Robert Nesta Marley (Feb. 6, 1945 - May 11, 1981) 20 years after release, Bob Marley album is a 'Legend'
By Rachel Sauer
Cox News Service
It's a breezy afternoon in West Palm Beach, and the pale boys with blond dreadlocks aren't studying for finals. They're playing Hacky Sack on the lawn outside the dorms.
They shrug and smile a lot and have half-closed eyes that suggest being stoned, or wanting to be thought of as stoned. When it's hinted that they should study, they grin lazily and drawl, "Don't worry 'bout it, brah."
Why aren't they stressed? Why aren't they anxious and sleep-deprived? Who signed their get-out-of-finals-purgatory-free cards?
Maybe it was the man whose voice is sweetly drifting through the fresh spring air, emanating from stereo speakers pushed up to an open dorm window. Something about three little birds.
Ohhhh, right right right. Bob Marley. "Legend." Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery and don't worry 'bout a thing, stuff like that.
This explains a lot, knowing that "Legend" is playing: It's been the soundtrack of so many freshman years. Of so many fledgling political awakenings. Of so much pot smoked, so many desultory games of Frisbee, so much philosophical navel-gazing on the patio as the sun goes down.
Released 20 years ago last Saturday (May 8, 1984), "Legend," a greatest-hits album that came out three years after Marley died, is one of the bestselling albums of all time -- about 10 million copies sold in the United States and 15 million sold worldwide, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
But among bestsellers, it is one of just a handful that truly can be considered classic -- a breach-in-time sort of album of music that isn't about nostalgia, but perpetual relevance.
"Legend" is unique because it's become more than just music. It's an idea, a lifestyle, a web of cultural touchstones spun in a delicate vortex. In the realm of musical-taste-as-statement-of-personal-identity, "Legend" says: I generally care about world events. I favor cotton clothing. I think stress is bad. I want to stop injustice. I'm all for love. I wouldn't say no to the herb, if you get my drift.
"'Legend' represents a certain way of looking at the world that I don't think many people want to disagree with," says Chuck Klosterman, a senior writer for Spin magazine.
Through songs culled from such Bob Marley and the Wailers' albums as "Burnin'," "Kaya" and "Exodus," the "Legend" worldview is one of universal love, righteous anger, going with the flow and shared single beds.
Not surprisingly, these messages are really popular.
"Reggae has a social conscience," says Keith Allen, a steel-drum player and instructor in West Palm. "That's why Bob Marley is so popular. People know something is wrong in the world, and it's the duty of music to shine a light on the issues."
On "Legend," the message in songs such as "Buffalo Soldier" or "Exodus" may seethe, but the music's lilting rhythms and feel-good sounds make it go down easy. It has given millions of listeners a gentle introduction to music and issues beyond U.S. borders, says Richard Aquila, chairman of the history department at Ball State University in Indiana.
"It is without question the record owned by people who only have one reggae album," Klosterman says. Its songs are widely considered the best of the genre, as well as the easiest to listen to.
For many, discovering "Legend" is a life milestone. Among albums that are constantly being discovered, "Legend" resonates strongly with those developing a social conscience, Klosterman says (as opposed to, say, any Grateful Dead album).
"Legend" is the album of the pre-protest vegetarian potluck, of the head shop, of the grubby patchouli-drenched philosophy majors who just want everyone in the world to love each other and go mountain biking together.
"It's one of those albums . . . that transcends time," singer Wyclef Jean said in a VH1 interview. "Throw on 'Legend,' it's an album that you can do anything to. You can take long trips with your kids to 'Legend.' You can make love to 'Legend.' You can get into an argument and make up to 'Legend.' How many albums could you do that with?
" 'Legend' is one of those albums you can even hear in Kentucky, where they don't like hip-hop or reggae. It just is one of those albums that influences everybody."http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/entertainment/music/8634282.htm?1c