Geo Quiz/Global Hit

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The World

Today, we’re going to throw a real quick Geo Quiz at you. It’s a simple question. Can you name the village in Jamaica where reggae legend Bob Marley was born?

That’s it. Listen closely for the answer in the next few minutes.


Marley’s been on my mind lately. Last Friday would have been his 64th birthday.

I did a google search to see how the occasion was being celebrated around the globe. One story mentioned an important cricket match in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, and how one of the bowlers had performed especially well.

The writer said that it was the cricketer’s way of commemorating Bob Marley’s birthday.

Such is the significance of Bob Marley in Jamaica.

And one of his songs in particular…which we’re going to feature in today’s Global Hit as part of our ongoing series on unofficial national anthems.

It was last year when I was reporting in Jamaica that I noticed how Bob Marley’s song “One Love” seemed to show up everywhere.

Like here at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston…an orphanage where the music director uses the song in band practice.

One Love does make you feel happy. That’s probably why the Jamaican government adopted it to sell their country as a tourist destination.

Crass commercialism yes, but a definite improvement over a previous campaign by Jamaica’s tourism ministry.

This schlocky 1978 spot riffed on John Lennon’s “Merry Christmas, War Is Over.”

Back to “One Love” though.

Steffens: It is rather odd that One Love is being used in a commercial way particularly by places like the Ministry of Tourism because Bob said at various times in his life that every government on the face of the earth is illegal, every law is illegal, only Jah law is to be practiced.

Roger Steffens is a Bob Marley biographer, and manages the world’s largest Bob Marley archive.

Steffens: There are some factions in Jamaica among the hoteliers that resent the fact that Bob Marley’s song is being used to try to fill their hotels because they think that to this day the reggae rhythms are going to attract the wrong kind of people to Jamaica. So there’s a built in irony there.

There’s another irony with One Love. A big irony.

Bob Marley wrote and recorded One Love in 1966 with his band at the time the Wailing Wailers. It became an instant hit.

But Marley wrote it when he was making the transition from Christianity to Rastafarianism.

Listen to the words. You find lines like: “Is there a place for the hopeless sinner/who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?”

That’s biblical stuff says Roger Steffens.

Steffens: Christianity was so much a part of the day to day life in Jamaica during its years as a British colony. The Church of England was very important and so was the Presbyterian church because a lot of the slave masters were Scotsmen.

Bob Marley’s own father, Norval Sinclair Marley, a Marine officer, was a white Jamaican of Scottish descent.

Bob hardly ever knew him because the father was always at sea. And he died when Bob was ten. But the religion rubbed off.

And Bob Marley’s mother Cedella Booker also took religion quite seriously.

Steffens: Bob Marley was a Christian from early on due to the influence of his mother in the little town in northern Jamaica called Nine Mile where he was born, and he would sing in church with her, and sing out in the fields. And of course Rastafari, the faith that he professed had a lot of Christian elements, and a lot of the music from the Christian church was adapted into Rastafarian chants.

The second verse of Marley’s 1966 ska version of “One Love” goes “Let’s get together to fight this holy battle/so when the Man comes there will be no no doom.”

After he had fully made the transition to rastafarianism, Marley would change “holy battle” to “holy armageddon,” in fitting with the rasta idea that armageddon is the state the world is currently in.

Whether or not the reggae-loving world understands, that’s beside the point.

Roger Steffens says “One Love” has transcended any claim rastas may have put on it.

Steffens: For example the national holiday in New Zealand is February 6, it’s called Treaty Day and it commemorates a treaty signed in 1840 between the Maori people and the British colonizers. And to this day now, they don’t really celebrate Treaty Day. They call it Uncle Bob day. And the radio stations play Bob Marley music all day long, and they have festivals honoring Bob Marley on February 6. First nation people, aboriginal peoples, Maori people, the Havasupi who live in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, all of those people regard Bob Marley as one of their own, And One Love is the finest example I think of Bob’s tapping into a universal theme.

For Jamaicans though, both rastas and the majority non-rastas there, “One Love” is an anthem that occupies as much space in your mind as the official national anthem.

A special thanks for production assistance goes to reporter Madeleine Bair for that story.

Incidentally, my Frontline/World documentary on how Bob Marley’s legacy lives on at the Alpha Boys School is now online.

Also, hope you heard the answer to the Geo Quiz.

Bob Marley’s birthplace is Nine Mile, Jamaica.

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