New Again: Bob Marley
Photography Kate Simon
Published January 13, 2015
Earlier this week John Varvatos revealed he was turning from rock-‘n’-roll inspiration to reggae for his Spring/Summer 2015 ad campaign. The latest campaign features Stephen and Ziggy Marley, who appear in black-and-white family portrait style images that were shot in Austin, Texas by Danny Clinch, and replace last year’s spotlight on Ringo Starr. We’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to revisit an archival interview with Bob Marley, father of the brand’s new faces—Jamaican Patois and all. This year would have marked Marley’s 70th birthday, another good excuse.
Bob Marley: So Much Things to SayBy Glenn O’Brien
Bob Marley, one of the original members of the group, The Wailers, founded the group 13 years ago along with Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston in Kingston, Jamaica. They made over 200 singles and dozens of albums, which makes them the biggest reggae act of all time. In 1975, Bunny and Peter went their separate ways, but Bob Marley and The Wailers went on to release five albums, the latest being Kaya (on Island Records).
GLENN O’BRIEN: What is the first song you ever wrote?
BOB MARLEY: The first song I write, I don’t record it. It’s called “Fantasy.”
O’BRIEN: Is it a love fantasy?
MARLEY: Yeah. [Marley sings] “Hey little girl with those fancy curls, you know you better treat me right…”
O’BRIEN: Your new album Kaya is really a love album.
MARLEY: If “Turn Your Lights Down Low” was on this album it would really be a love album. But it just turned out this way. This album was recorded at the same time as Exodus. We did almost 20 songs. Some of ’em were songs we always did.
O’BRIEN: Why didn’t you put out “Punky Reggae Party” here?
MARLEY: The record company fight against us. Ya know them don’t like the punk. Them don’t wanna go to a punky reggae party. But we’re gonna find them guilty. Now the people’s piratin’ it. The tune’s a hit tune in England. Why don’t they release it here with “Jamming”?
O’BRIEN: Did you ever see any of the bands play that you mention in the song?
MARLEY: No. Ya see, the man who invent the song is Lee Perry, but me execute it. He did “Police and Thieves in the Street.” And that Clash did that. So him do that, “Punky Reggae Party.”
O’BRIEN: Have you heard any bands besides the Clash?
MARLEY: Yeah, but I don’t know their names. I think I hear the Pistols—the Queen thing. “God Save the Queen.”
O’BRIEN: Did you ever meet Johnny?
MARLEY: Him say he no like me. He said that in Jamaica. He say, “I no ‘specially dig Bob Marley.” Him say that at the wrong time. Johnny Rotten is a fool. Him can no dig the king. Ras clot! You say him name, Johnnny Rotten, that mean you don’t expect him to that thing like Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest.” Everything him deal with rotten-like. “I don’t like blah, blah, blah.” Him have to fight this fight diplomatically in England.
O’BRIEN: Do you believe in astrology, Bob?
MARLEY: No Rasta! I believe in the 12 tribes of Israel, which them change and call astrology. Astrology is up there. And then say God is up there. Seen? But where them get astrology from, and the ideas of astrology is from the 12 tribes of Israel, which every man have by tendency. Not by Roman god, but by the sons of Jacob. So man find him root. Cause plenty people say I’m Aquarius—a Roman god—but you check Jacob’s 12 sons and you find the tendencies. Which month ya born?
MARLEY: So ya’s a Benjamin. You come from the tribe of Benjamin. Ya rule te feet. There’s 12 parts, one for each tribe. You control the foot, you come from the tribe of Benjamin. Me come from the tribe of Joseph. That rules the leg. Now they would sa me is Aquarius. What them say ye is?
MARLEY: Them say ye is Pisces. But me is Aquarius and ye is Pisces and me want to check out now our roots, how can we check out roots of Pisces and Aquarius? You need a root, seen? But we sons of God and we check out Jacob’s 12 sons, and one of the 12, we carry what them carry. Man is a universe. The eye alone can tell you that. Blood clot! By your eye, behold all things. But your eye cannot look within ya, you know? So them say you must look out there. Them trick ya. God never make it so. Go dis within you. That means your mind control all eye. Your mind control everything. Astrology wrong in the sense of the roots, how them carry down. Maybe them purposely do it, maybe them don’t purposely do it. But the Bible is the proof.
O’BRIEN: Have the Rastas ever translate the Bible?
MARLEY: We don’t need to translate it. We just read it and understand it. “In the Beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth, and the Earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon he face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Seen? And it go on forever continually like that, till them say them crucify God, and Him say He shall return as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conqueror and Lion of Judah, Alpha and Omega, you know? One man come with these names and the name is Haile Selassie. Him is the only King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conqueror and Lion of the Tribe of Judah. True. The Bible say when Christ return, He will return in this kingly character. So we don’t need to tranlslate the Bible, cause the Bible state it. And what’s so nice about it is that the white man have to accept the truth of what is written in the Bible, because his King James said, “Yes, this Bible can go out.” Even the white man cannot that Ras Taffari is God.
O’BRIEN: What do you think about reincarnation?
MARLEY: I think when you’re doing one thing you can re-incarnate. But when you know good and evil, no incarnation, ’cause you can live forever, continually. ‘Cause God have the power to do what he want to.
O’BRIEN: You think that once you realize good and evil you don’t have to reincarnate?
MARLEY: When you know good and evil you don’t incarnate no more. If you do good you live forever, and if you do evil you must die. And when you die you return as a dog and a bus lick ya down in the street, and ya return as a frog and a car run ya over, and ya return as a fly and somebody kill ya and ya return as a bird and perch up on the electric and get shocked. If ya don’t do the right thing, but if you do the right thing you can live forever.
O’BRIEN: But what do good men come back as?
MARLEY: Good men no die. Every good man live. If him get killed him do something to get killed. In a sense, some of them is just sacrifices, but them make more experienced.
O’BRIEN: Do you think you’ve lived before?
O’BRIEN: Do you have any idea of what you were before?
MARLEY: Yeah. Joseph. As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. In the end I am from Tribe of Joseph, and in the end I am from Tribe of Joseph. And that is why I tell ya about the 12 sons of Jacob and not astrology. Because that’s how I realized who I was in the beginning. All the amount of people on the earth is only 12 people, you know. There are only 12 different minds, 12 different tendencies. Them have their own unique ways of doing things, because God create that, but the official man like you now is Benjamin. Your tendency is Benjamin and you cannot be nothing but Benjamin, seen?
O’BRIEN: What do you think about flying saucers?
MARLEY: You ever see one?
MARLEY: Me never ever see one. America can make one. Russia can make it. China can make it. They can make one of those land some little place and some people see it, and them run, go way and say they seen this land. That’s an illusion. That’s in the spirit of madness.
“I Je-sus have sent mind angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spririt and the bride say Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophesy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book, and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Sure I come quickly. A-man. Even so, come Jah Ras Tarfari…”
That is no illusion man. This is prophecy. All of these impossible things which they say man can make. They say man go to the moon. That’s a little mechanical thing, man, a little gilder. It’s in Genesis, 49, “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the soil.” What does ravin mean?
O’BRIEN: Prowl around, I guess. Sneak around.
MARLEY: Sayest ye! That’s what you do!
O’BRIEN: Yeah, I guess Benjamin is a reporter.
MARLEY: Seen. So they take this and build astrology. They call it astrology, but it’s Ras Tafari. It’s through the laws of mankind. You can tell the tendencies from when they’re born.
O’BRIEN: So your children and my children wouldn’t necessarily be from the same tribes we are from?
MARLEY: Once we can from one tribe, you know. But now it’s just the tendencies that’s left. But from that you can check your roots and read about yourself in the Bible, and see that your father is Ras Tafari.
O’BRIEN: What happens to the tribes in Revelation? It the Apocalypse?
MARLEY: Twelve thousand gather of each tribe…and a multitude a man couldn’t count follow after. One hundred and forty-four thousand people is the full strength of God. When these 144,000 people come together with the one Rastafari, then all of the rest of the people come together.
O’BRIEN: After Revelation are we still going to have electric guitars and motocycles and Bionic Dread?
MARLEY: If ya want! But you don’t praise it this time. If ya want a bicycle you don’t give your heart for it. Seen?
THIS INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE JULY 1978 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
New Again runs every Wednesday. For more, click here.