Interview of Bob Marley by Neville Willoughby in 1973 Jamaica.
This interview was recorded in December 1973 in Bullbay,Jamaica by Neville Willoughby.
Neville Willoughby is a Jamaican Disc Jockey/Broadcaster, singer, song writer and author, he played a crucial role in the bob marley story. He was the one who introduced Bob Marley to Johnny Nash.
Interviewer: Bob, first of all, you just came from a tour. Where were you?
Bob Marley: In England, you know. Was in America first and then after America, we went to England.
Interviewer: The tour in America I hear was Sly and the Family Stone. What was it like working with them?
Bob Marley: Great, you know. Yes we are on this tour with Sly and did some shows with him until after a while we never finished about 3 of the shows because we added some dates on ours.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: So that’s how it really went with that.
Interviewer: Listen, now the time has come when you are going on tours with people like Sly and the Family Stone. I mean these are people that we hear about in Jamaica and when you hear the name you know they are big stars. When you perform on the same bill with persons like that do you feel any different from when you perform in Jamaica on your own?
Bob Marley: Well right now the difference in feelings…right now I don’t feel any difference. I just want to play good music and play good music. So I don’t care where the music is playing because it is not the people that we are playing; we are playing music. You know?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: So we just love to play good music.
Interviewer: But Bob have you at all made any changes in the way you play your music when you go to America or you just paly it the same way that you play it here?
Bob Marley: Well, to tell you the truth, the music that I play or the music that I would like to play is a music that plays in Jamaica but it never really got the full understanding or the music that I’m going to play…..Because the next… from now on it’s my music that we’re going to play now.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. Of course this business about you being popular in England nowadays. You just told me you’re on the cover of which magazine? What magazine in England this week; one of the music magazines?
Bob Marley: I hear it is Melody Maker.
Interviewer: Alright. So you’re on the cover of Melody Maker in Britain. That must mean that they think a great deal of you. Critics write about your records and all that sort of thing. Do you think this is the point that you want it to reach or what exactly is the point that you want to get to in music?
Bob Marley: Well the point is the fulfillment of revelation. And I know that it is my work to go out into Babylon to really do what I do. But I find myself doing it and I can’t stop it because a greater power that the power that I know of myself. Let me do it and then I find no harm coming to me so I do it. But the real thing is that His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I is earth’s rightful ruler and I am a citizen of the earth and Zion is Ethiopia. Well, I don’t know if it is my work to go out into Babylon and really get the youths together but I find myself in a form where if I have understanding or overstanding I can see it really is doing something towards something, you know. And it’s revelation now.
Interviewer: Now Bob, can we talk a little bit about you and how you started out in this singing business? I know you started very young. How did you start?
Bob Marley: Started out crying.
Interviewer: Right from the start?
Bob Marley: Started out crying, you know. And then music becomes a part or music is a part or was a part. But to tell you how it really started it’s really a thing that I am going to have to think about how it really started because I can’t be ungrateful to Jah. Because today we start yet it was yesterday. So from the beginning, Jah was creating it in the starting for the man to start.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: You know what I mean? So I really have to think about from creation then.
Interviewer: Alright. So let’s get it down to this sort of terms now. When did you first go in a studio or somebody got you in a studio or you went on a stage show or something; perform in public?
Bob Marley: Oh, about 1960. 1959 or 1960.
Interviewer: Yeah. What is that? You went into a kitchen to record?
Bob Marley: No.
Interviewer: You went on a stage show?
Bob Marley: Kestin, yes. Kestin. They used to have a little thing down by Queens. So one night I went in there to sing a tune and I won a pound. And the men told me to start singing.
Interviewer: Right away?
Bob Marley: Yeah because in those times they used to be down Darling Street and Salt Lane and Back- a- Wall and those places among some brethren who know the right but get brutalized by just saying right things, you know what I mean?
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know Bob it seems to me you always seem to come back to the situation when you talk that you’re always aware of the suffering. It seems to me that you keep coming back to it all the time. Would you say that you’re a bitter person or angry or you know?
Bob Marley: Well, I see the earth today in evil, and when I look at the earth I know that people are living off false pretense, the majority of them and I know that I don’t have to suffer the way that we are suffering. Not because of material things but in some ways material things become an object that makes us have to suffer. And because of the people and the teaching that they got and they want to come and teach us the same teaching- the old wine that they got and we are showing them the truth today. So they fight against the truth because they say, “Well then because of this self-pride and respect.” Because you’re older than me I shouldn’t come and tell you something that you should have known a long, long time ago. So you use this false pride and fight me down because when I tell you about Rastafari because of your long experience that you’ve had from time ago about the teaching that you got, you can’t see new…This is not even a new wine; this is creation, you know? But you can’t see something that they don’t teach you; you only have to see what they teach you.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: So it’s not angry and all of that but it’s just truth and it has to burst out of a man like a river
Interviewer: Right, right. And you way to burst it out is in your music? That’s the way it comes out. That’s your expression?
Bob Marley: Well, well, yes. That’s how we talk.
Interviewer: Alright, listen now. You talk about material things, right? But Bob quite frankly I don’t think you would fairly say that right now you are a sufferer in the sense of money.
Bob Marley: Well, if you check what money is then money doesn’t make you suffer and money doesn’t make you not suffer. Hey, everything really rest in your mind. Because dig this. I am a farmer, you know and I do live with money. They could never give me a penny and I have to live. But again I can play music and I am not afraid of the earth. So I play music and if money should come out of music let money come out of music; it is not that my heart is really opened wide and bleeding blood to get money.
Interviewer: Yeah, right.
Bob Marley: Because the thing is Selassie I is the king of kings on earth. Now which guy on earth rich like the king of kings? So my father is the richest man on earth so I am a rich, rich man. But I and I mind let I and I suffer here because it’s not material things that make you suffer because Jah said he never give a man more than he can bear. That means even is a man told me that he never drank and tea and the other day he never drank any tea because I know if the man wanted to drink tea he could have drank tea. So it’s the mind that the thing are in.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s fantastic- you know? A lot of people listen to popular music, right? They listen to records and if they’re not….Some people listen to it and all they hear is the rhythm; something for them to dance to. But it seems to me that you put a lot into your lyrics. Does it bother you that Jamaica’s people don’t hear your lyrics as well as they should? Or you think that they understand them and your message is getting across?
Bob Marley: Well, I say, “Many shall be called and only few are chosen” right? And then the people have to listen for the trumpet which is not any trumpet that is going to be blown. It’s men that are going to talk that His Imperial Majesty is earth’s rightful ruler
Interviewer: Now, Bob, a lot of recording artistes have come on the show and a lot of them have talked in very bad terms about record producers in Jamaica and about the record industry in Jamaica, generally. Now you have been in it for a couple years well now. What is your opinion of the situation now?
Bob Marley: In Jamaica and the recording scene in Jamaica?
Bob Marley: Well I think we’re having a nice revolution because plenty of youths doing recordings that didn’t know that they were going to do recordings. You know what I mean? So right now I love what is going on. Truly.
Interviewer: But when you first started out, did you have any bad experiences with record producers?
Bob Marley: Well, yes but that is what causes the revolution today. Because they treated us so badly in those times the word spread around that the producer is treating us badly that means that all artistes start doing things for themselves. And men are doing things for little sufferers and getting it together down in the ghetto. And the guys that have their big studio and draw off that they are middle class and this and we can only come in their studio and talk to them and do a tune and get a 20 pounds. All of those things get a beating and it’s only opportunists going through those tribulation right now. Because it’s tribulations on both sides. For the youth when he is coming and for the man when he gets old.
Interviewer: But listen did you- when you were coming along in the business and you’re having some bad experiences- did you feel at any time that you had had enough? That you would like to get out of this business or is it something that you cannot get out of?
Bob Marley: Yeah man. One time…Well alright, getting out of the business is a different thing. But one time I felt like I should take up my arms, you know, and do a thing but Jah said, ‘No, youth. Cool.” Because that’s how earth rests. I am glad that’s how it worked out for men. They go on with too much wickedness out there.
Interviewer: Tell me, now let’s go to this business of your religion. You’re a Rastafarian. How long have you been a Rastafarian?
Bob Marley: How long have I been Rastafarian? I am a Rasta man. I stand Rasta. To say how long is like again you have to say from creation, you know what I mean? If you can overstand it that way. Because you would like me to say 10 years or 15 years but it’s not really that way. It’s from creation.
Interviewer: But you know a lot of people in Jamaica they hear about Rasta, they see Rasta but there are a lot of things about it that they do not understand. Could you explain to people exactly what it means- being Rastafarian?
Bob Marley: I would say to the people, man, “Be still and know that his Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia is the almighty.” Now anyone who has anything to say come up and say it loud and let me hear what they have to say. Now the Bible says so; Babylon newspaper says so and I and I the children say so. You know?
Bob Marley: So I don’t see what kind of more revealed our people want God to be revealed to them. What do they want? Do they want a white god? Well, God comes black.
Interviewer: Well, listen Bob…
Bob Marley: True, true.
Interviewer: Yeah, but listen, a lot of people have a feeling that a lot of guys who claim to be Rastas are really as on song says ‘rascals’.
Bob Marley: Many shall be called but only few chosen, you know. And there shall be sheep and wolf in sheep clothing. But I and I couldn’t watch that this day because I and I have to live Rasta and know Rasta. I don’t come to judge a man. Jah says, “Leave all judgement to him”. So all the people that see a man out there and say, “Oh, he is going on as if he is a Rasta!” Who are they to say why he is going on like that when God says leave all judgement unto him?
Interviewer: What do you think about all this crime and violence going on though as a Rasta?
Bob Marley: Well what I-man think of all the crime and violence going on is that it’s loss that cause crime and violence. Well I don’t really…. earth is coming to how creation was and how earth if to rest. It’s a mind thing. Now all the laws that we abide by and blah blah, bum bum bum that cause us to suffer as any man can know that. Those laws that they have are not a must. You know what I mean?
Interviewer: Which laws…. are you speaking about any laws in particular?
Bob Marley: Every law. The only law which is law is the law of life- the law of how to live. Now dig this: A man builds his city and he says that he wants these people to run it and he wants these people to live here. Now I don’t want to get involved talking like I am a politician or I want to …you know what I mean? I just want to talk about righteousness like saying, “Well, Jah is earth’s rightful ruler and he doesn’t run any wire fence.”
Interviewer: But am I right in assuming that Rastas do not believe in violence at all?
Bob Marley: Rastas don’t believe in violence. Rasta don’t believe; Rasta know. You see when you believe it’s that mash you up. You must know what you know.
Interviewer: Alright, now one of the interesting things about you is that you have a reached a point in your career now where you are popular in England, you’re popular in the United States, right?
Bob Marley: Yeah.
Interviewer: Right but you live in Jamaica. You move out quite often but you live in Jamaica. Do you think, like Jimmy Cliff, that you’re going to have to shift and live somewhere else? Do you think you might have to go away to live….?
Bob Marley: Who I personally?
Interviewer: Yes, you personally as you get more popular over there?
Bob Marley: Within 2000 years Jah say. Earth is earth. Within 2000 years; now is 1973. Like I say again I am not doing this thing for any money business. This thing is if Jah comes into my heart and makes it move that I have to go into England and say these things again or say these things in America or Australia I will have to go because I am a servant of His Imperial Majesty. Not doing any hard work, just doing what Jah says I should do. And because he gives me the power to play music and he gives me the inspiration to say the things and the people who he works through because I know that Jah is in every life. Now some people are devils and some people are angels. Dig? Jah said, “Leave all judgement unto him”. Dig? So it’s plenty of things or certain things that a man has to keep to himself and try decipher it for himself. Because you can say things and at the time when you say it it’s not so right and maybe not. You know what I mean? You have to really…. Because this thing is a thing that Jah teaches you every day and sometimes you have to know what he says; you have to decipher.
Interviewer: Now you know you have your religious faith, right and you have your convictions. Do you get annoyed by people who don’t understand what you are talking about? Do you get annoyed?
Bob Marley: I’m sorry for the people who don’t understand what we talk about man. Because they bear great tribulations in times when they don’t have to. I personally now, my heart can be as hard as a stone and yet soft as water. You know what I mean? Then again I’m still sorry for the people who doesn’t know His Imperial Majesty.
Bob Marley: Because it’s like my mother used to tell me people’s heads are going to chopped off and they want to die and can’t die in the judgement. These days are the judgement days. Only the fittest of the fittest shall survive. Like what Marcus Garvey said. And that’s just how it goes.
Interviewer: So tell me now, as a Rasta what is your feeling about being Jamaican?
Bob Marley: Being Jamaican. Well, being Jamaican… Hear how it goes now Neville: being Jamaican- I don’t see being Jamaican. I see myself as a Rasta being Rasta. So Jamaica is Jamaica; Africa is Africa. I man is a Rasta.
Interviewer: You don’t have any boundaries?
Bob Marley: Now I must pick a place on earth where I must live and I know I want to live near my father and my father lives in Ethiopia. So I must live where my father is.
Interviewer: Literally? In other words literally you hope to go and live in Ethiopia some day?
Bob Marley: I don’t hope. We are going and near, near. This is 1973 going near to ’74 now and Jah said “Before one of my word pass away heaven and earth crash”. Dig. And he said he is gone to prepare a place that where he is I-man I shall be there also.
Interviewer: But Bob listen, everyday nowadays you hear about famine in Ethiopia. What do you say to that now?
Bob Marley: I say great! I say great! If you don’t know God you’re going to suffer and die. Now God is not partial regardless of where you are on earth. If you are in Ethiopia in his palace and you don’t know that he is the almighty, you suffer. Regardless of where you are; God is not partial. I could starve and suffer to but I know Jah.
Interviewer: Bob your career is at a time, you’ve made the cover of Melody Maker in England, people are talking about you in the States, you have good albums coming out, you’re on a new record label now- Island?
Bob Marley: Yes, Island.
Interviewer: Are you satisfied with the contract with them? Are you quite satisfied? Because I know you’ve had a hard time.
Bob Marley: Satisfaction is a hard thing to get and leave to what you need to be satisfied.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: I come to tell you I know that I can make a move any time I want to make a move and that’s the most important thing
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. Alright, that’s the situation right now with you. Now it’s Bob Marley and the Wailers. You write such a lot of material for the group. You have such a lot to do with it. We heard of Diana Ross and the Supremes and then we heard of Diana Ross by herself. Are you committed to the group?
Bob Marley: Well, yes. The group is the Wailers. Well for some reasons they say Bob Marley and the Wailers. I never told anyone to say that from anytime at all. But maybe for some reason they did it, you know. Well I am a Wailer and that’s just how it rests.
Interviewer: And it will rest so?
Bob Marley: Yes.
Interviewer: OK, so what it the next move as far as your career goals. You have this album out- ‘Burning’. What next?
Bob Marley: Right now the next thing is…. Right now I am going to play some music and just go on playing some music until then and then what should happen will happen, Neville. Because I don’t plan life because when men plan Jah wipes out.
Interviewer: But do you have any special tours coming up that you know of?
Bob Marley: No, right now I don’t know of any tours. But I know tours might be possible as well as maybe no more tours.
Interviewer: I understand what you mean. Alright but what about songwriting? You write such a lot of music. Different people write music in different ways: some sit down and write the words and then put the music to it, some write the music then drop in the words after. Do you have a process and exactly what is it if you have one?
Bob Marley: Well it grows together, you know? It’s like first time I tried to write a song was the first time I tried to play the guitar. And so I can write a song without the guitar. But it really grow together I really just don’t like staying without my guitar. It just happened; it’s Jah’s inspiration come through man and you just…. Because I personally could write… it looks like I could have written a whole lot of tunes but I pick special tunes to write because a man can think of a lot of things, you know?
Interviewer: Yes I understand. Listen, I know you had a close association with Johnny Nash who has done quite a lot of your tunes. I hear people talking and saying I wonder if Johnny Nash ever treats our Jamaican man right. What exactly is the situation? We are quite free on this program.
Bob Marley: Well, they gave me some money the other day and want me to sign another agreement with them. I really am checking it out because I don’t really want to say anything bad about them and still I don’t have much good to say.
Interviewer: But what do you think about Americans taking the reggae and making big money out of it like Johnny Nash has done and Paul Simon and a couple other people. What do you think about that?
Bob Marley: Well, they have done something where because these people out here are trying to kill us we couldn’t do, right? Because these people out here are too wicked. Neville, these things get me upset. You know what I mean.
Interviewer: I can understand.
Bob Marley: Because look at how many good artistes are in Jamaica and look what it takes to say- because they are guys- to say, “Alright I am going to get some good recording done and do a thing with it.” Just want to hustle off people wanting you to come in there and do 15 tunes in 3 hours. And so a guy spends $15,000 to make an album and when the album comes it sells a million.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: So he doesn’t lose because he really stayed there and didn’t guess anything. He stayed there and did what he was doing.
Interviewer: Yeah. So you mean that the people here wouldn’t spend the money on us?
Bob Marley: They never wanted to do that.
Interviewer: I see.
Bob Marley: They waited until Johnny Nash and those guys went on with something and certain guys saw a lot of guys coming in now and then they hardly want us to do it too.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
Bob Marley: We have to have our own studio and all of that. That what we are going to try and get right now- our own studio because if we want it Jah is going to allow us to have it.
Interviewer: You want a studio?
Bob Marley: Yeah because we want to make music. You have too many men out there who have to go through too many other things only because of classes.
Interviewer: You’ve spoken a couple times about classes- middle classes.
Bob Marley: Because I have come to realize that they really divide us into classes and it’s true. They try to divide us into classes that I don’t agree with because it’s wickedness- you can’t divide the people. How can you divide the people and some of them don’t have 4 feet.
Interviewer: True, true. Listen Bob, we have run out of time but I’d just like to ask you if you have any sort of hope in the country Jamaica right now. You’re a guy who is getting on alright in your field- singing.
Bob Marley: Hope in the country? Well, yes, Jamaica is a nice great place, you know? I really love Jamaica because I have walked in a lot of stone lands and Jamaican and a lot of hills but I think we really need a direction. Not a big signing of this and signing of that but a direction of our own country. What happen to the earth? We have to till the soil and plant back the seeds into the soil and it doesn’t call for slavery to do that. It just calls for understanding.
Interviewer: You have made a start because you said that you are a farmer.
Bob Marley: I am a farmer from creation.
Interviewer: Bob Marley, it’s been a great pleasure talking with you.