Bob Marley Tim White - Essay

Tim White

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

When questioned about influences, Bob Marley has named such artists as Nat "King" Cole, Brook Benton and veteran Jamaican balladeer Owen Gray…. [But he] has also pointed to Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix as sources of inspiration, admitting to a fascination for rockabilly forms and the soul-tinged hard rock of recent years. If there was any doubt (or fear) that Marley would go on to include variations of these styles in his music. [Rastaman Vibration] delivers the solid confirmation.

"Roots, rock, reggae!" shouts Marley on the cut of the same name. "This a reggae music!" The message is both revealing and instructive, the singer informing us that his music is now a well-honed hodge-podge of Jamaican folk music and all the aforementioned bloodlines—plus rock….

From the thunkety-bop drum roll that kicks off the opening "Positive Vibration," to the closing yelps of "Rat Race," the thorough interweaving of reggae and contemporary rock forms emerges as an innovative synthesis better termed rockgae, and it leaves me convinced that the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers is among the most thematically arresting and elementally ingenious being produced anywhere today….

"Who The Cap Fits" and "Want More" are the lp's crowning achievements, containing the most mesmerizing fusion of West Indian body english, rockin' soul and incendiary subject matter….

As he observed in conversation during the making of the album, "De Devil is a generous mon, and dat's why ya must live right and be evar on yar guard." "Want More" is a terse espousal of that belief, and its sheer sincerity leaves the Stones in the lurch when it comes to portraying the allure—and consequences—of evil. (p. 66)

Overall, my qualms are few and my enthusiasm considerable. There are those who will doubtlessly grumble that Rastaman Vibration lacks the roots-conscious tack of Burnin' and Natty Dread, but such attitudes may stem from a certain myopia based on an ignorance of the Wailers' early work…. Comparing the old with the new, Bob's success has been nearly unanimous—and his latest material is stronger than ever. (pp. 66, 69)

Tim White, "Natty Dreadrock," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1976 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), July, 1976, pp. 65-6, 69.∗