Bob Marley and 40 years of Legend: the best-selling reggae album that was designed to “conquer the white public”

Bob Marley and 40 years of Legend: the best-selling reggae album that was designed to “conquer the white public”
Bob Marley and 40 years of Legend: the best-selling reggae album that was designed to “conquer the white public”

“Is This Love”, the song that opens Legend, the greatest hits compilation released 40 years ago and which became Bob Marley’s best-selling album

Money can’t buy life”. According to different biographers, those were the last words of Bob Marley on his deathbed and were addressed to his children Ziggy and Stephen. The Jamaican left this world on May 11, 1981 – exactly 43 years ago – in a clinic in the American city of Miami, after a long agony. He was 36 years old and had been fighting a cancer which started as melanoma on the big toe of his right foot and expanded to the point of making metastasis in your lungs, liver and brain. Paradoxically, with his last breath, on May 8, 1984, the legend was born. More precisely, Legend: the posthumous greatest hits compilation that eternalized his music.

Last year the magazine Forbes published his usual list of highest-paid dead celebrities and the reggae icon was placed in ninth place. According to the publication, his heirs raised 16 million dollars during 2023. And among the many successful products they manage – from movies to merchandising of all kinds – without a doubt the gold mine continues to be this compilation, which is among the 30 best-selling albums in history and which was published for the first time 40 years and a couple of days ago: it has been sold out almost 30 million copies throughout the world and is the most popular of the genre born in Jamaica.

“Is This Love”, “No Woman, No Cry” (live in 1975), “Could You Be Loved”, “Three Little Birds”, “Buffalo Soldier”, “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Stir It Up” ”, “One Love/People Get Ready”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Waiting in Vain”, “Redemption Song”, “Satisfy My Soul”, “Exodus” and “Jamming” are the 14 tracks gathered in the first edition of this collection; 10 of them had reached Top 40 singles in England at the time of their original release. Shortly after seeing the light, Legend It climbed to number 1, remained at the top for three months and did not drop out of the top ten positions in the following weeks.setting the musical tone for that northern summer.

The original cover of Legend, Bob Marley’s posthumous compilation that became his best-selling album

Despite the success postmortem and that the retrospective has the virtue of having captured a spirit of the times, it was not exempt from controversy given that the majority of the songs that make it up were taken from Marley’s latest albums: only three are prior to the album Exodus. In this line, the curatorship was notably cleansince it rescues the most “harmless” aspect of the minstrelsy that proclaimed love and peace: although “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff” are included – not coincidentally Burnin’the 1973 album that was the last of The Wailersnext to Peter Tosh and Bunny Wainer– its most combative edges, like its thinking afrocentrist and his look rastafarian about the world, they were somewhat polished.

Own Chris Blackwell -founder of Island Recordsa British label that released the Jamaican all over the world – revealed in his autobiography The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond, that Legend had been adaptedto conquer the white public”, achieving a collection with the lightest and least controversial of the artist. The paradox is that this ended up turning him into a global star that transcends genres, languages ​​and discourses. In an analogous way, this compilation is to Marley what the photo of Alberto Korda to the Che Guevara. All in all, it is still essential, the gateway to a universe and being one of those albums that are in almost every home in the world where music is enjoyed.

“Therefore one tends to underestimate a compilation. But I must say that this is the best compilation there is from a classic artist. And it came in an incredible way because it was introducing you to an artist from a genre that was not so common to hear here. “Argentina always listened to rock, so – now I say it – it was necessary for a Marley compilation to appear, with the best of him,” he says. Juanchi Baleironof Parakeetsto the consultation of Teleshow.

“This album gives it everything, it is excellent. To this day you listen to it and everyone, when they finish listening to ‘Redemption Song’, you automatically sing: ‘Oh please, don’t you rock my boat’ (“Satisfy My Soul”). It’s like you already know by heart how that compilation comes. I think it’s the only compilation that I think surpasses any other and even becomes an album in itself.. I love that album, it is number one on the compilations,” adds the singer and guitarist. parakeet.

Legend It was my entry into reggae and Bob’s repertoire. They gave it to me on cassette and right at that time I was learning to play the guitar. So from there I got ‘Redemption Song,’” he tells her. Omar Silvaguitarist of Prophetic cultureto Teleshow. “The album is so important that every time we mix a song with Errol Brown -Bob’s historic sound engineer-, he takes and plays ‘One Love’ taken from that compilation to see that the studio is well equalized. And if there is something that is wrong from that listening, he has the technicians fix whatever is sounding wrong. So it is also a starting point for what our mixes are going to be,” reveals the boricua.

Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36 (Photos: GettyImages)

Willy Rodriguezvocalist and bassist of Prophetic culturealso entered through Legend to the Marley universe. “My older sister recorded it on cassette. I took it from her, she lent it to me and I didn’t give it back. He was in seventh grade and had been playing bass in the school for two years. big band at school and I couldn’t get my foot in the door, I couldn’t find the bass. And it wasn’t until I heard that that I began to identify the bass in music well: it made me want to learn more and I got the hang of it. Later, my other sister took me to buy one that I wanted on cassette and gave me Positive Vibrationsaccount.

“I think anyone who got into Marley in the 80s With that album, he copied himself and went to his previous works. But surely, of course… We’re talking about someone who cares about music or is a musician, right? In itself it has a great weight because it was introductory, I can’t help but put it historically to when it emerged, when a new genre appeared in world music at the level. mainstream. I am going to defend this compilation my entire life,” Juanchi emphasizes when putting it in context.

In that sense, for Santiago Palazzo -director of God’sa cultural collective dedicated to reggae and which this year is in its 22nd season, Legend It had that impact of being initiatory. “It was the first cassette I had of Marley. Although he had already had a certain connection with reggae, such as when he came Eddy Grant to Argentina in 1981 or the little that was played on the radio Jimmy Cliff or some other Bob hit, it was my first album. And it was very important because it is surely the first album of his that was released in the country, which made it the great portal for reggae for many of my generation: I am 53 years old, but for some musicians like Guillermo Bonetto of The CAFRES either Fidel who are four or five years older than me, was also the gateway,” he says.

“Just in the 90s A lot of Jamaican music began to be released on CD, because it was cheap, and there began another flow of information. Among them, the album confrontationwhich is Marley’s true posthumous work, originally published in 1983, made from the vocal demos that he had recorded before he died,” Palazzo illustrates.

“I entered the reggae by The CAFRES and Gondwana. But there is a version of ‘Waiting in Vain’ that these two groups did together with Prophetic culture (“Waitin’ in vain”) which was what hooked me the most at that moment and made me get into Marley,” he says. Marcos Alvarez Igarzabaldirector of Pelagatos, the independent multimedia that has been broadcasting reggae in Argentina for 19 years. “Although I am more of a fan of his albums in life, which were conceptually conceived and with a specific search, I believe that the importance of Legend is in having managed to seduce those who are not reggaeros strain, to those who are not sick like us. It is one hit after the other: if you put it on when you make a barbecue and it is what hits the most. I’m not against compilations; If it serves to spread reggae, that’s fine,” he considers.

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