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Bob Marley and Martha Velez: Escape From Babylon

Martha Velez is an American actress and singer of Puerto Rican descent, probably best known for her performance in the Broadway musical “Hair”.

In May 1975 she travels to Jamaica for three weeks to record with reggae star Bob Marley. She is the only American artist for whom Marley functioned as musical producer – the results were the album Escape From Babylon. The association occurs through producer Craig Leon who asks Marley about doing the music with her.  Marley listens to her composition, “Living Outside the Law” from her 1972 album, Hypnotized, on the strength of having a philosophical kinship with her along with her extraordinary voice.

Marley’s very positive response takes them into the studio with his earlier producer Lee “Scratch” Perry to work on producing Veléz’s album Escape From Babylon in 1976.

The album features two Marley covers (“Bend Down Low”, “Get Up, Stand Up“) and a Veléz-Marley composition “Disco Night”. The songwriting credits are given to Rita Marley because of Marley’s dispute with his publishers at the time.

After her three week stay in Jamaica, Velez returns to the U.S. to finish the album and tour.  The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Bob Marley performs with her on several occasions in upstate New York.

I have included several articles which profile Velez’s and Marley’s association.

June 29, 1976

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June 29, 1976

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May 30, 1976

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I have also included lesser known facts about the Marley/Velez collaboration from a friend’s Marley archive site.  This information is translated from French to English for presentation here.  If you would like to visit Fred’s excellent website, please click HERE.

  • Born in Puerto Rico, an error indicating that she was born in Jamaica, this is false.
  • She is the wife of Keith Johnson, trumpeter famous musician.
  • She wanted to do a cover of ‘Stir it Up’ by the Wailers.  The producer of the era Craig Leon (http://www.craigleon.com) asks Bob Marley and has permission to do so.  At the end, Bob Marley and Lee Scratch Perry produce this album ‘Escape From Babylon’.  It should be noted that the album is a piece of vinyl collection today.
  • Al Anderson, Wailers’ lead guitarist, had in the past worked with Martha Velez in 1973, and also with Eric Clapton on his album ‘Friends And Angels’.

Bob Marley and Martha Velez 1975

I must give thanks to Tim Jones and “Chico” for seeding this several years ago as part of the Kilimanjaro Tapes.  Many thanks!

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Comments

  1. Ben says:

    People need to know that four out of her five albums including Escape from Babylon plus a compilation have been reissued on CD by Wounded Bird Records. I bought them all on Amazon; no problem. I have listened to Escape from Bablylon a bunch of times and will listen a bunch more. A very heavy dudette.

    1. marleyrkives says:

      Did not know that…thanks for the information.

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