Words by Jesse Serwer
Tomorrow, Sunday February 6 marks what would have been Bob Marley’s 66th birthday, and, while the week leading up to this date is always busy with Bob-related news and events, the last few days have been particularly noisy. Most notably, it was announced that director Kevin McDonald (Last King of Scotland, The Eagle) will helm a Bob Marley documentary backed by producers Ziggy Marley and Chris Blackwell. Tuesday, meanwhile, saw the release of Live Forever: The Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA, September 23, 1980, a recording of Bob’s last-ever concert (A date, as David Fricke notes in his Rolling Stone review, which Bob honored two days after he collapsed while jogging in New York). In addition to the CD and digital release, Universal Motown/Tuff Gong has issued the recording, long available as a bootleg, in a “super-deluxe” edition with three vinyl LPs, two CDs and a commemorative booklet.
And there’s more to come. This week Billboard ran a cover story by Rob Kenner about the Marley family’s efforts to curb the multi-million-dollar Bob bootleg market (It’s estimated that $600 million in unauthorized Marley music and merchandise is sold every year, and the Marleys have served over 400 cease-and-desist letters in the last 11 years.) The story also details the wide range of products set to arrive on the market this year under the banner of the House of Marley, an eco-friendly joint venture between the Marley family and the parent company of the Sharper Image, including Trenchtown Rock headphones. The premium earpieces, which will retail for $299 and compete with Beats by Dr. Dre, are made from recyclable materials and boast a “heavy bass sound ideal for reggae.”
In other Marley, Inc. news, Cedella Marley announced a partnership with Puma to design the Jamaican National Track & Field team’s gear for the 2012 Olympics. And Rohan Marley’s organic Marley Coffee brand, which we’ve told you about here, is now available at Whole Foods.
Just a note about the photo you see above. I took it last month in San Juan, Puerto Rico, inside one of those tourist-trap shops that sell T-shirts, bath towels, mugs and other generic items with local themes. Places like this throughout the Caribbean also sell Bob Marley T-shirts as if he’s native to their island too, but I was struck by the extensiveness of their selection. The shop had no products emblazoned with the likenesses of Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, Big Pun or any other sons of Puerto Rico. Just a whole lot of Bob.