Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 215
Tues. Aug 14, 2012
I’ve been a tripping over words since my early youth and now, even though it comes and goes, my stutter step will always be a part of me. I still have nightmares where I can’t speak or if I try to communicate nothing comes out. It’s always in my mind, especially when I meet someone new. It’s not so much the stutter, it’s seeing this person reacting when I can’t even say my own name. It’s still there, an internal sense of fear I am going to stumble over my words. When I hear Bob Marley sing, “Talkin’ Blues” to me, brings to life of being a stutterer in this day modern age. Marley‘s music has always been a source of comfort to me. And not just being a stutterer. Even when I’ve been sick there were times that Marley’s music brought me rhythmic relief. I remember being nauseous while I was managing at record store in San Antonio and putting on “Three Little Birds” it felt like Marley’s words instantly healed me.
It’s Marley’s intimate voice and at times his ambiguous lyrics are what connect us, redefining Bob’s words while attaching our own personal meaning to his timeless music. In 1995 two writers, Stephen King and Richard Jefferson, explored the ambiguity in Bob Marley’s lyrics in a Journal of Popular Culture. [As found in the book, Jammin’ with Resistant Music and Popular Culture in Bob Marley’s “Jah-Public,” by Manisha Nordine] King and Jefferson said, “Marley’s commercial success can be attributed to the “ambiguity” his songs that reflect a myriad of interpretations in Bob’s lyrics.” Even if Marley was writing about his Jamaican experience, it’s how we interpreted and connected with his song lyrics, is directly linked to making Bob Marley the immortal Reggae Lyrical Prophet he remains today.
Speaking of Bob’s lyrical ambiguity, Did you know Marley’s most misunderstood lyric can ironically be found on his 1974 Natty Dread song about miscommunication called “Talkin’ Blues?” When Marley sings, “♫ But I’m gonna stare in the sun/ Let the rays shine in my eyes/ I’m gonna take a just a one-step more/ cause I feel like bumming a church, now/ Now that you know that the preacher is lying ♫” Yes, I believe the word is bumming, it’s a play on a British slang for protesting by dropping your trousers and showing your bum to the lying preacher. [Editor’s Note: Morrissey wanted to do this same act of dissent, by dropping his trousers, in The Smiths brilliant 1986 protest title song in The Queen is Dead] Doesn’t this dubious showing of one’s bum make more sense than the more explosive other meaning? Bumming is also more in line with Marley’s more loveable and lyrical nature. When Marley sings “♫ I feel like bumming a church ♫” it’s a clever protest lyrics and nothing more. If you put on your headphones you can clearly hear Marley sing “bumming.”
It’s the various interpretations of Marley’s music that keep his spirit alive beyond his songs. Like I said before, my own interpretation of Marley’s music doesn’t make it wrong. Chris Blackwell once wrote in his legendary Bob Marley biographical tome, Catch a Fire, “Bob Marley’s world was one in which opinion; memory, interpretation and belief are often held in higher esteem than mere fact.” Blackwell’s right, it’s the personal connection to songs like “Talkin’ Blues” that Bob’s music a reflection of our everyday existence. We can listen to a Bob Marley song that was written back in the early 1970’s and it could instantly transform you into relatable emotions you are feeling today. That’s the powerful beauty in the genius of Bob Marley’s songwriting.
“Talkin’ Blues” is an example of Marley’s songs that reflect the struggles of every day common men everywhere. Marley experienced this while becoming a global superstar; he witnessed suffering and poverty in just about every place he visited in the world. Marley’s response to witnessing all this struggles was writing songs like “Talkin’ Blues” that continue to heal and move us in our current disconnected modern age. Lucky we have Bob Marley to reconnect us with songs like “Talkin’ Blues.” Even though Marley was singing about impoverishment, I feel like Bob reflects the emotions of being a conversational outcast. Either way, listening to Bob Marley makes me feel less alone in the world. Maybe we should all switch on by listening to more of Marley’s song messages. We might just learn something from Bob’s powerfully “Talkin’ Blues” lyrics of wisdom.