Reggae and vinyl fans rejoice. Legend, the signature compilation album from Bob Marley & The Wailers, has just turned 35. Universal Music, heir to the Island Records catalogue of Marley classics, is celebrating the anniversary with a double 180 gram vinyl reissue of this best-selling reggae album of all-time, which sounds as fresh as ever. The LP set features all the original tracks plus two bonus U.K.-only cassette cuts never before released on wax—“Easy Skanking” and “Punky Reggae Party.”
Although I’m familiar with many Marley albums, such as Kaya, Natty Dread, and Rastaman Vibration, the one I turn to most is Legend. The 16 songs on Legend are the best starting place to appreciate Bob Marley’s genius. They include his most famous and anthemic songs: “No Woman No Cry,” “Exodus,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Redemption Song,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Stir it up,” and more. Today, the spiritual, political, and musical resonance of Marley’s work continues to draw new fans and permanently cement his global legacy.
Reggae music got its first big hit outside of Jamaica and the U.K. with Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” from 1972. That same year witnessed the popularity of a Jamaican film called The Harder They Come, with music from Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, and other artists. Reggae’s brightest future star had yet to hit big in America, although Marley was well-known in Jamaica and the U.K. by then, having released his first single (a ska recording called “Judge Not”) as early as February 1962.
I first heard Bob Marley at a Christmas party in 1975 while living in Paris. Two Jamaican party-goers popped in a cassette and started dancing ecstatically. I think it was Natty Dread. I admit I didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand the rhythm or where the downbeat was. I didn’t know why these guys were so enraptured.
Fast forward to July 1979, when I was the new music director at KCRW. A guy named Roger Steffens (who has written books on Marley) walked into the studio and handed me some colorful cassettes, all hand-painted. I loved his demo tapes and The Reggae Beat show was born. Our first guest on the show was Bob Marley, already a superstar but who by that time was very sick with cancer. Marley would pass away from his illness in 1981 at the age of 36. He is much more popular all over the world now than during his short life. I’ve traveled to many places—Cuba, Brazil, Borneo, Bali, Cape Verde—and I see more Bob Marley t-shirts than of anybody else on my travels, even superstars like Michael Jackson. I think it speaks to the enduring universality of Marley’s message and of his greatness.
I also wanted to share this new short video for “Satisfy My Soul,” which offers “a conceptual interpretation of the song to show what it means to “feel alright” in Jamaica.”