Bob Marley: Herald of a Postcolonial World?
November 2007, Polity
Tracing Marley’s life and work from Jamaica to the world stage, Toynbee suggests that we need to understand Marley first and foremost as a ‘social author’. Trained in the co-operative yet also highly competitive musical laboratory of downtown Kingston, Marley went on to translate reggae into a successful international style. His crowning achievement was to mix postcolonial anger and hope with Jamaican textures and beats to produce the first world music.
However the period since his death has been marked by brutal and intensifying inequality in the capitalist world system. There is an urgent need, then, to reconsider the nature of his legacy. Toynbee does this in the concluding chapters, weighing Marley’s impact as advocate of human emancipation against his marginalisation as a ‘Natural Mystic’ and pretext for disengagement from radical politics.
1 How Do You Solve a Problem Like Bob Marley? 7
2 Nesta Marley and Colonial Jamaica 37
3 Bob Marley at the Reggae Conjuncture 72
4 Standing Up and Finally Being Counted 114
5 Up On the Rock, Chanting Down Babylon 153
6 After Bob 196
Discography and Filmography 232
- Major new study of the most widely known reggae star
- Looks at all of the facets of Marley’s life and career,
from his musical contribution to the political significance of his
- Includes new insight on Marley, gathered on a recent research
trip to Jamaica
- Also works as a “best practice” case study for
students of how to study popular music in all of its breadth
- Will appeal to a readership of fans of Marley and world music, and also students and scholars of popular music
"The number of issues that Jason covers is quite remarkable and
the bibliography highlights the excellent research; I doubt there
will be many other books written on Bob Marley which cover 19th
century slave revolts, mento and nyabinghi musical styles and
unemployment and police harassment in Birmingham ... I fully
recommend the book to anyone who has spent any length of time
listening to Bob Marley, or to anyone who has an interest in the
origins and spread of reggae music."
"Jason Toynbee not only brings out the complexity of his music
in this fascinating book, but takes the reader to some interesting
details of the history of the rise of one of the most influential
musicians of the twentieth century."
"This book is a serious scholarly treatment of the life and
music of Bob Marley which is well worth reading. It does not only
trace Bob Marley's life and music through the turbulent post-war
years but attempts to answer a crucial question: why has this
artiste and this music, from a small Carribean island, had such a
broad global impact? ... Toynbee insists that the global appear of
this music has its own independent substance. The same may be said
for this thoughtful and knowledgeable book. Courses in cultural
studies and musicology at both the undergraduate and graduate
levels should take careful note."
Global Media and Communication
"A smart and engaging example of what a popular music biography
should look like."
Timothy Taylor, University of California, Los Angeles
"As if infected by the sheer surprise and complexity of his
music, this book makes sense of the contradictions of Bob Marley's
life and work with wonderful analytic verve and an engaging display
of the dogged scholarly need to understand. A tour-de-force of
applied cultural theory and in itself confirmation of Bob Marley's
continuing inspirational power!"
Simon Frith, Edinburgh University