Who would have predicted that Bob Marley, the boy from Nine Miles, Jamaica, would become one of the most iconic figures in music history? His revolutionary yet accessible brand of world music would take him from the third world ghettos to t-shirts, hats and posters the world over. To be sure, America (and much of the world) had never heard reggae music before. And they certainly had never seen a superstar that looked like this.
In Bruce W. Talamon’s Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer, the photographer “wanted to photograph Bob Marley for a young black child who would never know him as I wished someone had photographed Malcolm X for me.” Talamon could not have know how prescient he was; Marley would be dead just a few short years after most of these photos were taken and a generation would, in fact, only know him through photos and, of course, his music.
Marley was a natural in front of the camera, good-looking and at ease. And, of course, there’s those dreads. What is now commonplace on professional athletes and rappers used to invite double and triple-takes. Marley certainly knew how to use them for maximum effect; dreadlocks “flash” in portraits, and fly in concert photos.
There is some traditional portraiture that includes shots you might recognize, but they are presented here full-frame and uncropped. We also see Bob tuning up and getting ready to take the stage with his band, ever-present spliff in hand. Live shots dominate the book and rightfully so; you can read the joy, passion and intensity he brought to his work in his expressions. And when his downtime included soccer, Marley’s other passion, or “reasoning” with young African men in Gabon, Africa, the superstar is always focused, aware and completely in the moment. Few musicians have commanded a room — or a camera — as well as Bob Marley.
There are several excellent traditional bios on Bob Marley out there, but Bruce Talamon’s Spirit Dancer offers up a unique story in pictures, rather than words. Feel them spirit….
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