Today’s song is ‘Natural Mystic’. This song was recorded by Jamaican reggae group ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’. It appeared on the album ‘Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On’, a compilation album by ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers’.
Robert Nesta Marley (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican singer and songwriter. Considered as one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by blending elements of reggae and Ska as well as forging a smooth and distinctive vocal and songwriting style. Marley's contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide and made him a global figure in popular culture.
Born in Nine Mile, Jamaica, Marley began his professional musical career in 1963, after forming Bob Marley and the Wailers. The group released its debut studio album ‘The Wailing Wailers’ in 1965, which contained the immensely popular single’ One Love’, peaking in the top five on worldwide music charts. ‘One Love’ established the group as a rising figure in reggae. The Wailers subsequently released eleven further studio albums; while initially employing louder instrumentation and singing, the group began engaging in rhythmic-based song construction in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which coincided with the singer's conversion to Rastafarianism. During this period, Marley relocated to London.
The group quickly attained international success after the release of the albums ‘Catch a Fire’ and ‘Burning’ in 1973 and forged a reputation as touring artists. A year later in 1974, the Wailers disbanded, and Marley went on to release his solo material under the band's name. His debut album came out in 1974. In December 1976, an assassination attempt was made on Bob Marley at his home in Jamaica, in which his chest was grazed, and his arm was struck with a bullet which prompted him to permanently relocate to London soon afterwards. There he recorded the album ‘Exodus’ in 1977. That record enjoyed widespread commercial success and is widely considered one of the best albums of all time.
Over the course of his career, Marley became known as a Rastafari icon, and the singer sought to infuse his music with a sense of spirituality. He is also considered a global symbol of Jamaican culture and identity and was controversial in his outspoken support for the legalization of marijuana, while he also advocated for Pan-Africanism.
In 1977, Marley was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma, and he died as a result of the illness in 1981. His fans around the world expressed their grief, and he received a state funeral in Jamaica. The greatest hits album ‘Legend’ was released in 1984, and subsequently became the best-selling reggae album of all-time. Marley also ranks as one of the best-selling music artists of all-time, with estimated sales of more than 75 million records worldwide, while his sound and style have influenced artists of various genres. He was posthumously honoured by Jamaica soon after his death, as he was designated the nation's ‘Order of Merit’ award.
Today’s song, ‘Natural Mystic’ comes from the 1977 album, ‘Exodus’. I did not become acquainted with the full range of Bob Marley’s music and songs until the late 1990s.
My son William was a boisterous teenager then, who (like many of his friends) would regularly smoke marijuana joints. I even recall a policeman knocking on our back door once and asking to look inside William’s bedroom. The policeman had apparently been walking up Nettleton Road in Mirfield one early afternoon and noticed a lamp lit in the upper windowsill of our house with curtains drawn. Alongside the lamp was a green plant which turned out to be a cannabis plant that my 16-year-old son had been in the process of cultivating. We naturally knew that he smoked cannabis but hadn’t the slightest knowledge that he was personally growing the stuff in his bedroom window.
His mother had seemingly accepted his argument that she shouldn’t enter his room without his permission, even if she found out where he hid the key to his padlocked bedroom door. Apparently, his mother was more easily persuaded by William’s reasoned argument than I was. William told her that a parent entering the bedroom of a 16-year-old son without his expressed presence and permission was an unacceptable invasion of his personal rights and would inviolate his individual privacy. He threatened his mother that if necessary, he’d take the matter up with the arbitration and adjudication branch of the United Nations.
At the turn of the New Millennium, I was surprised to receive a personal phone call from President Nelson Mandela at my home. The call was a three-way-routed-call using the Home Office as the intermediary. Mr Mandela only spoke to me for a few minutes but was exceedingly polite and said, ”Is that Mr Forde? I have recently read two of your African/Jamaican books and thought they were lovely”. Later that same week, ‘News 24’ publicised Mr Mandela’s praise for my books.
Two months earlier, I had arranged to take the family for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Jamaica in the early New Year. Jamaica was the country that William, Rebecca and their mother most wanted to visit. When we arrived in Jamaica, several high-ranking Jamaican officials wanted to meet me. They had been forewarned of my coming by the Catering Manager, Basil Smith JP, of the hotel we were staying at. Basil (with whom I became and remained lifelong friends) was a Jamaican Magistrate who had seen the ‘News 24’ item about me and Mr Mandela’s praise regarding two of my books he’d read. Basil was also highly involved on the ‘Falmouth Education Board’. The Jamaicans idolised two people more than any other at the time (and still do); Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley, each of whom they regarded as the highest of the high.
The upshot of all this was to witness me having two visits to Jamaica; the second visit the following year. This was a working visit for me, during which I worked in collaboration with the Jamaican ‘Minister of Education and Youth Culture’ and the ‘Mayor of Trelawney’ for the following two years. I set up a Trans-Atlantic pen-pal project between 32 Yorkshire schools and all 32 Falmouth schools in Trelawney, Jamaica. The main aim of this Trans-Atlantic project between the 64 schools sought to reduce racism between black and white pupils of the 64 schools, through exchanging letters and raising mutual awareness of each other’s cultural differences.
Over a two-year period, I also wrote four books to raise necessary funds for vital school supplies in Falmouth in Trelawney. We raised tens of thousands of £s from the sales of my books in Jamaica, and I also shipped four thousand books from West Yorkshire to Trelawney for their school libraries and to sell. I was honoured by having my books placed on the educational curriculum of all the Jamaican schools in Trelawney.
My work and growing interest in Jamaica naturally led to me hearing Bob Marley’s songs. They could be heard in the background all day, every day wherever one went in Jamaica. We even visited the home where Bob Marley grew up. When I returned home to England, I started listening more and more to reggae and became as big a fan of Bob Marley, along with my son, William.
I jointly dedicate my song today to my Facebook friend, Lorna Gregory, from London. Lorna works in the Caring profession, and with her Jamaican roots, it is not at all surprising that she loves reggae and Bob Marley. Have a nice day, Lorna and thank you for being my Facebook friend. Don’t forget that you have an open invitation to stay the weekend with us in Haworth whenever you want. Bill and Sheila xx
I also dedicate my song today to Julia Tiplady who lives in Rawdon, Leeds. Julia and her late husband, Michael, were rock and roll buddies from the club in Batley where Sheila and I went weekly before I contracted a terminal blood cancer which initially sapped all my energy and leading me to call a halt to my dancing activities. It is Julia’s birthday today. Have a lovely day, Julia and why not arrange to come and stay over the weekend with us at a near-future date, Bill and Sheila xx
Love and Peace Bill xxx