There is no doubt that Bob Marley, despite being the fantastic artist that he was, really “arrived” with the release of Legend, which had just celebrated its 30th anniversary of its release just this May. With that in mind, it’s probably high time to remind ourselves of why Marley even mattered in the first place. And, sure enough, it starts with just this one single factor: we want to know how Bob Marley changed music for the form that we recognize it nowadays. And really, if that’s what we’re talking about, then there’s probably a mile-long laundry list of all the things that Marley influenced in the culture that we live in right now!
But of course, for purposes of brevity, we’re just listing all of Marley’s influences to modern culture in just three easy-to-consume bites which, nevertheless, should give you plenty of reasons why you should study the man’s oeuvre. So , no matter whether you are a singer, a music producer, or just someone who wants some “free love” in your life right now, then here are the reasons below why Bob Marley, along with Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson and a dozen of his peers, is one of the most influential persons in culture right now!
He’s the first to explore the “flexibility” of different musical genres
It’s really ridiculous to think of NOT being able to like both heavy metal and hip-hop at the same time, but that’s the exact position that pop music found itself in during the time before the ‘90s. You have to either be a rock n’ roll kid or a hip-hop kid, and liking both things means that you’re simply “posing” as a fan of either music.
Bob Marley, though he was probably not cognizant of the fact during that time, happened to realize that there is more to music than simply staying at one’s comfortable “niche”. Indeed, Marley’s musical influences had less to do with the “island-style” music of mento and calypso than it has with classic 1950s rock n’ roll. Indeed, in an article which celebrated Marley’s then-pending posthumous induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 1994, Rolling Stone writer Robert Palmer wrote:
“When the teenage Marley arrived in (Jamaican capital city) Kingston, Jamaican music was entering a period of unprecedented expansion and growth. Mento, an acoustic popular music comparable to the calypso of Trinidad and Tobago, was being displaced from the forefront by an increasingly Jamaicanized take on Southern R&B and soul music. As the new ska sound developed, it began to exert a subtle but increasingly significant influence on North American soul.”
So, in essence, he was really plugging his version of rock n’ roll, except that it doesn’t sound anything like any American rock n’ roll which came before it. Hence, it’s no wonder why his music was widely adopted by many counterculture circles from the latter-era hippies to the newly-minted punks of the ‘70s. A nd this brings us to the next point of Marley’s influence…
He made “community songs” that are actually… well, cool
Marley was a product of Trenchtown, one of the poorest towns in Jamaica which can be arguably considered as the “birthplace” of many Jamaican musical forms like ska and rocksteady. Of course, being a musician, it was only right that Marley would sing about the environment he grew up in and the hardships that his family and fellows had to endure just to survive for a day.
However, the songs that came out of him during that time surprisingly contained little of the “bitterness” that protest songs of that era contained; instead, many of his more famous outputs are call-to-actions for people to unite and be as one in working towards a common goal. The songs are all positive without being maudlin. And, best of all, almost all of them are sung in a celebratory manner that calls to mind the Jamaican traditions of music of yesteryears past.
If you want an obvious example of how Bob Marley manage to incorporate the sense of “community” in his songs, then you simply need to listen to “One Love”. Of course, there is also “Exodus”, “Redemption Song”, “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Jamming”, and countless others that contain similar messages but are recorded in vastly different styles. And speaking of which, the next item below should show you how ahead of his time Marley was when it came to recording his music.
He pioneered cutting-edge recording techniques
It really is notable to think of how Bob Marley was influenced by old-school blues and soul on many of his more popular tracks. As it turns out, the decision to incorporate blues on his songs was not a matter of coincidence. In a brilliant analysis of Marley’s recording techniques during the time before “digital” was the norm, Sonic Scoop explains in the following:
“In the studio, reggae should be approached as simple as a blues track, but with the focus on creating a high-fidelity finished product. The snare and bass should be honed in on and brought forward; each instrument should be given its space; and those very quiet, but crucial pauses should not be filled in. Artists are careful not to use too much delay or reverb. Some of the best producers in the world have put out some unbelievably timeless reggae music using these simple guidelines.”
Really, you cannot get more rock n’ roll than that above; the excerpt shows that Marley and his producers eschewed many of the recording “tricks” during that time that eventually came off dated as years went by. That is why later remasters of his albums showed that his songs still sound as “current” as anything that the artists of today can come up with. You know who else shares those same qualities with him? The Beatles. Yep, totally legit.
So, are you convinced of how Bob Marley changed music for the better now? Well, we sure hope you did! Comment below for your fave Marley musical moments!