Marley & The Wailers
This must be judgement
Get your guns
and get your ammunition
At the gates of St Peter when he asks Bob Marley what did he do with his life? What would the old Rasta say?
If he listed his works, St Peter might have asked what about 1979's Wounded Lion Sessions? To this day it remains unreleased. A truncated version of the unfinished song Wounded Lion can be found on the Japanese CD New Birth Of Bob Marley released in 2002. Probably a bootleg.
Bob Marley is a legend. Back then when the music still mattered, POLITICS and MUSIC did MIX. Wounded Lion surfaced only recently to a wider audience spread far and wide via the internet.
Bob Marley grew up in run down Jamaica. He used his music for entertainment and when he became popular, used the music to create awareness of the poor and downtrodden. When he became a powerful symbol, there was an attempt on his life. On Dec 3, 1976 some people tried to kill him. Marley went into exile and spent the years from '77 to '79 in Europe and America becoming even more famous. His songs about Jamaica and its troubles transformed into something universal. Marley had two important themes - the idea of revolution to change society and the universality of Babylon as the "vampire" system that created inequality and poverty.
By 1979, things were so bad in Jamaica, poverty was widespread, killings were common, Jamaica's left-leaning government was getting pressure from multi-national corporations for their unfriendly policies, some people came to find Bob Marley and ask him to return home to play a unity concert - the One Love Peace Concert. So when Marley recorded his next album, Survival, in 1979 he was mindful of all these issues.
There are no love songs on Survival. And if you take the established view that Exodus, the previous album, was recorded by a confident Bob Marley full of hope for the future, then Survival is a second look at his Jamaica. That the Babylon System - any corrupting system of government - is like a vampire that survives at your expense.
Wounded Lion is an unreleased track that disses this system threatening a revolution but because of the reference to "a wounded lion in the jungle" is also about Marley's sense of powerlessness. Some suggest he was aware of his mortality that the cancer he had was always on his mind. The music has a gospel flavor with a nice chorus of "a revolution now for sure". The 20-minute length makes it a delicious thick slice of hypnotic skank. The vocals can be heard but Marley is a little distance away from the mic and his voice is disembodied. This is more about feel than hardcoded ideas.
The 20-minute length also kept it off Survival. He could have recorded a short version but then it would have sounded like the badly cut version found on New Birth Of Bob Marley.
Better still are three takes of Survival's key track, Babylon System minus the first and final verses, probably not written when the song was jammed at this session. The main theme is in this verse describing the curse of Babylon:
is the vampire, yeah
Marley always declined to discuss politics during interviews preferring to let the music spread his message. Again he calls for rebellion.
Cos we've been
trodding on the winepress
So back to the present. There are more hot wars today than there were in 1979 [Star Wars don't count] when Wounded Lion was recorded. More corporate shenenigans today than yesterday. Sub-prime mortgages? You think oil prices are shooting up because of demand and supply? It's Marley's feared Babylon many times more menacing, threatening a world economy to be managed through a world trade order. The World Bank and the corporations are more powerful today. Inequality and injustice is the consequence of the Babylon system. Can you feel it? The rich getting richer? The constant hogging of headlines by celebs?
But there sure isn't some rocker as forceful as Marley commenting on all that grief. All we got of a mass music movement is that soul-destroying TV series American Idol, viewed by millions around the world. We are told POLITICS and MUSIC don't MIX? Only if you say so.
So back to the Gates
of St Peter. Bob Marley to St Peter: "Ree-bell, ree-bell."
Babylon is the Greek variant of Akkadian Babilu (ba-b-ilž, meaning , meaning
"Gateway of the god(s)".
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