Seeing fans and family gather in Kingston to celebrate the late musician’s 75th birthday, music writer Vivien Goldman reflects on his indelible legacy
At 7am on 6 February, on what would have been Bob Marley’s 75th birthday, the abeng conch shell blows at his old home at uptown Kingston’s 56 Hope Road – now the Bob Marley museum – as it did in the days of the long-gone indigenous Taino tribe, and later as a call to slave uprisings on the plantation.
Today, the museum is the Jamaican capital’s hottest tourist ticket, drawing more than 60,000 visitors a year. But in the turbulent 1970s, when the downtown area was torn between superpower ideologies and their local paymasters, it was audacious of Marley to insert his ragtag “ghetto star” Rasta crew into Hope Road – also home to Jamaica’s prime minister – a process he described to me in the 1970s as “bringing the ghetto uptown”. He hoped to make a safe space for the gangs of youth who were controlled on their home turf by opposing political forces: it worked, at least until gunmen tried to kill him there in 1976. It worked again when he triumphantly returned later in the decade to build a studio.