Friday, December 3, 2010

Jamaican Smiles

Thirty four years ago today, on December 3rd 1976, a group of armed gunmen broke into the home of Bob Marley and shot him twice (as well as wounding his wife and manager) before escaping. Marley had been scheduled to play the free “Smile Jamaica” concert in just two days, on the 5th of December.

Jamaica was in the throws of a sputtering civil war centered around the presidential candidacies of Edward Seaga and Michael Manley. Manley was up for re-election and had proclaimed a state of emergency in January of 1976. In June 500 people were arrested in one fell swoop, and accused of trying to overthrow the government. Many of those arrested were prominent members of Edward Seaga’s party. Violence skirmishes and authoritarian reprisals continued long after Manley was re-elected on December 15th.

Marley insisted on going on with the “Smile Jamaica” concert; agreeing to only play one song. Once he got up in front of the crowd of 80,000 he played an entire 90 minute set. The setlist was:

1. War/ No More Trouble/ Get Up Stand Up
2. Crazy Baldhead/ Positive Vibration
3. Smile Jamaica
4. Rat Race
5. TrenchTown Rock
6. Keep on Moving
7. Want More
8. Them Belly Full
9. Jah Live
10. Rastaman Chant
11. Rebel Music
12. So Jah Seh

When asked why he ignored his wounds and played the full set Marley replied: "The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?"

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