cr: Johnny Bivera
The highlight of the evening was either Devin, the adorable Rasta bartender inundated with thirsty party goers (16 cases of Red Stripe, and only one bottle opener), or Jamaican Ambassador Johnson leading the overwhelming crowd in a rendition of “One Love”. Whichever your choice, the evening was a blistering success. (Note the warm adjective to describe a mighty cold evening in Washington DC. I only mention the weather because people were lined up around the block just waiting to get in. Or maybe the car traffic was lined up around the block but either way, you couldn’t get into the gallery and if you did, you couldn’t move.)
cr: Cameron Davidson
cr: Mark Wilson
What a crowd! cr: cuz Stephen Brown
DB with the Ambassador(no, he's not really that tiny!)
cr: Mark Wilson
The notables in attendance were too numerous to mention, (my cousin Chuck came from Arizona, and Karen and David came from New Jersey) but the most important note was that it was the first party I have ever been to in DC where no one was wearing a tie, and most of the guests looked so cool you would have thought they had flown in from New York, or even Jamaica. Wait, some actually did come from New York and Jamaica and that was wonderful—but even the Washingtonians dressed down and laid back for this ‘irie’ affair. In Jamaica you say ‘irie’ when everything is alright – it actually has nothing to do with me, but I like to think I am ‘Irie” as well.
Chris Murray and Ambassador Johnson. cr: Cameron Davidson
Yes, David launched his book, “Soul Rebel – An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley” with a beautiful show at the Govinda Gallery in Georgetown. The show will remain up until March 28th and it is worth the cost of a cab ride to visit. (Come by plane, train, or bus, if you must – but come. It’s Georgetown so of course there is no obvious Metro stop.)
In the 70’s David spent some time in Jamaica on assignment, first for Time Magazine and then later for Rolling Stone (in Europe on the Exodus Tour), covering this new phenomenon of a music called Reggae and it’s emerging prince, Bob Marley. He shot about 400 memorable photos but once the assignment was finished, aside from the occasional magazine piece, like many of his stories, he forgot about the pictures. When Jordan Kai was a sophomore in college (having spent some weeks in New York cataloguing pictures David forgot he had), she noticed her friend had a big Marley poster of David’s work. Yes, it was probably a stolen frame but she was thrilled to see it and when David visited, she dragged him downstairs to see it. (as loving parents we’re not supposed to say ‘dragged’ but…) David couldn’t believe that kids who were born 5 or 6 years after Marley died would have such an interest in him or his music, but it turns out that Bob Marley transcends both age and geography. David took another look at the long forgotten photos and realized how precious they were. He brought them to Chris Murray, the energetic and talented long time owner of the Govinda Gallery and that was the beginning of this amazing project.
David returned to Jamaica many times in the early 80’s to do a country story for National Geographic. During these visits David met many other reggae artists who were producing the sound, and who were, if not great, at least colorful. And the most amazing thing was the way the music was created and distributed. For example, there was a popular tune called “Lesbian Connection”. This song was based on a nearly substantiated rumor that two lesbians had been rushed from Spanish Town (30 miles away) to the Kingston General Hospital because somehow, in their lovemaking, they had become connected and couldn’t be separated without help from a doctor. Don’t ask! Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital. That was on a Monday. Tuesday, there was a picture in The Daily Gleaner, showing the huge crowds, drawn by the lure of a great rumor, outside the hospital. Wednesday, an enterprizing songster put the story down to words and music. The song was passed on to a barely known reggae musician, who refined music. Thursday, it was cut as a record in the studio, and the Friday it was on the streets and being played on the radio. So much for millions spent in a studio. Music was almost like another form of the Evening News, part of everyday life and culture. Nothing in the world of politics, business or show biz escaped the rapier voice of the musicians.
With CC pal Dr. Suzi Grant (note: Doctor!) cr: cuz Stephen Brown
With Harry Mattison, and Leslie Kossoff. cr: Cuz Stephen Brown
with photog John Ficara and daughter Francesca. cr: Cuz Stephen Brown
But by that time Bob Marley had passed (I always want to say passed what, when someone uses that adjective about death), and he was clearly established as the voice and the face of Reggae. Music continues to be a grand part of life in Jamaica, a place already rich with its own language and culture, not to mention a habit of winning a lot of Gold medals at the Olympics. But above all that remains the vision of Bob as the voice that brought it all into focus, a generation ago, and whose music remains today as fresh as ever. It’s been nearly 28 years since Bob’s passing, but last night, on 34th street, in Georgetown, he seemed to be alive as ever. We’re just sayin’... Iris
You can't imagine how fast 20 cases of Red Stripe can disappear
Signing a copy of Soul Rebel (Cr: Cuz Stephen Brown)
With Doug Myers, my ole Jamaican pal from those trips in the 80s
DB and IJB early, when we wondered if anyone would show up. cr: Mark Wilson