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xmag.com : Febuary 2002:Fuck Bob Marley


On January 6th in Seattle, at long last, the Experience Music Project's "Island Revolution" exhibit is coming to an end. The exhibit itself was excellent, despite the cognitive dissonance that occurs when you see Jamaica's Third World ghetto culture on display in a multi-million dollar institution like the EMP.
But such layers of discordant culture are common in the world of reggae. I've never quite
been able to wrap my brain around a music scene where white, middle-class kids from the US pretend to be Africans from the West Indies who pretend to be God's Chosen People from the Middle East. It somehow seems fitting that June 8th, the day the exhibit opened, will henceforth be known as "Island Revolution Day" in Seattle.

The problem I had with "Island Revolution" wasn't with the exhibit per se. My problem is that I can't seem to get the bitter aftertaste of years of overexposure to Bob Marley out of my mouth. I used to like Bob Marley, but after years of hearing Bob Marley everywhere I went, I grew to despise him, his music, and anyone who tries to make me listen to it.

My relationship with Bob Marley started when a high-school friend of mine gave me a tape with the Legend album recorded on both sides of the tape. It was probably just an oversight on his part, but it served as an ominous foreshadowing of the total saturation I'd experience over the next decade or so.

During the early nineties, I worked in a café where I heard Bob Marley at least once a day for years. When I first moved to Seattle, I worked at the downtown Gravity Bar, where the Legend album was played at an annoying, near-subliminal volume during every shift. When I lived in Georgetown, the jukebox in the neighborhood bar played Bob Marley at skull-shattering volumes every time I went in there. I've taken at least a dozen road trips across the US, listening to music for endless hours at a time, and Bob Marley was a staple in the music
collection, no matter whom I was with. Every record collection I see has Bob Marley in it. I've heard every song from every era of the man's career over and over again--from his early years as a skinhead, rude-boy ska musician to his final days as a dreadlock-encrusted marijuana messiah. Every reggae band covers Bob Marley tunes. There's an endless stream of Hip-Hop and Dub Reggae songs containing Bob Marley samples. Ziggy Marley sounds exactly like Bob Marley. Everybody listens to Bob Marley. I've met countless phony Rastafarians, some of whom are crackheads who are actually from Jamaica, but most of whom are dumbass suburban hippies with trust funds and a microbus full of clichés, and they all worship Bob Marley. Bob Marley Bob Marley Bob Marley. There's no escape from Bob Marley. I mean, sure, it's good music, but it's not that good.

"Can we, as a country, all agree"

The final straw, the one that broke whatever organ in my brain allows me to appreciate Bob Marley, came while I was on a trip to Zipolite in southern Mexico. I'd found a place where you could sleep on a hammock for eight pesos a night. There was no real running water, no electricity, no phone, no lights, no motorcars. However, they did have a small generator whose sole purpose seemed to be to run this beat-up little tape player, for which they had one

single tape. Guess what it was. I'd traveled thousands of miles, through all kinds of crazy adventures, finally arriving at a place where civilization barely even existed, and whom do I find sitting there, baked out of his mind, looking messianic and trying to pass me a giant spliff of rastaman vibration (po-see-teev!)? Bob Motherfucking Marley, that's who. And not just any Bob Marley, but the Legend album, which is so mind-bogglingly ubiquitous that I even have it in my record collection. I fell to my knees and wept.

I fucking hate Bob Marley now. It's to the point where I actually hate all reggae and everyone named Bob. I can't even watch reruns of The Newlywed Game, because every time Bob Eubanks comes on stage, all I can think about is how much I hate Bob Marley. FUCK BOB MARLEY!!

Thankfully, "Island Revolution" didn't lean too heavily on Bob Marley. They had a relatively small shrine erected toward the end of the exhibit, and that was about it. Even that was too much for me, though. Personally, I think they'd have been better off installing an interactive monitor giving psychic readings from Miss Cleo.

 

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