Bob Marley would have turned 71 this February. Music critics and fans continue to lament the passing of favorite musicians while pondering the question of what any late musicians would be doing now, had their life not been cut short by whichever cruel hand dictates our fate. I can think of many musicians who were gold three decades ago only to have time, cash, trends, and drugs influence their careers for the worse. I’m looking at you, Elton John, Aerosmith and Eddie Van Halen. Christ, had Jimi Hendrix not been one of the many whose life ended at 27, he very well could be writing songs for Disney.
However, I’d argue that if Bob Marley were here to see 71, he’d probably still be on the mission he was throughout his career; a mission of music, peace, motivation and inspiration.
Marley’s band the Wailers is still known as one of the most recognizable reggae acts on the planet. While most of the band members’ names have changed, one constant is Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the bass player who played under Marley with the Wailers, also serving as band-leader, musical-arranger and co-producer of many of their records.
The Wailers will perform Saturday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango. In addition to Barrett, they are Aston Barrett Jr. on organ, Dwayne Anglin and Joshua Barrett on vocals, Cegee Victory on backing vocals, Audley Chisholm and Melvin Glover on guitars, Chaka Taylor on keyboards and Anthony Creary on drums.
Marley left behind a body of work that remains recognizable across all genres of music. While it’s arguable that all reggae bands continue to uphold the mission Marley pursued throughout his career, the Wailers remain defined by the songs of their founder, songs that continue to be influential to this band and reggae music in general 35 years after his death. The music is valued by Rastafarians and the people of Jamaica, but also by the nationwide reggae-loving crowd, punk rockers who dig on ska, and the roots, rock and folk fans.
“His mission is our mission,” Anglin said via email. “There is no separating Bob Marley from the Wailers, or anything reggae.”
It is music to inspire activism. In a world of social media and the opportunity for constant global communication, where bad news is shoved down your throat from every corner of the world, it’s easy to ask yourself and Facebook friends, “What is wrong with the world today?” It’s a simple answer: What’s wrong with the world today is the same as what has been wrong in the world forever. It’s a beautifully imperfect beast filled with extreme kindness and extreme cruelty. While the world remains and will continue to be “whack,” its good to have bands trying to motivate change for the better. Marley never stopped trying and neither have the Wailers.
“The social, political and economic climate directly affects the way we tour. Our mission is to inspire where inspiration is needed,” Anglin said. “We spread a message of cultural uplifting and positive vibrations and in so doing we find that people are entertained by these songs of freedom.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].