The Songs That Made The Gong A Legend Are Not All On Legend
Bob Marley’s greatest hits collection Legend is the top-selling reggae album of all time, with at least 15 million copies sold—according to the RIAA website. It’s a good bet the actual numbers are a lot higher, but let’s just say that the 15 tracks on that album have served as most people’s introduction to the Tuff Gong—and to reggae music overall. But like the song says, “Half the story has never been told.” Even if you’ve collected all of Marley’s albums for Island Records you could still spend a lifetime exploring his work with Scratch Perry, Coxsone Dodd, Leslie Kong, Danny Sims, or Randy’s Studio 17. In honor of Robert Nesta Marley’s 71st Birthday, we’ve gathered some of our favorite rarities and under-rated Marley classics. Most will come as a revelation to your average Legend listener. A serious reggae fan will have heard at least a few before. If you know all ten of these already, nuff respect. Rock on, Tuff Gong. Audio After The Jump…
“Babylon Feel Dis One”
According to Roger Steffens & Leroy Jodie Pierson’s Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Definitive Discography, this officially unreleased gem was a rough demo laid down during Bob Marley’s last-ever recorded session. Thirty-six years later it hits harder than ever.
“She Used To Call Me Dada”
Bob Marley sang some beautiful love songs, few of them as sad as this one, an unreleased out-take from the Survival sessions that didn’t exactly fit the theme of the album, which featured tracks like “Africa Unite” and “Zimbabwe.” Leaving aside all speculation as to who may have inspired the song, this poignant slice of heartbreak is as real as it gets.
While visiting Jamaica, American recording artist Johnny Nash discovered Bob Marley and quickly recruited him to work with JAD Records, the label he formed with his business partner Danny Sims. (Nash recorded some of Marley’s best-known compositions,.) Although the deal would prove to be short lived, some worthwhile music survives—including this smooth, sweet pop song about the latest dance craze sweeping the island.
“Who Colt The Game?”
A 1977 Scratch Perry production, this tune uses the metaphor of cheating at cards and dominoes to express the wickedness of the Babylon system as it downpresses poor people. “Natty Dread want a shuffle,” Bob sings passionately, “Not looking for nothing to scuffle.”
This little-known 1975 Tuff Gong single predates the popular American miniseries by two years. Re-issed on the 1986 Island Records compilation Rebel Music, it “Some a leaf, some a branches,” Bob observes. “I and I are the roots.” Ah true.
“High Tide Or Low Tide”
One of the sweetest songs Bob Marley ever sang, this profession of undying devotion—addressed to a friend moreso than a lover—that segues into a memory of his mother praying for him as a child. “Jah guide and protect us,” he sings as if he’s wrenching every note from his very soul, “when we’re wrong correct us.” Hauntingly beautiful.
After the international press reported the death of Emperor Haile Selassie I on 27 August 1975, at the age of 83, following a coup d’etat, devout Rastfarians were understandably distraught. After all, as another of Bob’s rarest songs—“Selassie Is The Chapel” makes clear—the Ethiopian Emperor was regarded as more than a Black King, he was a fulfillment of prophecy, a deity incarnate. (“Selassie is the Chapel” would need to be included on this list had Stephen Marley not made the song so popular thanks to the amazing cover version he included on his classic album Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life) The story is told that Bob’s firstborn child Cedella asked her father what to make of all the controversy, he wrote this song for her. Like so many of Bob’s compositions it’s simple enough for a child to undestand, but the “children” he addresses in the chorus certainly included all the Rasta faithful around the world.
This self-produced Wailers selection on the original Tuff gong label finds Bob backed by Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, declaring that “not even the pestilence that crawleth by night can do me no wrong.” A “Screwface” is a bad bwoy who twists up his facial features in hopes of causing maximum intimidation. The lyrics are based on an old Jamaican folk saying: “Duppy know who fi frighten.” In other words ghosts are only seen by easily scared people. And since The Wailing Wailers’ mentor Joe Higgs used to have them rehearse in a cemetery to cure them of stage fright, you can be these Trenchtown toughies were not worried about any screwface in their path.
“Craven Choke Puppy”
More Jamaican folk wisdom set to music, the song describes a greedy dog who tries to eat so much he chokes. Whosoever has ears to hear, let them hear, draw their own conclusions, and perhaps even keep their mouths shut.
Many roots reggae aficionados like to hold up Marley as some sort of idealized paragon of righteousness and all-around good behavior in contrast to the wicked, nasty, rude boys who make dancehall music. Let’s not get it twisted, they didn’t call Bob the Tuff Gong because he was soft. In this tune, recorded at Randy’s Studio 17, Bob . It’s not exactly the same as Bounty Killer chanting “Spy Fi Die,” but when he says “I know you will regret,” believe it.
LEGEND TRACK LIST
|1.||“Is This Love”||Bob Marley||Kaya (1978)||3:50|
|2.||“No Woman, No Cry” (live)||Marley, Vincent Ford||Live! (1975)||7:08|
|3.||“Could You Be Loved”||Marley||Uprising (1980)||3:57|
|4.||“Three Little Birds”||Marley||Exodus (1977)||3:00|
|5.||“Buffalo Soldier”||Marley, Noel Williams||Confrontation (1983)||4:18|
|6.||“Get Up, Stand Up”||Marley, Peter Tosh||Burnin’ (1973)||3:17|
|7.||“Stir It Up”||Marley||Catch a Fire (1973)||5:30|
|8.||“Easy Skanking” (bonus track)||Marley||Kaya (1978)||2:57|
|9.||“One Love / People Get Ready”||Marley, Curtis Mayfield||Exodus (1977)||2:52|
|10.||“I Shot the Sheriff“||Marley||Burnin’ (1973)||4:40|
|11.||“Waiting in Vain”||Marley||Exodus (1977)||4:16|
|12.||“Redemption Song”||Marley||Uprising (1980)||3:48|
|13.||“Satisfy My Soul”||Marley||Kaya (1978)||4:31|
|16.||“Punky Reggae Party” (bonus track)||Marley, Lee Perry||Exodus (1977)||6:52|
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