As someone who has spent years researching the lives and careers of the great reggae artists of our time, its always great to come across some piece of new information that I never knew before. While going through my press archives, searching for something to share here, I came across this article from the November 20, 1976 issue of New Musical Express. The article announces a sweeping 1977 world tour co-headlined by Bruce Springsteen and Bob Marley. According to the article, Marley and Springsteen had already signed off on a deal that would put them on the road together touring the US in the spring of 1977. At the time of the printing of this paper, negotiations were underway that would have them continue the North American tour into Europe in the summer of 1977.
There is a story behind these two artists, who first met three years earlier in July 1973 when the Wailers opened for Springsteen over a six-night run at Max’s Kansas City in NYC. Both men were relatively unknown in 1973 but wowed the New York crowd, which was filled mostly with rock journalists and newspaper reporters.
By 1976, both men had emerged as supremely talented musicians and songwriters, each backed by a tight band of talented musicians. Each were playing mid-sized venues and universities during their respective 1976 tours of North America. It is true that Springsteen enjoyed a much wider appeal with his style of rock and folk in the US, while Marley was still trying to sell his brand of uniquely style rock ‘n roll – roots, rock, reggae – to broadcast radio and fickle rock fans in the States. Had this tour gone off as it was envisioned it would certainly have had an incalculable impact on Marley’s trajectory as a rising worldwide star in popular music.
The tour would not go off as planned. On December 3, 1976 while preparing to play the Smile Jamaica festival in Marley’s home Kingston, Jamaica, he, his wife, and members of their entourage were ambushed at Marley’s home at 56 Hope Road by five assailants, Marley and his wife barely escaping with their lives. The Gong would go on to bravely play the concert on December 5, 1976 – with a bullet lay lodged in his body, a performance which was the best of his storied career and in my opinion one of the finest and most noteworthy performances in the history of popular music. Marley left the island for London immediately after the performance and would not perform again until May 10, 1977 when he played the Pavillon Baltard, Paris, France. He would not return to Jamaica until April 1978.
These photos, my favorite live photos ever taken of Bob Marley, were snapped by photographer Alex Webb at SMILE JAMAICA National Heroes Arena, December 5, 1976.