 2 years old; why the heck are you still taking credit for Bob Marley’s lyrics? But your fears are valid, the estate of Mr. Marley should be protected from the appropriation and exploitation of his intellectual and artistic properties. His magical and mystical lyrics will continue to be appropriated under the guise of its social and philosophical value, mostly by influential so-called thought leaders and gurus who understand little or nothing about “rock stone was my pillow,” or “until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned … everywhere is War.” Dr. Deepak Chopra’s use of the Marley lyric has opened the pandora’s box of a collection of some of the most potent and emotive lyrics ever written and performed, I trust he will equip himself with enough knowledge of Mr. Marley in order to use his ideology contextually and wisely.

An image as a link: W3Schools