It was 1979 when a young, dreadlocked guitarist joined one of the most influential artists our time, Bob Marley on his first Australian tour. In fact, it will be 40 years to the day this Valentine’s Day that Junior Marvin, long-serving guitarist of Bob’s band The Wailers, first met the iconic trailblazer who would spread an ideology of love and positivity throughout the world with his reggae music.
Marvin recalls Bob being very surprised and humbled to be able to “take reggae to a part of the world we never thought it would be.”
“Then, reggae music really only came out of Jamaica,” Marvin adds. “It’s really grown since the time of Bob Marley and proven that reggae belongs to the world.”
Since then, reggae has of course become popular enough in Australia and New Zealand for events like Raggamuffin All Stars to bring The Wailers over to play live for us next week, but that single tour would of course be Bob Marley’s only visit down under. Thanks to a tight-knit family of musical Rastafari, though, the legacy of one love lives on in the form of The Wailers.
Keeping the flame alight are four original Bob Marley and The Wailers band members: Junior Marvin (guitar), Family Man Barrett (bass), Donald Kinsey (guitar) and Tyrone Downie (keys), along with second generation Wailers Aston Barrett Jr (drums), Josh Barrett (vocals) and Bob Marley’s son, Grammy-nominated Julian ‘Ju Ju’ Marley.
“Before he passed away, Bob said he wanted us to stay together. We’ve managed to keep going. It says a lot,” said Marvin.
Rekindling the love proved more difficult than imagined after Bob Marley died at just 36 with well publicised legal battles over royalties, licensing and music rights, “There were always going to be problems with the business side of things. Most musicians are not business men. Now, young musicians are learning to balance that business side. In the past, we were just about the music, but now we are learning,” he said.
No strangers to ‘polytricks’, we asked Marvin to weigh in on a couple of pressing political issues.
Firstly, The Wailers were asked eight years ago what Bob Marley would think about the first African-American President being inaugurated into the White House, but what would he make of Donald Trump in 2017?
“I will say this,” Junior says, “I think he’d be a little bit surprised. Because one of the problems we still have is many people are motivated by the thought of having lots of money. There are lots of ways to be ambitious. You still can be ambitious and spread the love around. I think when you make promises as a prospective leader you should put out good ideas, role models and thoughts… not be a bully.”
Secondly, what, in this year of ‘Be Bold for Change’ for International Women’s Day on March 8, would Marvin like to see happen for women? “First of all equal pay. I’m sure they’d love that. And more equal balance of responsibilities. I think we still spend too much time thinking the man is supposed to be the breadwinner. In Jamaica we have a saying that ‘one hand washes the other’.”
Marvin assures us there is a third generation of Wailers in training to keep the spark going, “We have kids growing up around this music everyday. We don’t try to force it on them. They naturally feel like they want to be involved.”
And, with legends like Junior Marvin to guide them, who wouldn’t want to be part of it? “I encourage them. Try to give them positive ideas and role models. Have good attitudes towards life and other people. Learn how to forgive and move on. Be supportive of each other.”
Combine that with “good training and good instruments” and the legacy of Bob Marley’s Rastaman vibrations will surely carry on for generations to come.
February 19 and 21 will mark Marvin’s fourth Raggamuffin appearance with The Wailers and sadly, it looks like the last with the festival making it’s final round. “The Wailers are so excited to be coming back to Australia and looking forward to Raggamuffin. We hope it won’t be the last [Raggamuffin] but let’s act like it’s the first!”
Don’t miss this opportunity to see the world’s premier reggae group performing the hits of Bob Marley live with his son Julian Marley, at Raggamuffin All Stars for two exclusive shows on 19th February at Margaret Court in Melbourne and the 21st of February at Hordern Pavilion in Sydney.
They Rasta royalty will be playing alongside Grammy-winning superstar Shaggy, breakout New Zealand sensations SIX60, reggae legends Morgan Heritage and New Zealand’s own House Of Shem, and tickets are on sale now.
By Kylie Cobb