Wednesday, January 19, 1994

Bob Marley Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-January 19, 1994-New York City

I know claiming Bob Marley is Irish might be a little difficult here tonight, but bear with me. Jamaica and Ireland have a lot in common: Naomi Campbell, Chris Blackwell, Guinness, and a fondness for little green leaves- the weed. Religion. The philosophy of procrastination- don't put off 'til tomorrow what you can put off for the day after. Unless of course, it's freedom. We are both islands, we were both colonies. We share a common yoke: the struggle for identity, the struggle for independence, the vulnerable and uncertain future that's left behind when the jackboot of empire is finally retreated. The roots, the getting up, the standing up, and the hard bit: the staying up.
In such a struggle, the voice of Bob Marley was the voice of reason. These were love songs that you could admit listening to; the songs of hurt, hard but healing, tough going, songs of freedom, where that song meant something again, Redemption songs. A sexy revolution where Jah is Jehovah on street level. Not over His people, but with His people. Not just stylin', jammin'. Down the line of Judah. from Ethiopia, where it all began for the Rastaman.
I spent some time in Ethiopia with my wife, Ali, and everywhere we went we saw Bob Marley's face. There he was, dressed to hustle God. Let my people go. An ancient plea. Prayers catching fire in Mozambique, Nigeria, the Lebanon, Alabama, Detroit, New York, Notting Hill, Belfast. Dr. King in dreads. The Third and First World superstar. Mental slavery ends where imagination begins. Here was this new music, rocking out of the shantytowns, lolling, loping rhythms, telling it like it was, like it is, like it ever shall be. Skanking. Ska. Blue Beat. Rock Steady. Reggae. Dub. And now reggae. And all this from a man who drove three BMWs. BMW- Bob Marley and the Wailers, that was his excuse!
Rock and Roll loves it juvenalia, its caricatures, its cartoons. The protest singer, the pop star, the sex god, your mature Messiah types. We love the extremes, and we're expected to choose: the mud of the blues or the oxygen of gospel, the hellhounds on our trail or the band of angels. Well, Bob Marley didn't choose or walk down the middle. He raced to the edges, embracing all extremes, creating a oneness. One love. He wanted everything at the same time. Prophet. Soul rebel. Rastaman. Herbsman. Wildman. A natural, mystic man. lady's man. Island man. Family man. Rita's man. soccer man. Showman. Shaman. Human. Jamaican!
So the spirit of Bob and the spirit of Jah lives on, in his son Ziggy and his lover Rita Marley. I'm proud to welcome Bob Marley into the Hall of Fame. Amen!


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