Monday, March 23, 2015

Was Not Was: Bob Marley and the Wailers with "Johnny Was"



It's funny how some songs, even when they are almost 40 years old, still have relevance today. Johnny Was, by Bob Marley and the Wailers, is one of those songs. Sung from the perspective of a person comforting a woman in the street who has just seen her son shot down by a stray bullet, it seems to me like echoes of the past coming to shine a spotlight on our present. After the events of Ferguson and other places, including my home of Albuquerque, have highlighted the biased ways in which some areas are policed and how some law enforcement officials view certain minorities, it is almost as if Bob Marley and the Wailers were warning us not only about their present but our future. It's uncanny and eerie, and also sad that 40 years after this song was released, this song could still be relevant.

Bo Marley and the Wailers is a reggae and ska band was formed by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963. Many of the band's early songs were recorded with the aid of Lee "Scratch" Perry and his studio band The Upsetters. The Wailers were known for recording some of the most notable reggae songs in history. Tosh and Wailer left the band in 1974, leading to a revamped Wailers lineup, and Marley died in 1981 of malignant melanoma. Johnny Was can be found on the Bob Marley and the Wailers 1976 album Rastaman Vibration.