by Jamie Kime
It happens almost every day somewhere in the world: White-bread yuppies undulating to the seductive rhythms of a bored looking pick-up band at a Tropical-themed happy hour. Then, as inevitably as someone yelling "Free Bird" at a late night bar band, a member of the drunken frat boy/"I'll show my breasts for Mardi Gras beads" party crowd will request "No Woman No Cry".
The music of Jamaican song-prophet Bob Marley was a polarizing force in the Rastafarian movement in the 1970's. And, since his death in 1981, continues to be a source of salvation to it's followers. But you don't necessarily have to believe Haile Selassie is the living God in order to dig the intense messages of passion, love, and politics contained in Marley's songs. Even the most middle-class of Ward Cleavers - after a few mai tais - finds himself singing along to "Get Up Stand Up" - not because he identifies with the lyric's longing for redemption and freedom, but from the deep-ass rock steady beat.
Marley and his band, The Wailers, rippled and percolated their way through every track with a groove that was all at once lazy and laid back yet tight enough to rival James Brown's Wesley/Parker-era JB's. And like the JB's, the band's overall sound was a complex interweaving of it's individual instruments. As a consequence, it's difficult to boil down to one chord a single identifying trait of the Marley sound, but try this simple Gma7 on for size. When played with a syncopated Reggae feel, you're immediately transported to a sweaty dance hall in Kingston. Well - not really. But you get the point. Also notice that the intended bass notes with these 4 note voicings - G, C, G, A - could be changed to B, E, G, F for a different mood.