Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Bob Marley is, by far, the most famous reggae musician of all time. He's one of the most influential songwriters ever. And arguably, the most universally loved musician in the world - I'm talking the whole world, not just the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. So, it's no surprise that his estate puts out a generous amount of new titles and reissues.  But I have to say, almost every Marley title I have is worth owning. (And I think there's some rule or law saying that I should point out when I get something for free to review - and I did get a copy of this from Universal Music).

And that's true of Live Forever, recorded on September 23, 1980 at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. It was the last concert he ever performed.  Recorded on the tour for his final album (or at least the final album released during his lifetime) Uprising, the show took place a few days after he collapsed while jogging in Central Park. You can't help wondering, while listening to the album, did he know?  Did any part of him realize that this would be his last concert?  I really wonder that during "Redemption Song," which he plays solo acoustic (backed by a percussionist).  And during the last song, the anthem "Get Up, Stand Up," which turned out to be the very last song he ever performed in public (I should mention here that, for some reason, the sound quality radically declines toward the end of the album).

If you're going to get one live Marley album, is this the one to get?  I don't know.  I would maybe go for Live! or Babylon By Bus first. But this is a great album (the sound quality towards the end notwithstanding). The songs that have been sticking out to me most, other than "Redemption Song," are "Burnin' and Lootin'" and "Them Belly Full." At this point, Bob was as far from the streets of Jamaica as he would ever be, but he never lost touch. But those songs obviously apply to what is going on today.  Now, as then, our leaders would do well to listen to the lyrics, especially of "Them Belly Full." I think if Bob was still with it, he'd still be singing these songs, and they'd be as powerful and relevant as ever.

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