Bob Marley amazing interview with Gil Noble in New York – “Like it is” – 09/1980. Great video with subtitles in multi-language.
Interviewer: Pleased to have you as a guest on ‘Like It Is’.
Bob Marley: Thank you.
Interviewer: How did it all start? Has music always been a part of your life from when you were a little boy?
Bob Marley: Yeah, you know? I grew in a musical family- grandfather, mother, uncle, sister, child and everything.
Interviewer: What part of Jamaica?
Bob Marley: Uhm, Saint Ann, you know? As in the country.
Interviewer: Yeah? What town?
Bob Marley: Uhm, a town call Rhoden Hall. It’s not well known, in a little place up in the hills, you know.
Interviewer: How big is your family?
Bob Marley: Well my family is really big family, you know. Malcom- their family name is Malcom- is plenty.
Interviewer: That’s a good name. When did you begin to get involved in music really?
Bob Marley: Around 19…around 19…call it about 1958.
Interviewer: Doing what?
Bob Marley: Well we always interested in music but at that time I was learning trade, you know, and meet up some guys who can sing. One name Desmond Dekker. And so we started out from there and kind of rehearse together and thing, you know, and then one day he went away and did some recording then I followed after.
Interviewer: You weren’t doing the same kind of things then that you are doing now. What kind of music was it in the beginning?
Bob Marley: That music was Ska.
Bob Marley: Ska music, yeah.
Interviewer: How does Ska different from Reggae?
Bob Marley: Ska is different- different in sound, different in style, different playing, you know?
Bob Marley: Ska is a more quicker music than Reggae.
Interviewer: No relation?
Bob Marley: Yeah, is almost the same music break down to go much slower, you know?
Interviewer: Same root?
Bob Marley: Yeah. Is almost the same music- Ska- but only say now if it was playing at 33 it start playing at 7 and a half, you know?
Interviewer: That’s a good analogy. How does Reggae and Ska come out of Calypso? Many people ask that.
Bob Marley: Yeah, because Calypso was always there first.
Bob Marley: And then now when the musicians in Jamaica started to play- although they can play calypso too because they play a lot of Calypso- but because the American influence music come pass through down there, you know, they started to kind of get more….In those time you used to have Fats Domino and plenty of those types of people. So, after a while the music started to drift from the Reggae. It used to be a music almost like a half blues when you used to play before the Ska start, you know. Even people like Joe Higgs – ta-na-na, ta-na-na-nah, ta-na-na, ta-na-na-nah- you know that music, I used to play that plenty. So from there now it develop, to people start ching-ching-ching-ching-ching-ching for Ska, you know. And then, for Rock Steady it’s like: jeng, jeng,jeng. For Reggae now is ejec-ejec-ejec, you know. So you have 3 different feelings but the 3 of them can put together again and make one thing still.
Interviewer: Now, Calypso music, most of it dealt with family and folk stories and love and beautiful island in the sun and things like that. How did it move into what we’re getting in the music now where we have message?
Bob Marley: Because during that time of this Calypso and thing people were not so conscious about Africa and where their roots come from. Since Reggae came now people get…not from a point of music because the music is always conscious but since the Reggae come now the Reggae start to talk about Africa, blackness, you know, in a militant way. So that is how it kind of…that is how the lyrics differ from the ‘Oh, Island in the Sun’
Interviewer: Who were some of the influences?
Bob Marley: Well, I think my biggest influences are Marcus Garvey, Haile Selassie.
Interviewer: From what you heard coming up as a boy about Garvey or what you learned now that you’re grown or what?
Bob Marley: What we hear, what we read, you know, and what we know now about him.
Interviewer: Did you learn much about Garvey in school?
Bob Marley: No, no. You see they don’t teach…it’s the education that we don’t get in school, you know. We don’t get that type of education so that when we grow up we can know who we is. We get more education so that we might know who Christopher Columbus is or who Marco Polo is, you know? But we never really knew who Marcus Garvey is or who Haile Selassie is or any black man is.
Interviewer: Were you born as a Rasta? How did that evolve?
Bob Marley: Well, when I figure now I was born and when born and grown there was a certain amount of consciousness in highself that it was always a lonely world not finding people who might think like me, you know.
Bob Marley: Not to say that I think so differently but because of this consciousness about God and the people where I come from is more Christian. We always tried to stand up in the right. But what we used to find out is that one church quarrelling against the next church and I figured that I never wanted any of that, you know? I never wanted to enter into the thing where this one is fighting against that one and everybody talking about God still. So after going on and going on and coming up the thing that was there got more stronger. I came to Kingston, met some more people and those people were Rasta. I talked to them and found out that it is the same thing that I have inside it’s the same thing…
Interviewer: How old were you when this started to happen?
Bob Marley: This is about 17 or 18, you know. I found out that the same thing that I deal with is the same thing that a Rasta man talk about. So that is how I could identify myself as a Rasta by not changing.
Interviewer: What happened when you want back home and told you family what you had found?
Bob Marley: Oh, I never had a home to go back to.
Bob Marley: No. Where we are from everybody was gone, you know? Everybody gone, everybody live in America, some live in Kingston. Everybody gone so I never had a home that much although I used to have a home before my grandfather died. But after grandfather died everything got crashed. So, you know how it goes.
Interviewer: So you came to Kingston and that’s where it began to happen?
Bob Marley: Yeah.
Interviewer: Where did you live in Kingston? What part?
Bob Marley: East- we call it East Kingston. Out in the east. And then we go up to a place named Oxford Street, down to Spanish Town Road, ended up in Trench Town.
Interviewer: Yes. So for a long time things were kind of lean?
Bob Marley: Well, yes things were kind of lean, it is left to what is your expectation and what you do, you know? To me it was lean but I could stand it because coming from the country where you learn to do things like…you don’t learn to depend on family and all of that. You go out and you plant your own corn and you watch the corn grow. When the corn grow you pick your own corn, you know what I mean? All of those fruits on those trees you can get them, you know. So…
Interviewer: It’s a little different though in town
Bob Marley: Yeah.
Interviewer: You’ve got to do different things to eat.
Bob Marley: Well, when you are in a city it’s a whole different ball game. People have to go to work, catch the bus. In the country all you do is you go for the donkey and you ride the donkey to the farm and it’s cool, you know. In the city people hustle to catch the bus, go to work, get off work, come back home. So it was a different thing up there.
Interviewer: I know a little bit about Jamaica and I understand in Kingston, Trench Town is a rough part of town. How did you survive?
Bob Marley: Well while living in Trench Town, you know, as a young man surviving was easy. The only thing you had to really look out for was the police because the police could just get you, frame you, you go to prison and because you come from Trench Town. From they say, “Where are you from?” and you say, “Trench Town” you’re gone. You know what I mean? You got shipped out.
Interviewer: A lot of people are confused about what a Rasta really is and have a very negative image of the Rasta. Tell us what a Rasta is.
Bob Marley: See Christ promised that he would return within 2000 years and he said when he comes he will be the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Conquering Lion of Judah through the lineage of King Solomon and King David. Now, my life have great meaning to me so I really search to find out if God is here. When I searched I looked into Ethiopia. I looked all about; I looked in Germany because I am not prejudiced. I looked for God. I looked in Ethiopia and I saw 1 man stand up with these name Emperor Haile Selassie, named King of kings, Lord of lords, Conquering Lion of Judah through the lineage of King Solomon and King David written in the Bible. And one of my thing is that the Bible, they say that King James edit the Bible. Now my understanding is that if King James edit the Bible I don’t think he edited it for the benefit of black people. So when the revelation turned out that Haile Selassie is the King of Kings and Lord of lords coming straight through the line of King Solomon and King David then I really knew that this is the Christ returned because we know that in this world that when the white man edit it he wouldn’t edit it in our behalf, you know? He would more edit to make it look as if England is going to be the big thing but in the last days here it has been proved that it is Ethiopia and Haile Selassie. And Haile Selassie’s name is Rasta so we who are called Rasta is called by his name. And then it’s a lot of things. We go as far as saying “He said when he returned and you call upon him”- now this is God- “When he he returned and you call upon him your mother and your father will forsake you.” Now we know that if you call upon the Catholics they embrace you. If you call upon the Church of God they embrace you. Any religion you call upon you might get embraced. The only religion where they push you away from is Rasta but that just makes the truth more real because he said, “When he and you call upon him your mother and your father will forsake you.” And that is why today you hear Rasta get so much bad name, it’s not because Rastas are doing anything bad but it’s because of how the prophesy goes. If your mother and your father will forsake you just imagine people who don’t even know you, you know what I mean?
Interviewer: Well, in most religions you go to church on Sunday and you may go to Bible class once or twice during the week. Is that pretty much basically the same in Rasta or is it more involved?
Bob Marley: No. What we say now is that the man is the church. The Bible is there but what we find out now is that a lot of people read the Bible but they don’t understand the Bible because the approach to the Bible is wrong. I mean there is no way you can read a book, just take up a book and just read in the middle and figure that you can find out what was happening from the beginning to the middle. The Bible is a whole book with a whole tradition in it and from they read from Genesis to Revelation the whole truth of the whole straight road with the ‘overstanding’ is there. So it’s not to say then that we just go to church and do like the other Christians. We know that the man is the church because you see, We know that the man is the church because you see, We- our people- have a root and when we searched for it and we found it in Rasta. Because there is no other way, we don’t see any other way; it’s Rasta we found our roots in, you know?
Interviewer: How do you handle fame?
Bob Marley: I handle fame by not being famous.
Interviewer: Come on, you know you’re a famous man?
Bob Marley: No, not to me.
Bob Marley: I’m not famous to me.
Interviewer: Some people get drunk off of fame.
Bob Marley: You see, I learn, I learn. From we were coming in, from I just start the music the people wanted me. They showed me that, hey, this game is a game that if your mind isn’t sharp you will lose you consciousness. So the only way you can lose you consciousness is if you figure that you’re getting some people to say ‘raaa’ your head might get swollen and if you head swells that’s it. So, you know, I had done kept my head in a bandage so that it can’t swell. True
Interviewer: How do you handle the women? They come at you in droves. People have visions of women beating down the doors to get at Bob Marley and grabbing clothes. Is it like that?
Bob Marley: No.
Bob Marley: No. Women are easy, you know?
Interviewer: Is it difficult to keep your balance and not get to feeling more important than you really are when so many people are after you all the time for different things.
Bob Marley: No, you see, I don’t think…I never really checked myself and really…I know I am of benefit to the people, you know, that’s the only consciousness I have of myself that I can be beneficial to a people and I don’t know anything else, I only know that.
Interviewer: What do you think it is that has made Bob Marley such a big name?
Bob Marley: I think it may be just what Bob Marley stands for.
Interviewer: What is that?
Bob Marley: The truth. And his determination to stay alive and to survive.
Interviewer: You have a record out called ‘Survival’.
Bob Marley: Yeah. That was last year.
Interviewer: Did anything happen to you to cause you to write that?
Bob Marley: Well, in 1976 they shot at me, right?
Bob Marley: And I figure that that was survival.
Interviewer: What happened when you were shot? You were in your home. Was it in the morning or at night, what happened?
Bob Marley: Well, it was about 9 o’clock in the night.
Bob Marley: What happened was that about 3 nights before that I was living at a place before that- I was living at a place called Bull Bay- and I went home about 3 o’clock in the morning and got some sleep. Then I envisioned that I was in a lot of gunshots. That was a dream that I was in a barrage of gunshot but when it was all over I never really got any shot but I saw my mother getting shot. The vision showed my mother getting shot in her head. What happened is that the vision said, “Don’t run!” During all of this, gunshot it’s as if something in the vision said, “Don’t run. Stand up.” So when the gunshots started to fire in Hope Road the first thing that came back to me was the vision and all I could remember was that the vision said, “Don’t run!” and so I had to stand up, you know? They fired and fired until they were just tired of firing and then because it is not really a lawful gun battle men started to run and it eased up.
Interviewer: Where were you hit?
Bob Marley: Here.
Interviewer: Yeah. Went right through?
Bob Marley: No, they say it is lodged inside here.
Bob Marley: Yeah.
Interviewer: You never saw the gunman?
Bob Marley: Well, at that time- no.
Interviewer: But you know who did it?
Bob Marley: Yeah, I know them.
Interviewer: Were they caught?
Bob Marley: No, I didn’t bother courting the police. It’s just one of those things.
Interviewer: You have a record company now?
Bob Marley: Yeah.
Bob Marley: Oh, it’s a long time since we had a record company. What we have now is a recording studio. When we went into the studio to work it was a lot of hassle. I mean we are Rasta, you know? Some people don’t want any Rasta in their studio. Now to stop all of this you have to make one because a man might say, “Now, you say Haile Selassie is God. Go and build your own studio.” So, you know, Haile Selassie is God and we went and built our own studio. So that’s just how it goes. These things come through sabotage and through pressure. If everything was nice maybe we wouldn’t have to build any studio but it’s just a tricky place. It’s not everyone has that humanitarian feeling. Some people are just dealing with…they don’t even know what they are dealing with
Interviewer: What’s ahead for Bob Marley? Do you know, do you have an agenda or a master plan?
Bob Marley: Well, I feel ahead for I and I is the unity of African and then when the unity of Africa come people will really understand that there was something in this thing or there was something in it.
Interviewer: Do you think of yourself more as an African more than a Jamaican?
Bob Marley: Yeah. Because one of the main thing is that we are Rasta and from you accept Rasta you become an Ethiopian which is Africa. Next thing again the history of Jamaica show us that the Arawak Indians were living there and it belonged to the Arawak Indian. Now, our history show that through slave business Black people came out to the west and thing. So we still figure that Africa is the root and that is where we must return to.
Interviewer: What do you see as most of Africa’s problems as far as uniting?
Bob Marley: I see Africa’s problems as that outside people keep on fatiguing the people and let them can’t really get their things together. If it’s not this super power it’s that super power but Africa is just a place that they use to exploit. No one really….Africa is so rich that it becomes…a man will go into Africa, steal what he wants to steal and carry it back to his country. And Africa remains there like… but Africa is ready.
Interviewer: Garvey used to say, “Africa for the Africans”. Is that how you feel?
Bob Marley: Yeah, Africa for Africans, at home and abroad, you know?
Interviewer: Will your home base though always be Jamaica or someday would you like to live in Africa?
Bob Marley: No, someday it is going to be in Africa.
Bob Marley: Maybe way up in Jerusalem, you know what I mean? In those Bible lands.
Interviewer: What do you think lies ahead for Jamaica?
Bob Marley: I think what lies ahead for Jamaica is that Jamaica is a beautiful island. The best thing Jamaica could be is just like how England owns Jamaica, Jamaica should allow some part of Africa to own Jamaica. You know what I mean? And it would be nicer. But it is going to be a thing where you are always going to have a war because the only solution is either they get themselves with Nigeria or with someone. But let Jamaica become some African…something to do with Africa, that Africa owns Jamaica. But because of people and a lot of ideology and philosophy that they want to come with, some people want to be Marxist, some want to be this, some want to be that and a lot of people don’t want to be who they are and what they are is African and Africa has its own culture and its own people. All it needs is….people are keeping it down for it to either die out of the earth or something.
Interviewer: What is your feeling about the condition of black people in the United States?
Bob Marley: I feel like black people should develop themselves. Not to say well that this development of self has any prejudice to it. It’s just that we are a people with our own history and culture and we can educate ourselves. We are the first creators so we have to really…everything that you see in this world is the black man made it. I’m not saying that the white man didn’t make some but all wisdom comes from the black man.
Interviewer: You know, a lot of young viewers look up to you and are going to want to hang on every word and every syllable. Do you have a message for young people?
Bob Marley: Well, you know, the whole thing again is to really check out the truth of Rasta and don’t allow ‘followism’ don’t allow you to check it out. Or don’t get too busy that you can’t check out the truth because the truth is there and Africa awaits its creators. We know that the people in the west head wise, they are ready, you know? They have to learn… what they learn in the west they have to carry it home to their people to let it benefit the people. Because how long must the black people suffer and we are a people. We have our own culture, we have everything, and we are not short of anything. We have everything! Plus we have a land that no one is living there and we must go home to it. When you go home you can build all of these big buildings if you want. I mean if you miss a city, build a city. If you want a car you can get a car. I don’t see the big thing. One time America was… maybe used to have lots of old- what would you call it- all sorts of things walking through. Africa is a peaceful place. They only fool black people that it is a jungle and blah, blah, boom, boom.
Interviewer: Where have you been in Africa besides Ethiopia?
Bob Marley: Zimbabwe.
Interviewer: Oh, yeah?
Bob Marley: Yeah. Gabon.
Interviewer: How does Zimbabwe strike you?
Bob Marley: Well, you know, Zimbabwe nice man. Zimbabwe really nice. I mean it’s like a paradise in a place, you know. When you go in and see it- beautiful!
Interviewer: How did the people react to you?
Bob Marley: People were great. Yeah. People good. You know, in those places when you go and see how the land is set up, you see people living, you see a man having his house on a nice piece of… and then the climate, you can go out all the while. The climate is nice outside. If you want to go look at a few lions and thing you can walk and go. And if you want to see some things that men didn’t make and it looks like someone made it, as all in Zimbabwe too. Because I went into a place and I see some stone, farm and I know it’s no any man that made it but the way it is formed it’s higher than something.
Interviewer: It’s really been a pleasant and informative experience talking to you Brother Marley.
Bob Marley: Nice.
Interviewer: And thank you for your time.
Bob Marley: Irie!
Interviewer: Wish you well.
Bob Marley: Rasta.