Fall 1981. 5 months Bob Marley gone. John Lennon murdered 10 months before. Retro Reagan, Thatcher, Seaga… run things. In Bob’s enormous wake reggae is shining, a fire in the sky. Big future so w’gwan? Where’s Rita Marley? One Draw is the biggest reggae single ever yet in their exclusive American return, Marley’s band The Wailers, well charged & rehearsed for headlining the first ever major US reggae festival with the other I-Twos Judy & Marcia, face many obstacles without her cooperation or any written instructions left behind by Bob. Opportunity huge, grudge-fullness larger?
Perhaps all expected ‘oneness’ would keep it together but human beings are complicated, unpredictable, often spiteful, and without a will there’s apparently no way. Jah know a lot more was expected of the principals by The Skip. Sense may have dictated everyone come together as family & continue Bob works perhaps as Rita Marley & The Wailers showcasing Marcia, Judy, and the kids. From the fan’s perspective one could hope Peter, Bunny, & even Joe Higgs might have had a place at the table where “We no know how we and dem a-go work this out” could be diplomatically approached. Hope remained until the planes left Jamaica for the Berkeley Reggae Sun Blast, the first ever major US reggae festival, that the very ‘special guests’ on the poster might climb on board.
ABOVE: Bob’s Wailers band pose in the summer of 1981 for the historic publicity shot created for Berkeley’s Sunblast. In this radio show several plausible rumors are reported like Keith Richards & other Rolling Stones may show up. Possible attendees have already been burned by buying tickets to previous bay area reggae concerts where the artist never showed or went on strike backstage for more pay making a weeknight show start after midnight instead of 9pm so tickets sales stay slow, the promoter in a panic wanting to cancel & cut costs, yet all working 24/7 to see it through & on October 24th 1981 many thousands come to the beautiful Greek Theatre in Berkeley for one of the best reggae concerts ever. Emotions ran high. Many could not accept that Bob had passed away. When Marley had played the same venue a few years earlier he did 3 encores. The day began foggy & cold but the sun soon blasted through. The spirit strong.
“Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you want to move your dancing feet
To the rescue, here I am…
Saturday evening: want you to know where I stand
When the morning gathers the rainbow
Want you to know? I’m a rainbow too
So, to the rescue, here I am…
We’ll lift our heads and give Jah praises”
In this eighty minute opening segment of Midnight Dread radio program #93 the I-Threes get a major salute with early & later solo sounds, beginning with the first selection, their tremendous performance of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” dedicated to & done just 2 months earlier at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash Bob tribute. It was sad to see a fracturing group at a show with so much potential to launch a new era built upon Marley’s hard work & sacrifice. Bob was gone and the glue was coming undone. A lot of the long-time Wailers family WERE there. Meanwhile somewhere in Japan a Casio machine was being developed that would irrevocably change the music’s makeup for decades. Here’s a pair of publicity photos circulated to media in advance of Sun Blast:
More on Sunblast and its aftermath when this continues next time with next week’s vintage radio show…
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