Happening:

Seeing through the smoke


Christopher Gallagher

How Bob Marley became the ultimate cannabis “Legend”

Ar 171009531
Associated Press file

CannaBoss Bob Marley is shown performing in 1979.
Ar 171009531
Associated Press file

CannaBoss Bob Marley is shown performing in 1979.

There are cannabis activist out there and supporters of the plant who operate from many angles: Growers who have pushed the limits of what is possible for Cannabis sativa l., crusaders seeking to allow access to all for its many medical applications, folks involved in the ever-expanding “industry” that has exploded over the past decade, legislators who have seen past the propaganda surrounding it to pass laws that have turned the tide in a sensible direction, regular Joes and JoAnnes who just want to mellow out with a few tokes every so often to wash their cares away or to enjoy a special event. But there is only one herbalist who took the message and brought it to every corner of the globe, one man who fronted a religion partially based on the wonder and beauty of marijuana, one man whose name has become synonymous with clouds of ganja smoke, the man who said, “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself”: The ultimate CannaBoss: Robert Nesta Marley.

Bob Marley. How many metric tons of bud have burned while “Legend” played in the background? How many first-time experiences have taken place beneath a green, yellow, and red Bob tapestry in dorm rooms or first apartments? How many out-of-towners or concert goers have approached stoners wearing Bob-emblazoned T-shirts to ask where they can get what they need to get their heads right? How many people, regardless of demographics and sometimes against the laws of sensible fashion, have grown their hair into a patch of resplendent dreadlocks to pay spiritual homage to the man who brought the creed of Rastafari to the world?

Born on February 6, 1945 in the village of Nine Miles in rural Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, the child who was to become a worldwide icon was the son of an Afro-Jamaican teenager named Cedella Booker and an older plantation overseer of English and Syrian Jewish descent named Norval Sinclair Marley. Norval is said to have provided financial support to Cedella and Bob but he was an absentee father who died of a heart attack in 1955. This change in fortune soon prompted her to take her 12-year-old son to leave their home for the slum of Trench Town in Kingston, the island nation’s capital. It was in Trench Town that the future Lion of Zion began his rise to international fame on the twin zephyrs of reggae music and Afro-Caribbean religious devotion. It was there in the small country’s toughest neighborhood that he was reunited with Bunny Livingston, a childhood friend from Nine Mile and his introduction to reggae music and the belief system of the Rastafari began.

See, reggae music in Jamaica is more than a genre, it is a way of life inextricably linked to the Afro-Abrahambric faith, which has its roots in the Old Testament of the Bible, especially the Vow of the Nazirite (also taken by Samson) with its admonition against the taking of a razor to one’s hair – the recipe for the dreadlocks that have become synonymous with Bob and his brethren. And central to that way of life is cannabis or ganja, a sacrament to the Rastafari celebrated publicly by Bob, Bunny, and Peter Tosh, the three primary founding members of Bob’s backing band, The Wailers. Their religion was the core of their being, and the timeless music they made was the vehicle by which they distributed their spirituality to the corners of the globe.

You know the songs, DGO. You know the portal they open in our hearts and how we feel when we hear Bob preaching from his heart. Whether it is the legendary tracks contained on “Legend,” possibly the most aptly named album in the history of the music industry, or Junior Marvin and Al Anderson’s echoing guitar on “Live Forever,” the recording of Bob’s last concert (Pittsburgh, Sept. 3, 1980) before his way-too-soon passing in May 1981, you know that when you listen to Bob Marley, you are listening to the ultimate CannaBoss. So, go ... go to your stereo, your computer, your phone, your whatever; load up some Bob, roll one, and smoke one to The Man.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at chrstphrgallagher@gmail.com.