Awards Are Nice, But This Two-Time Grammy Nominee Answers To A Higher Calling

“Live if you wanna live,” Bob Marley declared at the outset of his landmark album Rastaman Vibration, released almost 45 years ago, in April 1976. In the years before Legend, Bob Marley & the Wailers’ 1984 greatest hits collection, which remains the best-selling reggae album of all time, Rastaman Vibration was the record that broke Marley to American audiences, becoming the first Marley LP to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

On the second track, “Roots Rock Reggae,” Marley took new listeners by the hand and introduced them to a new sound from the faraway island of Jamaica. “Play I some music,” Bob sang, and the I Threes—Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt—replied in unison, “This is reggae music.”

At the start of the second verse, the Tuff Gong pleaded with industry gatekeepers and radio programmers. “Play I on the R&B,” he sang. “I want all my people to see. We’re bubbling on the Top 100 just like a mighty dread.” Bob’s prophecy was fulfilled when the song reached No. 51 on Billboard’s Top 100, but R&B radio would prove harder to penetrate. The top R&B song of 1976 was “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder, who had performed with Marley at Jamaica’s National Stadium the year before. But even white groups like The Steve Miller Band, The Bee Gees, and Hall & Oates were getting more love on American R&B radio than Bob Marley at the time. By 1980 Bob was booked as an opening act for The Commodores at Madison Square Garden, and famously upstaged the headliners but Marley’s earthly mission was soon cut short, to be continued.

In May 2020, Bob’s grandson Skip Marley reached the top of Billboard’s Top Adult R&B Songs airplay chart with a gorgeous duet called “Slow Down” featuring R&B superstar H.E.R. The artists’ creative chemistry and song’s video made the track a fan favorite. “Slow Down” is nominated for Best R&B Song at the 2021 Grammy Awards this weekend. Skip’s debut project Higher Place is also nominated for the Best Reggae Album Grammy, a milestone in the 24-year-old singer/songwriter/musician/producer’s career.

In “Let’s Take It Higher,” a new Boomshots documentary premiering today on VIBE.com, Skip reflects on the honor of being nominated for the prestigious awards and of carrying on a mighty legacy in his own unique style. Video After The Jump…
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