Volume 4: Issue 3: May 2004
COXSON DODD PASSES AWAY
Legendary Jamaican producer, and proprioter of Studio One Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd has passed away at the age of 72 on May 4th 2004, following a heart attack.
Dodd was born in Kingston in 1932, and appropriated the nickname "Coxson" from an English cricketer he admired (the alternate spelling "Coxsone", with the additional "e", refers to the record label). His love of music was instilled at an early age when listeing to blues and jazz stations broadcasting from the US. It was while working as a mechanic that he first discovered the ability of music as a marketing tool. Returning home from work, he would assist his mother in her grocery store, and play records to the customers, who would happily sit outside the store and consume alcohol bought from the Dodds.
At weekends Dodd would follow Tom The Great Sebastians sound system, and following a stint as a farm worker in the US, he was inspired to set up his own system in the mid-50`s. Dodd started by playing his records on Duke Reid`s Trojan sound to test the water, before diving in with his own Downbeat sound. An early booking pitted Dodd against Reid, afterwhich an intense rivalry developed between the two sound operators.
Eventually demand for new music was such that Dodd decided to record local artists to satisfy the sound followers, and he was recording at Kingston`s Federal Studio by 1956. Early recordings were used soley on the sound system, and were not available to the public, but soon Dodd, and his rivals, were releasing locally recorded music on their own labels. An early success was Theo Beckfords "Easy Snapping", listed in some sources as 1959, but actually recorded 2 years before it`s public release.
Such hits would persuade Dodd to invest in his own recording studio, so that more time could be spent on each recording to assure that the final product was up to his standards. "When you hire a studio, sometime you`re watching the clock on the wall, and sometimes you accept a take just because time is running out. When you have your own studio then you try to get perfection, and you stick to that" he remembered.
The premises were located at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston, Jamaica (formally the "End" nightclub), and Dodd would employ an in house session band on a weekly wage. The studio opened in 1963 (although Dodd remembered being there from 1961), and musicians on the sessions included Cluett Johnson, Johnny Moore and Roland Alphonso and other musicians he would hand pick from Jamaican orchestras.
Having already released his own recordings on a handful of labels, such as Port O` Jam and Coxsone, Dodd would unveil a new label to promote his own studio. Studio One is now the generic term used for all of Dodd`s recordings, and it is the also the name that the studio at 13 Brentford Road would become universally known and loved by.
As the Jamaican music industry grew, Dodd soon found himself looking over a quickly developing empire, and his studio was the place for many wannabe stars to audition. Over the years Studio One played host to the likes of Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, The Gaylads, Burning Spear, Sugar Minott and literally hundreds more, a large portion of whom went onto attain lasting careers and, in several cases, even worldwide recognition. Of course the most famous of Dodd`s proteges were the Wailers.
The then five piece Wailers arrived at Studio One in 1963, and consisted of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston, Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso. Early success came in the form of the singles "It Hurts To Be Alone", and "Simmer Down" before both Braithwaite and Green departed from the group. Dodd became something of a surrogate father to Marley, and Bob would actually live at the premises for a while, while also acting as a kind of impromptue A&R man.
The remaining Wailers trio remained at Studio One until 1966, when Marley left for a stint in the United States and was replaced by Constantine Walker. He returned in October of that year, afterwhich the Wailers left Dodd to pursue an independent career.For Dodd, the loss was softened by the success of artists such as the Heptones, Ken Boothe and Delroy Wilson to choose a few from his impressive roster of local talent.
In the studio, his session band evolved into the Skatalites, who ruled supreme during the original ska era following their formation in June 1964 until their untimely demise in June 1965. The Soul Vendors were formed as replacements, and eventually superseded by the Sound Dimension as the `60s drew to a conclusion. The importance that these bands played in the legend of Studio One cannot be overstated. Rhythm tracks that the bands laid down were often re-used, not only by Dodd but also by other producers who recorded copy versions of the Studio One tracks. This technique of "versioning" became common practise in Jamaican music, and it is more often than not that the rhythms copied originated at Studio One. Tracks laid down by Dodd are still being copied today; Recently Dancehall star Sean Paul had an international hit with "I`m Still In Love With You", the original of which was recorded at Studio One by Alton Ellis in 1967.
Just as rockers in the `70s often drew inspiration from Dodd`s original recordings, dancehall music throughout the `80s, `90s, and into the next millenium, continues to draw influence from Studio One.
In 2002 Dodd was given a special award for his contribution to music by the Jamaican Government, and on the 30th April 2004, the Friday before his passing, Brentford Road was renamed Studio One Boulevard in honour of his achievments.
Mr. Dodd was a visionary; an astute businessman who saw the potential of a developing market, and took control. Clement Dodd will be sadly missed by many Jamaican music fans around the globe, but he will never be forgotten. His legacy will continue to live on, while the institution that he founded at Studio One is one of the foundations upon which the entire Jamaican music industry rests, and as such, musicians and fans of their music owe Mr. Dodd a great debt.
Andy Clayden, 5th May 2004
BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH ATTACKS BOB RE-ISSUESIn an article published in the Guardian newspaper in England on March 12th 2004, reggae musician, poet and actor Benjamin Zephaniah comments on what he sees as sub-standard treatment of Bob Marley`s legacy since his passing.
"I grew up to the sound of Marley. I was listening to him when the band were simply known as the Wailers, before they were "repackaged" with Marley as the frontman. Trust me - back then I was their biggest fan. Throughout the history of the Wailers, and Bob Marley and the Wailers, they never released a dud album; every one was a classic. But since Bob Marley's death in 1981, there has been a string of posthumous albums, and every one them, with the possible exception of Confrontation, has been flawed." Zephaniah told the Guardian.
Bob Marley can't be blamed for this, and neither can the Wailers: most of the surviving members of the band are involved in court actions claiming that they have been ripped off in one way or another. And I feel like going to court, because I feel like I'm being ripped off, too."
Commenting on the recent "Grooving Kingston 12" boxset, Zephaniah says "the new tracks on this new release are not terrible, but they're not great. As on many of the early recordings, Marley is trying stuff out, experimenting and tuning his writing and recording skills. When you listen to his early works you find that there are many versions of the same songs; many songs borrow lines from each other, and many recordings are drafts of the greater things to come."
Zephaniah expresses a rather uncommon point of view toward the acoustic tracks recorded in Sweden in 1971. For many Marley fans, this recording, that originally appeared on Songs Of Freedom in 1992, offered a rare opportunity to hear Marley working through a rehearsal of tunes accompanied by just his guitar, and seemed to find favour with the majority at the time. However, Zephaniah feels that they are substandard: "These recordings are so unfinessed, they sound like the CIA have been eavesdropping on a rehearsal. "
Benjamin`s comments are understandable in the current climate of Bob Marley releases. While some of the music on the boxset is the finest the Wailers recorded (the Lee Perry sessions), other releases have pushed the boundaries of acceptability to the limit as far as the fans are concerned. With remixes, rehashed compilations, not to mention the ugly face of the bootlegs, Marley`s fine catalogue is littered with unnecessary entries, yet despite this, Universal have just granted two more pointless 10 track collections of Marley and Peter Tosh material.
"Most record companies exist not because they love music but because they love money," says Zephaniah. "And Bob Marley has made more money in death than he ever made in life. Marley has become a brand."
His old house in Kingston, Jamaica has become a museum, and I have heard his music being played in places where Rastafarians are not even allowed. Fair enough, the hungry must be fed, but even here in Britain his music has been used to sell soap and mortgages. Not only will the revolution be televised, it will be advertised."
"If you are the kind of fan who wants a recording of every single word that Bob Marley ever said, if you want to know everything he ate, drank, touched and smoked, if you really think that you will not be a complete person unless you capture every breath he took, then feel free to go on spending your hard-earned cash - the record companies will not complain. But remember what Marley said: 'It's only a machine that makes money.'"
If you are the kind of fan who respects the artist, however, just love what he has given to you. And if you feel the need to play a part in keeping his name and legacy alive, buy real Wailers goodies, or help the poor of Jamaica by sending financial donations to the Bob Marley Foundation. Even if no more Marley tunes are ever found, he will still live forever."
MEDIA OUT TO GET ME ME SAYS RITA
Rita Marley has accused the British media of a witch-hunt against her after rape claims she made against her late husband Bob Marley made sensational headlines.
In her recently published book No Woman, No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley, she said that there were occasions when her husband would ask for sex and she would refuse because she knew he was having unprotected sex with other women.
Fifty-seven-year-old Marley told the black British newspaper The Voice she called it rape because she did not officially consent. She said the matter was being blown out of proportion by the British tabloid press and accused the media of being "out to get her".
"The way the guy put it in the newspaper, he made it look like Bob had me by the neck. When you think about it, you ask yourself whether a husband can actually rape his wife."
Marley told BBC Caribbean Service that the extra-marital affairs were "painful" but she endured because she was in love with the reggae icon.
"As they say you grunt and bear it, that's what I had to do because I was so in love with this man and love grew stronger, itís not that it grew weaker," she said.
"It's a natural thing, Jamaican men have a thing where they want more than one woman, and more than one pickney," Marley said. "I had to see it as I may not be getting the wife treatment, but he's my brother."
The former I-Threes singer said she was so distraught by the furore that she roamed the streets of Central London pleading with her dead husband for forgiveness.
"It don't bother me because definitely it was taken out of context," she explained in an interview with The Gleaner."We spoke about my husband coming home after I hadn't seen him for a long time, cause you have to talk about the realities, and they wanted to know about Bob and the other women and how I took it, so there was a point where we were not having a good relationship because of it, so if I feel to say he hold me down and take it and I felt it was rape. I had a right to say it... but it wasn't the way they made it look, cause he would be in jail if he had really raped me like a stranger. He wasn't a rapist," she said.
This she further stressed while speaking with The Gleaner. "My husband is still the best husband in the world... If his wife said that (he raped her), then she must mean something else. Its not like a strange girl come out and said Bob Marley raped me, I'm his wife," she said.
Rita told The Gleaner that the interview with the tabloid, along with several other interviews, came about because she has been in London promoting the release of her book, titled No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley.
The book, Rita argues, places everything about her relationship with her husband into its proper perspective. Concerning why she decided to speak on the topic some 20-odd years after his death, Rita said it was a matter of her exercising her right.
"It's my story. Whether 20 years or 100 years, if you feel like saying what happened in your lifetime you are free to say it; you don't have to lie or pretend about it. It is happening to plenty people right now... It's a reality, so why some choose to live in a pretence?" she said.
Marley now lives in Ghana where she heads The Rita Marley Foundation. She released her album Sunshine After Rain last month.
MARCIA GRIFFITHS TRIBUTE
From the Jamaica Observor
Olivia Leigh Campbell, Observer staff reporter Thursday, April 22, 2004
They say confession is good for the soul, and on Wednesday night, before a star-studded room full of fans and her peers in the ballroom of the Hilton Kingston Hotel, Reggae superstar Marcia Griffiths bared the truth in no uncertain terms.
"I have sinned," she announced, "if it's a sin to feel this good, I have sinned," the reigning Empress of Reggae said at the launch of a yearlong series of festivities to mark her 40th year in the music business.
The launch, which was more of a thanksgiving ceremony, was attended by the who's who of Jamaican entertainment, including Bob Marley's mother, Cedella Booker, former I-Three member Judy Mowatt, sax great Dean Fraser, storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks, leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga, and songbird Nadine Sutherland, all of whom delivered touching tributes to the most prolific woman in Reggae music today. And that was just a partial showing of the list of celebrities that turned out for Sister Marcia, toasting her achievements and wishing her blessings for the year ahead.
All sectors of the industry were represented, and singjay Tony Rebel, dancehall 'Fireman' Capleton, dancer L'Antoinette Stines, filmmaker Barbara Blake Hannah, sound system operator Bunny Goodison, Jamaica Federation of Musicians president Desi Young, percussionist Bongo Herman, and producers Donovan Germain and Sonia Pottinger were some of the famous faces spotted.
But even a cursory glance through the celebrity-filled event could not have prepared Griffiths for the emotional outpourings made to her by her peers, as the launch, she admitted, was planned almost completely without her input. Tributes presented in song, poetry, speeches and video were all graciously acknowleged, some, like that by manager and childhood friend Copeland Forbes, revealing and humourous; some highly entertaining like the poem performed by Amina Blackwood Meeks and companion Umbala; and others, like the one delivered by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Delano Franklyn flattering in its historical sequencing. Throughout the presentations, Griffiths sat regally in a white suit and gold blouse, evidently pleased, and at times delighted.
When sax specialist Dean Fraser took centrestage to perform for her, however, there was no holding back the tears, and the usually composed Griffiths began to sob uncontrollably.
"It's usually only when you go to funerals that people say so many good things about a person, but it's wonderful to sit when you're alive and hear people say good things about you," an emotion-filled Griffiths said in her response to the many tributes paid to her.
She, too, performed, her selection Shining Time the title track of the album by the same name, one of two she plans to release later this year.
In addition to Shining Time, Griffiths will take on several other projects to commemorate her 40 years. These include a US tour, slated to kick-off with a performance at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the release of a 40-track anthology of songs that spans her career, and a massive concert at the National Arena in October. The anniversary will also be marked by a number of mini-specials on television and radio, as well as with a magazine detailing moments throughout her illustrious career.
Wednesday's event, therefore, was the ideal way for the songbird, recently honoured with the "Woman of Esteem" designation at the United Nations to start her hectic year.
Griffiths, who has released over 20 albums and countless singles and duets, began her career in West Kingston when she debuted as a teenager singing with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in 1964. Successful collaborations with top singer/songwriters and producers of the time such as Bob Andy and Clement 'Sir Coxone' Dodd put her on the map as a singer, and as a member of the I-Threes with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, she recorded and toured extensively with Reggae icon Bob Marley. Since the break-up of the I-Threes, Griffiths has performed as a solo act, collaborating with vintage and current Reggae and dancehall acts alike.
At the end of the evening, the sassy performer, known for her cutting edge yet regal couture and silken vocals, warned her supporters of her future intentions.
"I'm going another 40 years! Yes! Listen out for me," she said.
NEW BOOK: BOB MARLEY, REGGAE AND THE RASTAS
Finally, Gael Doyen writes to tell us of a new book published in France: "Bob Marley, le reggae et les rastas", by Bruno Blum, and consists of an in depth analysis of the history of jamaican music (up to this day) and Bob Marley's career. It includes a few interesting new documents about Bob, such as a picture of the extremely rare (never seen before) 71 swedish movie poster. The book has just been published and is in french (so it could be of interest to all the french speakers).
BOB MARLEY FORUMTo voice you opinions on Bob Marley and the Wailers issues, head over to the excellent www.bobmarleymagazine.com website, and join the discussion forum. Here you will be able to air your views, contact other fans, and become part of the growing Forum community.
The site also carries a number of excellent, and exclusive, Wailers related interviews that offer unique insights into life with the Wailers.
Number 29, April 2004 Number 28, January 2004
Number 27, October/November 2003 Number 26, August/September 2003
Number 25, July 2003 Number 24, June 2003
Number 23, May 2003 Number 22, April 2003
Number 21, March 2003 Number 20, February 2003
See side links for full on-line www.wailers.co.uk archive.
Please visit these Wailers/reggae sites:
The OFFICIAL Wailers website: www.wailers.com
www.bobmarley.freeserve.co.uk Django! Ska, Rocksteady & Reggae
www.caceinternational.com The Wailers News
Bob Marley Magazine http://go.to/bobmarleyshows