Mike Henry grew up in the Deep South.
Shreveport, Louisiana to be exact. He lived with his brother and cousins under his grandmother’s roof, soaking up blues and R&B that flowed from radio speakers in local cafes. It was the ‘60s. Motown legend Marvin Gaye was at his peak and Stevie Wonder wasn’t too far behind him.
“I always loved singing,” Henry said, noting he sung for his cousin and her friends for pocket change. “Girls liked it and you can make money from it.”
Now the lead vocalist in reggae group Mostly Marley — who, you guessed, play mostly Bob Marley songs — Henry didn’t delve into the depths of the Jamaican music genre until later in life and far from its sunny, Caribbean origins.
“I was working on a cruise ship in Northern Europe,” Henry recalled. “It travelled from Staockholm, Sweden, to Helsinki, Finland. The guests would always ask for Bob Marley. The Swedish love reggae music. It’s a cold-weather country, I guess they like reggae music to warm them up.”
On Friday (Feb. 5) the day before the father of reggae’s would-be birthday, the Vancouver band will be playing at the Garibaldi Lift Co. (GLC). Billy Mendoza on bass, Russ Klyne on guitar, Tim Proznick, on drums, and Henry have played together for 12 years. A month ago, its ongoing gig at North Vancouver’s the Rusty Gull Neighbourhood Pub came to an end.
“It got to the point that it was just too good,” Henry explained.
People lined up down the block for the shows, the pub was packed to capacity and with the success came neighbourhood noise complaints. Pressured by officials, the pub cut the band from its live list for three months, Henry said. But once the band returned, the crowd never rebounded to its full force.
“It was a great, great run,” he said.
Henry’s not afraid to strike up those loud chords in Whistler. Almost half a century later, Marley’s music still speaks to the youth of today, he noted. Not only his music, but his words are full of passion, he added. Marley lived the words he preached, Henry said.
What separates Marley’s music from other musicians is that it draws on the trials and tribulations people of African origin felt around the world. Those challenges and struggles for freedom and peace cross all demographics, Henry said.
“It is music that speaks to you and it is about something. It has meaning. There is so much music nowadays that is just bubble gum music,” he said.
While Marley is a household name, there are other up-and-coming reggae artists making waves in today’s music world, Henry noted. One such artist is Chronixx, a Jamaican musician whose fame grew through the Reggae Sumfest — the largest concert in the country.
Henry estimated he has played some of Marley’s more famous numbers more than a hundred times. Luckily there are so many songs to choose from that Henry said they never get old. “Is this love” is Henry’s favourite Marley song.
“It is a great song. I could play it all the time.”
Doors open for the Mostly Marley show at 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10. For more information visit whistlerblackcomb.com/the-village/dining/glc.