Benefactors to the legacy left by Robert Nesta Marley rocked the Apollo Theater in Harlem with a tribute concert commemorating the legend’s 35th anniversary appearance at the landmark showplace. They each performed signature songs and in the end united onstage singing his “One Love” anthem.
Reggae Ambassadors Third World, Maxi Priest, Marley’s son Kymani, The Wailers and surprise guest Lauryn Hill transformed the landmark Harlem showplace into a reggae dancehall with double-header commemorative concerts that fulfilled the dream of the Rastafarian, reggae musician who was named the first third world superstar.
Sold-out, SRO crowds marked the milestone occasion jammin’ to each and every song performed throughout the spectacular showcase.
Sampling from Marley’s best-selling songbooks, each performer delivered a Bobfest of wailing tribute to the pioneering Rastaman.
“I didn’t know I would see Bob Marley,” a fan said after noticing the transposed, black and white image of the Rastafarian that loomed large on a back wall of the showplace. Tight-fisted, eyes closed, clutching a microphone with a guitar slung across his chest, the video reminder remained a constant throughout the two and half concert.
The image dominated the stage serving as a permanent tribute throughout.
Although patrons expected the advertized lineup, many were particularly surprised by Hill’s appearance. The mother of Bob Marley’s grandchildren had not been announced as one of the performers but when the Apollo crew added four microphones to the Wailers set up, it was if a special guest would emerge with Marley’s own I-Three backing vocals. Hill was accompanied by three female songbirds to help her wail a thrilling rendition of Marley’s “Is This Love” and “Natty Dread.”
“We have to bridge the gap of the diaspora, I am living example of that,” she said.
Marley’s son Kymani let loose his inheritance wailing “I Shot The Sherriff.”
He gave reverence to the celebration voicing a verse from his letter and debut composition penned for his father. Kymani’s Dear Dad” left audiences wanting.
He also wailed “Running Away,” and “Crazy Baldhead.”
Grammy-winning Priest upped his game wailing “Turn Your Lights Down Low.” He was spectacular.
And while every performer proved their mettle, The Wailers distinguished themselves true benefactors. Fronted by Wayne “Danglin” Anglin the veteran group now led by Family Man Barrett superbly celebrated the historic date Oct, 1979 the band backed Marley on his inaugural performance at the Harlem showplace.
Wearing a red, black and green scarf representing the colors associated with Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s movement, Anglin paid tribute to the Pan-African proponent. He said he was elated to perform in Harlem, the Village Garvey launched a global appeal for a back To Africa movement. Needless to say, this latest configuration of The Wailers continues the legacy inherited since their most famed leader left in 1981when he died of cancer.
In his tribute they jammed – “Natural Mystic,” “Buffalo Soldier,” “Rise Up,” “Africa Unite,” “Exodus,”
“Honored to be jammin’ for Robert Nesta Marley,” is how Third World co-founder Stephen “Cat” Coore described his Apollo appearance. Along with bass player, Richard Daley, Coore led the revamped Ambassadors through a barrage of solid selection familiar to the eclectic crowd.
They performed from their repertoire of his -- “Forbidden Love,” “Try Jah Love,” the O’Jays remake “Now That We Found Love,” and in tribute to popular lead singer Bunny Rugs who died earlier this year delivered his signature rendition of “96 Degrees In The Shade.”
Front-man A.J. Brown ably led the group which comprised Norris “Noriega” Webb on keyboards and Tony “Ruption” Williams on drums. Williams’ percussive tribute recalled the years Irvin “Carrot” Jarrett wowed audience with his combined athletic and musical style of amplifying his instrument.
Not since the exits of co-founder Michael Ibo Cooper and drummer Willie Stewart had the group enjoyed such an overwhelming approval from reggae afficionados.
“It is an honor and privilege to perform for Robert Nesta Marley,” Coore repeated.
The cellist used the opportunity to deliver a solo tribute which he began by delivering a musical pledge of loyalty to his island before segueing to Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
Coore struck a passionate chord with his instrument to which the diverse audience responded with a sing-along of the liberation anthem composition about emancipation.
Founded in 1973, Third World now maintains Coore and Daley as the only stalwarts to remain with the beloved musical assembly.
“Marley must be smiling with the audience this time around,” Ephraim Martin, founder of the international reggae awards and Chicago resident said.
“I was here when Bob performed and the audience was mostly whites.”
The anniversary showcase attracted a far more diverse crowd with variance among patrons in age, race, nationality and music preferences in contrast to those that attended the five-series of concert held at the Apollo.
Reportedly, Marley longed to win approval from African-Americans. Despite success in England, radio airplay there and even opening here at Max Kansas City for Brue Springsteen and Sly & The Family Stones 41 years ago, previously the Jamaican was relatively unknown to Black audiences
It is well documented that Marley and his Wailers were scheduled to open 17 shows in the U.S. for the then red-hot, dynamic Sly & The Family Stones Band. However, according to patrons that attended the shows and Wikipedia “after four shows, the band was fired because they were more popular than the acts they were opening for.”
Marley performed at Harvard Stadium with Stevie Wonder in Boston Oct. 1979 and that same month and year he realized his dream when he was booked for five nights at the New York Village showplace “where stars are born and dreams are made.”
Although much has been discussed about his follow-up concert at Madison Square Garden the following year when Frankie Crocker booked him to open for The Commodores – repeating much the same response from audience who allegedly vacated the venue after he performed his set – the Apollo dates are documented to be the break-through engagements that bridged Marley’s message-music with American soul music lovers.
Marley “was a Pan-Africanist, and believed in the unity of African people worldwide. He was substantially inspired by the teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey.”
“I am very excited to perform in Harlem,” Wailers lead-singer said. “It is the place Marcus Garvey lived and started his movement.”
Allegedly, Marley’s “Redemption Song” ‘draws influence from a speech given by Marcus Garvey in Nova Scotia, 1937.’
In addition, his “Africa Unite,” express a desire for all peoples of the African diaspora to come together and fight against Babylonian oppression.
Anglin said the entire Wailers Band is elated to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their debut concert. He added that the concert also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the release of their acclaimed “Legend” album which after a re-release charted in the top 5 on the Billboard Top 200 charts for the first time.
Of the milestone achievement three decades later, Aston “Family Man” Barrett joked,
“It only took 30 years.”
He added, “My life with The Wailers has been an odyssey. To be in the top ten is hard for me to even imagine. We’ve come so far. Sharing this music with so many people around the world was my last promise to Bob and here we are.”
Formed in the late sixties, The Wailers have created an extraordinary body of work that today can be heard in every corner of the world. Original members included Marley and his vocal partners Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, alongside the ground-breaking rhythm section of the Barrett brothers, Carlton on drums and Aston “Family Man” on bass.
Barrett still leads the band as it continues its worldwide campaign to promote Marley’s mantra of oneness through peace, love and equality using reggae. Consistently touring for the past 40 years, the group works tirelessly to keep the legacy alive. Considered the most successful reggae group in history, their indelible mark on modern music can be measured in the sale of more than 250 million of their albums worldwide and an estimated 25 million people across the globe that is recorded to have seen them perform live.
“Legend” is a sure example of how music that moves people will always stand up to the test of time,” Anglin explained.
“We honor the songs on ‘Legend’ to spread the message of Rastafari across the globe on our musical journey.”
In 1976, Rolling Stone Magazine named The Wailers, Band of the Year.
Marley died in Miami, Florida on May 11, 1981at age 36.
Acclaimed the first, Third World Superstar he received world-wide acclaim. They include:
June 1978: Awarded the Peace Medal of the World from the United Nations.
Feb.1981: Awarded Jamaica’s third highest honor, the Jamaican Order of Merit
March 1994: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
1999: Album of the Century for “Exodus” (Time Magazine)
Feb. 2001: A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Feb. 2001: Awarded Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
2004: Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him No.11 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
“One Love” named song of the millennium by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Voted as one of the greatest lyricists of all time by a BBC poll.
2010: Marley’s Catch A Fire” inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame (Reggae Album)
Brooklyn residents might recall the revelry in 2006 when the City Council represented by Councilman Charles Barron and the New York Department of Education co-named a portion of Church Avenue from Remsen Avenue to East 98th Street in East Flatbush as “Bob Marley Boulevard.”