Let’s first look at why people listen to Bob Marley. There is more to it than the fact that it’s good music. Marley’s music carries with it an air of authority because it is infused with experience and scripture. In some ways, this is why someone would listen to what I have to say: because it is based on experience and scripture. When my little brother was killed in a car crash, I felt that my very survival depended on my entering the classroom of Bob Marley, my brother’s favorite musician. That experience led to more than twenty years of researching Marley’s use of the Bible and obtaining a master’s degree in theology, which lends credibility to my understanding of the Bible and Marley’s use of it.
To me one of the most controversial things about Marley was the fact that you have an international music superstar touring the world not just with his guitar, but with a Bible in hand. This is attested to time and time again by music journalists such as Vivien Goldman, Stephen Davis, and Timothy White, as well as by photographers such as Kate Simon and Lynn Goldsmith. I’m not sure the world was ready for a Bible-toting rock star in the 1970s, and I’m not sure it’s ready today. Perhaps this is why this important aspect of Marley has been overlooked.
It does at times, in order to provide context for Marley’s lyrics and the scriptural passages they draw from. One of the points that arises from the book is that Marley’s biblical interpretation stands independent of any particular creed. It defies easy categorization. Just as Marley transcends categories of black and white, city and country, and spiritual and secular, he unites different ways of looking at the Bible and in some cases offers his own distinct Marleyan perspective on a given scripture passage.
Well, I deal with biblical interpretation not religion. The point is not to convert people to Marley’s religion, but for them to learn about the Bible through the lens of Bob Marley, and how to draw life lessons from the Bible as Marley did. Scripture and experience were key for Marley, not religion. In fact, in June 1975 he stated that he didn’t have a religion, but rather “a natural thing you’re supposed to have.” Marley considered spirituality a thing of nature. In June 1976 he said, “Man can’t do without God. Just like you’re thirsty, you have to drink water. You just can’t do without God.”