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YMMV / Bob Marley

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  • Album Filler: You could definitely get the impression that aside from "Get Up Stand Up", "I Shot The Sheriff" and "Burnin' And Lootin'" (which are all career-defining classics), Burnin' was quite a lazily made album compared to the preceding Catch A Fire. "Hallelujah Time" was a new song submitted by Bunny Wailer that could easily be one of his solo recordings (although he never remade it), and "Rastaman Chant" was a traditional song that had been part of their live set. The remaining five songs are remakes - "Small Axe", "Duppy Conqueror" and "Put It On" being easy-listening arrangements of live set staples that not coincidentally featured in their original versions on Trojan's "African Herbsman" compilation the same year, "Pass It On" being a remake of Bunny's solo version from the previous year, and the Peter-led "One Foundation" being based around a section of The Soulettes' "Bring It Up" (a song written by Bob a couple of years before). The album is certainly not bad, but illustrates that the band wasn't writing as collaboratively as they had been (and indeed, it turned out later that Bunny and Peter were saving most of their new ideas for solo albums).
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  • All Animation Is Disney: The internet believes that all reggae music is by Bob Marley, even if it's miscredited to him. Similarly, some of the compilation albums featuring tracks with Peter Tosh or Bunny Wailer on vocals but don't denote this, making some people think it's Bob Marley. This was a berserk button for Bunny in particular.
  • Archive Panic: He was very prolific in his 19 year career. From 1962-1970, he released dozens of singles and no albums, so you'll need a slew of different compilations to have everything from this period (specifically, Heartbeat and JAD have done the best job of this - if not entirely complete). Then you have the albums, several of which can be found in different mixes. Then, there's the enormous amount of unreleased material, from live shows, to leaked acoustic demo tapes, to rehearsals of never recorded material. Bob collectors are an obsessive bunch, but what gets officially released is thin on the ground. It doesn't help that much of the JAD stuff can't be found on streaming services anymore (as it was done due to a licensing deal with Universal, which expired), and that Bob's estate take little risks when it comes to archive releases, preferring remix albums or late-period live shows.
  • Covered Up: "One Love (People Get Ready)" from Exodus is this of "People Get Ready" by The Impressions. Whilst "People Get Ready" is a relatively famous song in its own right, "One Love" is much more famous.
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    • "My Cup", one of the most famous Lee Perry era tracks, is a cover of the obscure James Brown track "I've Got To Cry Cry Cry".
    • "African Herbsman", a reworking of "Indian Rope Man" by Richie Havens, is better known than the original in most places thanks to lending its title to a famous early 70s compilation on Trojan, as well as appearing on many of the cheap compilations that used to flood the market before Universal/Jad gained control of the material.
    • Wailers related, but actually sung by Bunny Wailer: "Dreamland" is a cover of a song called "My Dream Island" from 1962 by an obscure band called El Tempos. Somewhat egregiously, Bunny would credit himself as the writer of the song on every release from that point on. The original artist was not noted by reggae historians until the 1990s.
    • The 1968 Peter Tosh-sung track "The World Is Changing" (known erroneously on some releases as "You Can't Do That To Me") was written by Jimmy Norman and was released by the soul group The Coasters around the same time. The Wailers version was not released during their lifetime (it first emerged in the mid 80s) yet has become more famous than the version that did get released. In this period, though unrecorded, Tosh also encountered Norman's song "Soon Come" and took it for himself, changing the lyrics slightly.
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    • This can generally be said for the many early 60s doo-wop and country songs the group covered in their Studio One days. It was common practice for Jamaican record producers to find obscure American songs to cover so they could have a quick hit without paying royalties. Only in 2021 did the Bob fandom become aware that his first single "Judge Not" is based on a 1960 track by Margie Bowes.
  • Critical Research Failure: A minor one, but modern reissues of The Best Of The Wailers (Beverleys) have a beige background when it should be white. The reason for this is that most original vinyl copies of the album have yellowed over time due to the card used, and the cover was touched up by someone who didn't realise this. On the rare occasion a sealed original has appeared, the cover is clearly white.
    • There is a surprisingly large amount of this in books. From Timothy White's book "Catch A Fire", which at times skews the facts for a more entertaining story, to the booklet of Songs Of Freedom with vague liner notes written without listening to the actual songs. One of the strangest is the assertion in "Bob Marley: The Untold Story" that the group were performing "Bad Card" and the Bunny Wailer track "Crucial" despite neither being released until the early 80s, and that both were used as campaign songs by local politicians.
  • Darker and Edgier: "Soul Rebels" is a strikingly dark album, both on a musical and lyrical level. It was a monumental step both in The Wailers' career and for the development of reggae music in general, as it pretty much invented the minor key roots sound that diverged the genre from its party-oriented roots. Of particular note are the title track, which starts the album off on a noticeably sombre note, "My Cup" (a James Brown cover), "Reaction", and the two Peter Tosh songs "400 Years" and "No Sympathy".
  • Dork Age: The attempts to record easy-listening/soul-influenced reggae to make it big in America with Johnny Nash's JAD label, of which there were two sessions in 1968 and one in 1972. These in fact, only produced two singles in the time they were made (1968's "Bend Down Low/"Mellow Mood" and 1972's "Reggae On Broadway/Oh Lord Got To Get There"), but many of the other tracks recorded at that time have since been released. The easy-listening remakes of previously recorded songs are decidedly limp, and the Jimmy Norman-composed songs the band performed are generally out of step with their style.
  • Face of the Band: To the point that people often forget that he had a huge band behind him.
    • Interestingly this wasn't the case during 1966 when he temporarily left the Wailers to work in America. Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were the face of the band for several songs each during this period.
      • Further expansion: Bob sang lead on, and wrote, most of The Wailers' 60s and early 70s material. By 1970, the band were being credited as Bob Marley And The Wailers even when Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer sang and contributed their own material. Chris Blackwell insisted that Catch a Fire and Burnin' be credited to The Wailers in order to give all the members equal credit, but Trojan and Studio One's releases from the same time period credited Bob Marley And The Wailers. When Peter and Bunny left a couple of years later, the band officially became Bob Marley And The Wailers again and initially, it made very little difference to their sound (female vocalists, I-Threes, replaced them on harmonies and none of Peter or Bunny's songs were used, with the exception of previously recorded ones being played live). As time went on, the I-Threes vocal style became less about harmony and more about call-and-response, which differentiated Marley's later work from the earlier work.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Although a trio (for most of their existence), The Wailers fit this trope well:
    • Bob was Sanguine, the friendliest of the group, but criticised for being too much of a people pleaser at times. Although he could take a while to trust people, he could sometimes be too trusting - many felt his manager Don Taylor was trying to take advantage of him, for example. He could pick up women with ease and as a result, had the most children.
    • Peter was Choleric, he was very intelligent and good at talking to people, but didn't suffer fools gladly and was known to be the most aggressive of the three if you wronged him. He was the first member of the group to take an interest in politics and wasn't afraid to take part in demonstrations or face police brutality for his beliefs.
    • Bunny was Melancholic, an introvert whose chief characteristics were his mellow songwriting and distrust of pretty much everybody. He was the most religious of the group and was considered by some to have the ability to put curses on people.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: He was popular in France considerably before his mid 70s breakthrough, so many of his older recordings can be found there that can't be found in most places outside of Jamaica. France was even the first country where an attempt was made to collect all his 1967-1972 material, hence The Complete Wailers LPs have French liner notes (there are US CD versions which don't).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Sun Is Shining" is often singled out in this regard, as it features happy lyrics over noticeably dark music (something that remained even when he recut the song for "Kaya" 8 years afterwards). Conversely, there are later songs like "Real Situation" that feature happy music and dark lyrics.
  • Memetic Mutation: The use of "Babylon" as a derogatory term to refer to the police and government authorities.
    • The Marley fandom likes to use the phrase "Half the story has never been told" (a line from "Get Up Stand Up") every time a new piece of information comes up.
    • The group even spawned one in their lifetime with "Reggae is another bag" (a line from "Lively Up Yourself"), a phrase that can be used towards anyone who doesn't get the genre (particularly, western record execs).
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • A majority of people who claim to be Bob Marley fans only seem to be this because it gives them an excuse to smoke marijuana while listening to his music. In fact: even people who don't listen to Marley or reggae for that matter seem to believe that it is basically only for stoners.
    • Some people, especially those who don't speak English that well, frequent misinterpret "No Woman, No Cry" as a Misogyny Song, thinking it means that without women there would be no reason to cry. A lot of idiots find this incredibly funny, but the last laugh is actually on them, because the song is simply about a man telling a woman not to cry, despite their misery.
  • Misattributed Song: Every reggae song (and even some dancehall songs) in existence has probably been attributed to him (this is mostly a problem on YouTube and file-sharing sites).
  • Misblamed: A number of fans seem to think that Chris Blackwell was the sole cause of the Wailers' breakup. In fact, Chris was the one who advised Bob *against* a solo career (which he had been attempting at CBS with Johnny Nash), bringing the rest of the Wailers along. It was only because Bunny and Peter disagreed with Bob's increasing plans for worldwide fame and distrust of Blackwell that they left the group (the backing band, including longtime members Aston and Carlton Barrett, stayed). Furthermore, Peter Tosh himself said as much, noting that The Wailers never 'broke up' as they were like brothers, and that he and Bunny just refused to be part of the Island contract. They still sporadically collaborated later on.
  • Newer Than They Think: Although "One Love (People Get Ready)" was included on the 1977 album Exodus (album), it wasn't released as a single during Marley's lifetime. In fact, it was only released as a single in 1984, in order to promote the posthumous compilation Legend on which it appears. Yet it is always included alongside the "Exodus" singles on compilations, despite the fact that the average listener would not have heard of the song in 1977.
    • The 1972 Jamaican release of "Catch A Fire" was exactly the same as it was elsewhere, but rumours abounded for years that the versions released there had no overdubs. This was exacerbated by the 2002 Deluxe Edition of the album, which featured a bonus disc of a so-called "Original Jamaican Version", featuring two dropped tracks "High Tide Or Low Tide" and "All Day All Night". The truth is that the band had intended from the outset to include overdubs on the tracks, although they did release a handful of un-overdubbed versions on Tuff Gong singles in Jamaica during the process the album was being finished. The single versions, coupled with a few overdub-free alternate takes from the archive and the two outtakes, were compiled into a version of the album that never actually existed, and sold to fans as this mythical original version. Even the track order was decided in 2002 to purposefully make it different to the original, rather than being what the band necessarily intended. Some fans still do prefer this version of the album, and demand has led it being released on vinyl on more than one occasion, but it is a recent creation.
    • Four tracks from Lee Scratch Perry's archives are often erroneously grouped with earlier material. They are "Keep On Skanking" and "Turn Me Loose", both from 1974 (the former track uses the backing music of Leo Graham's "Doctor Demand", a then-recent recording), as well as "Natural Mystic" and "Rainbow Country", both from 1975. None of them were intended for release during Bob's lifetime and were essentially demos he cut with an idea of possibly having Lee "Scratch" Perry produce Rastaman Vibration (a period which also resulted in "Jah Live").
  • Older Than They Think: Famously, "One Love" dates back to 1965 as a ska song, but what is lesser known is that the familiar 1977 reggae arrangement was first made as a one-off for the Original Wailers reuniting at the Dream Concert in 1975, originally part of a medley with Simmer Down. It escaped recording for Rastaman Vibration, but was included on Exodus, partly because with it as filler, Bob had enough tracks left over from the sessions to produce another album, Kaya.
  • The Pete Best: The early Wailers had an additional singer, Junior Braithwaite, who left the group after only a few months and pretty much retired from music. His biggest contribution was "It Hurts To Be Alone", which the group continued to perform for years after he left the band, before he reemerged as a backing musician on some Bunny Wailer material in the 80s, before being murdered in 1999. The band members and label both spoke highly of his contributions to the band years after the fact, and it's hard not to wonder what could have been.
  • Signature Song: "One Love (People Get Ready)", "No Woman No Cry" (in the version of Live!).
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Compare the "Ay ya ya!" part of "Buffalo Soldier" to, of all thing, the theme song for The Banana Splits.
    • "I'm Still Waiting" is extremely similar to Billy Stewart's "Sitting In The Park". This isn't a coincidence, as The Wailers loved the song (there exists a recording of Bob singing "Sitting In The Park" down the phone, and Bunny recorded a solo version.)
    • Although their 1970 album "The Best Of The Wailers" is regarded as full of excellent songs, it stands out for having a production style distinctive to the Beverley's label of that time - in particular that of Toots And The Maytals (who were the company's biggest act then), as well as contemporary releases by The Gaylads and Ken Boothe. This is because the label's in-house musicians played on all its releases. Bob, Peter and Bunny left the label before the album was released (it came out a year later) and soon after would team up with Aston and Carly Barrett of The Hippy Boys, whose bass and drum parts would be central to the writing of their songs from that point on until Bob's death over a decade later.
  • Tear Jerker: "Redemption Song" partly due to its status as the final track placed on the last album he performed in while alive (Uprising), partly due to the song itself.
    • "Wisdom", atypically for its era, is an absolutely beautiful rocksteady ballad.
    • "Stand Alone" - you can't help but feel moved by the line 'How could I be so wrong, to think that we could get along?'
  • Tough Act to Follow: Cracked's "5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre" calls Exodus (album) and Legend a tough act to follow in reggae.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: It's easy to forget now, but "Zimbabwe" was written at a time the country was still called Rhodesia, and to use the intended African name in a song was considered quite revolutionary. In fact, the song was so popular in then-Rhodesia that it was banned there. What really hammers the point home is that the single sleeve features Robert Mugabe, who was campaigning to lead an independent Zimbabwe. He was successful, but he turned the country into a dictatorship, which he ruled for 40 years.
  • Values Dissonance: Bob's tendency to have children with numerous partners seems unusual by western standards, but is actually very common in Jamaica, where it's seen as a sign of masculinity. His father had a reputation in Jamaica for it when he was born, and his mother had numerous partners too. Regardless of all this, he and Rita Marley stayed married for 15 years - from 1966 until his death in 1981 - and really did seem to love each other despite their numerous affairs.
  • Vindicated by History:
    • His Rastafari religion was ridiculed by numerous music journalists in the 1970s, but this wouldn't happen nowadays, as people have a far greater understanding of its importance to Jamaican culture.
    • He also is widely liked amongst an African-American audience compared to when he started playing shows in America. Many black people at the time were interested in soul and funk music and felt reggae was primitive in comparison. You wouldn't know this now, because he's had a profound influence on hip hop and soul music.

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