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|Bob Marley and The Wailers
For marketing purposes, Bob Marley, the Wailers, and Bob Marley & the Wailers have become interchangeable names, usedindiscriminately to refer to recordings actually made by separate entities. So, it is worth recalling the distinctions that existedat the times these entities performed and recorded. The Wailers, formed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1963, was a vocal groupconsisting of Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, Bunny Livingston, Bob Marley, Peter McIntosh, and Cherry Smith; they werecalled variously the Teenagers, the Wailing Rudeboys, the Wailing Wailers, and finally the Wailers. Braithwai ...read more
For marketing purposes, Bob Marley, the Wailers, and Bob Marley & the Wailers have become interchangeable names, usedindiscriminately to refer to recordings actually made by separate entities. So, it is worth recalling the distinctions that existedat the times these entities performed and recorded. The Wailers, formed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1963, was a vocal groupconsisting of Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, Bunny Livingston, Bob Marley, Peter McIntosh, and Cherry Smith; they werecalled variously the Teenagers, the Wailing Rudeboys, the Wailing Wailers, and finally the Wailers. Braithwaite, Kelso, andSmith had departed by 1966, leaving the trio of Livingston, Marley, and McIntosh. By the early '70s, they had begun playingmusical instruments and added a rhythm section consisting of brothers Aston "Family Man" Barrett (bass) and Carlton (Carlie)Barrett (drums). After recording extensively in Jamaica, this unit was signed to Great Britain's Island Records, which issued itslabel debut, Catch a Fire, in April 1973, followed by Burnin' in November. These albums attracted critical attention but did notchart at first.
By the time of Natty Dread (1974), the original group had split, with McIntosh (later billed as Peter Tosh) and Livingston(later billed as Bunny Wailer) leaving. The album was credited to Bob Marley & the Wailers, the group consisting of Marley,the Barretts, keyboard player Bernard "Touter" Harvey, and lead guitarist Al Anderson, with backing vocals by the I-Threes(Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley, and Judy Mowatt). The breakthrough for this group was their appearance at the Lyceum inLondon on July 18, 1975. The show was recorded and quickly released on LP as Live!, and Marley and his reggae musicbecame an international sensation. The success of Eric Clapton's cover of "I Shot the Sheriff," a Marley song from Burnin', inthe summer of 1974, had done much to popularize reggae (the original version made the U.S. R&B charts that fall), but Marleyhimself now achieved stardom as a performer. "No Woman, No Cry," a song originally heard on Natty Dread, reached the U.K.charts in its live rendition in September 1975, becoming a Top 40 hit. With that, both Natty Dread and Live! reached theBritish charts. In the U.S., Natty Dread had charted in May; it was followed by Burnin' and Catch a Fire in the fall. (Live! washeld back from U.S. release for a year; when it appeared, it charted in the Top 100..
Bob Marley & the Wailers reached their commercial apex in the U.S. with the April 1976 release of their next studio album,Rastaman Vibration, which hit the Top Ten as "Roots, Rock, Reggae" became a minor pop chart entry and a Top 40 R&B hit.At this point, the group consisted of Marley, the Barretts, the I-Threes, keyboard player Tyrone Downie, percussionist Alvin"Seeco" Patterson, rhythm guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, and lead guitarist Donald Kinsey. Exodus, released in May 1977, foundMarley & the Wailers taking a slightly more uptempo (and disco-influenced) direction; it produced three Top 40 chart hits inthe U.K. ("Exodus," "Waiting in Vain," and the Top Ten "Jamming," backed by the non-LP "Punky Reggae Party") and becametheir first Top Ten album in Great Britain. In the U.S., it sold about as well as Rastaman Vibration, but the band beganmeeting resistance from category conscious radio programmers who couldn't figure out whether to slot it as rock or R&B."Exodus" became a Top 20 R&B hit and "Waiting in Vain" made the R&B Top 40, but neither single charted pop. Once again,Marley had tinkered with the band's personnel, which for Exodus consisted of himself, the Barretts, the I-Threes, Downie,Patterson, and lead guitarist Julian (Junior) Marvin.
Kaya, the fourth studio album by Bob Marley & the Wailers, appeared in March 1978. In the U.K., it was the band's biggestsuccess yet, reaching the Top Five, powered by the advance single "Is This Love," which was a Top Ten hit, and by thefollow-up single "Satisfy My Soul," which reached the Top 40. But the story was far different in the U.S., where the albumstruggled. Black radio seemed to have decided that the band did not fit formats dominated by disco, while pop radio wasincreasingly attracted to new wave sounds and treated reggae as a fad that had passed. The double live album Babylon byBus, released in November, which marked the return of Al Anderson and the addition of keyboard player Earl "Wire" or "Wya"Lindo, was a modest seller, again doing better in England than in America.
The fifth Bob Marley & the Wailers studio album, Survival, was released in October 1979. It reached the Top 20 in the U.K.,with the single "So Much Trouble in the World" reaching the charts, but in the U.S. it sold only moderately well, though "WakeUp and Live" became a minor R&B chart entry. Uprising, released in June 1980 and prefaced by the propulsive single "CouldYou Be Loved," gave Marley a commercial rebound. Single and album were Top Ten hits in the U.K. The U.S. was moreresistant, but "Could You Be Loved" reached the R&B charts and the album charted higher than any of the band's albumssince Exodus. Uprising might have done better domestically if Marley had not become ill shortly after its release and beenforced to cancel his tour promoting it after only a few dates. His death in May 1981 of course brought an end to the bandknown as Bob Marley & the Wailers, but it did not end his and the band's success. Even before his death, the back catalogbegan to sell, with a British single release of "Three Little Birds" from Exodus reaching the Top 20 in the fall of 1980. Shortlyafter Marley's death, "No Woman, No Cry" was reissued and reached the U.K. Top Ten, with Live! (retitled Live at theLyceum) returning to the album chart. The posthumous album Confrontation was issued two years after Marley's death, inMay 1983. Both its single, "Buffalo Soldier," and the LP made their way up the U.K. Top Five. In the U.S., the single made theR&B charts, and the album was another moderate seller.
But the album that really established the defunct band as an across-the-board sales success was the hits collection Legend-- The Best of Bob Marley & the Wailers, released in the U.K. three years after Marley's death, in May 1984, and in August inthe U.S. The album topped the British charts with "One Love/People Get Ready," originally released on Exodus, becoming aTop Five single, "Waiting in Vain" returning to the Top 40, and "Could You Be Loved" returning to the charts. American chartstatistics were not as spectacular, but the album became a perennial seller; before the end of the century, it had beencertified for sales of ten million copies. Its success, in turn, stimulated sales of the Marley catalog in the U.S., and in the '90sBurnin', Live!, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Kaya, Uprising, and Confrontation all went gold, while Island continued to scale thecharts with compilations such as Rebel Music (1986), Talkin' Blues (1991), and Natural Mystic (1995). Often, the focus wason Marley alone. For example, the 1992 four-CD box set Songs of Freedom, which included recordings dating back to theearly '60s, was billed to Marley, not Marley & the Wailers, as was the 1999 chart album of newly created duets Chant DownBabylon. On the other hand, the many repackagers of '60s Wailers' recordings have long tended to credit their wares to BobMarley & the Wailers even though the material was cut by the Livingston/McIntosh/Marley group, and Island has long creditedreissues of Catch a Fire to Bob Marley & the Wailers (indeed, the initial U.S. release carried that credit). Thus, in practice,recordings by Bob Marley & the Wailers can refer to any music featuring Marley and made in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, thoughcareful listeners will insist that the credit should apply only to the recordings and performances of Marley and his regularbackup group from the breakup of the original Wailers trio in 1974 to Marley's death in 1981. « hide
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