The persistence of VP Records – who now turn their attention to the mighty Fred Locks - in the issuance of its ‘Reggae Legends’ series, is to be heartily welcomed. Whilst this artist might never have reached the dizzy heights of some of his contemporaries from the 1970s golden era of roots reggae, none will have missed the everlasting impact of his ‘Black Star Liner’ release. Fred Locks is so called due to the length of his locks. This growth was sparked by Selassie’s visit to Jamaica in 1966, though his new found faith was rewarded with eviction from the family home!
I love reggae music, especially songs by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Lucky Dube and count myself as a reggae fan. It was in the morning of Friday October 19, 2007. I was going to work on board our staff bus when I heard the news over the radio that Lucky Dube, the South African-born reggae musician, had died the previous day Thursday October 18, 2007! I peremptorily dismissed the news as untrue, hoping that it was either a reverie or I did not hear well. But it turned out to be true, for the sad news was repeatedly aired and soon became the topic of general conversation.
"Reggae is only what you hear and think is reggae," Peter Tosh pronounces at the beginning of Heartland Reggae (1980)—and a lot of what sounds like just that is playing at BAMcinématek during the long-weekend program Do the Reggae, which ends on the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. Concert documentary Heartland Reggae, to give one essential example, is an effort to record the music's Woodstock or Wattstax, cherry-picking performances from 1978's One Love Peace Concert, arranged to squash beef between Jamaica's then-warring political parties. Homecoming headliner Bob Marley is supported by Tosh, performing an interminable "Legalize It," along with 11-year-old dynamo Little Junior Tucker, doing his best James Brown, and exuberantly shirtless Jacob Miller, antagonizing the police presence with a wielded spliff. (Miller died in 1980, while his bandmates, Inner Circle, later found running-dog fame with "Bad Boys," the theme song from COPS.)
Thirty-six long, long years ago, the U.S. bicentennial was in full swing and swagger. Here in the States, rock and roll was still king, but the ugly, artificial facelessness of disco was looming and blooming on the horizon of dance floors everywhere. No, I simply cannot express in words just how much I absolutely hated disco. Most rockers felt the same way, and, yes, I still do. Sure, disco changed the direction of contemporary music forever, but 1976 was also the year that reggae music was beginning to influence artists as quickly as a six-pack of cold, Jamaican Red Stripe Beer does to a person with an empty stomach.