Do people like Bob Marley any more?

April 10, 2012

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Coverage of the forthcoming documentary Marley, which aims to tell the definitive story of reggae superstar Bob Marley, gave me flashbacks of the dorm room walls of my college years.

For an incoming freshman, posters are a big deal. They’re one of your first and most visible declarations of self. Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Gustav Klimt’s portraits of women and Ché were and remain perennial hits. Those, while tiresome, didn’t bother me half as much as the Bob Marley posters. You know the ones. There were a few options from which to choose, but by far the most popular were the posters with Marley smoking a joint.

God, did I hate those posters and the drug paraphernalia-laden college town convenience stores from whence they came. UW-Madison, where I went to school, had The Den. Like its counterparts around the country, The Den looks the same and sells the same college kitsch as it did a decade ago. 

Year after year, their wares reinforce college kid archetypes, like the hippie, the lush and the pothead.

My college self thought that Bob Marley posters embodied all of those undergraduate clichés. They seemed to be a stand-in for actual musical taste and/or authentic musical philosophy.

In hindsight, I realize my critiques of university life’s symbols reflected my own very young adult identity crisis. But back then, wrapped up as I was in the kind of quasi-intellectual analysis endemic to freshman year, I hardly noticed Marley’s music. Like everyone else, I knew the hits, but I didn’t know anyone who really had dug into his catalog, including the kids who had the posters.

In the ten plus years since I graduated, rarely have I encountered Bob Marley completists, although I’m sure they’re out there. I wonder who among the Marley dabblers still find his music resonant or relevant.

Since the documentary Marley will inevitably inspire reevaluation of his legacy, on Wednesday, Eight Forty-Eight host Tony Sarabia puts the question to WBEZ music blogger, Sound Opinions co-host and resident contrarian Jim DeRogatis. We’re opening our 24-hour hotline so you can weigh in. Call 312.948.4848 and leave a message with your name, phone number and comment. We’ll run as many as we can.