23 JUL 2019: When my now 21-year-old son was a baby, the only certain way my wife and I could get the little guy to sleep was by playing Bob Marley – specifically “Three Little Birds.” Every time the King of Reggae emanated from the CD player, we knew that we wouldn’t have to worry about a thing and that every little thing was gonna be all right.

Whether from that subliminal indoctrination or otherwise, Brendan grew up loving Marley, prompting me to seek out a child-sized T-shirt in the markets of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, though to no avail, as kid sized-Marley kits were not manufactured at the time, I was told.

Nevertheless, my gratitude to the musician for easing the burdens of new fatherhood and inspiring in my son a love of the reggae genre and many of its artists, and a curiosity about Jamaica and by extension world culture, remained.

And it was with this sense of connection that I recently visited the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica.

My sentiment didn’t surprise museum guide Oshana Morgan, who has many tales to tell, most (to be honest) more poignant than mine – like the visitor from Boston who recounted how Marley’s “Redemption Song” saved him in a moment of despair and inspired him to become a doctor. More recently, Morgan recalled a wheelchair-bound guest at the museum who had intended to visit only the main floor of the venue, but broke down in tears and insisted on being carried, wheelchair and all, up the stairs to second floor, exclaiming, “I have to see it.”

The museum, which was converted by Marley’s wife Rita from their family home in 1987 (six years after Marley died of cancer), is now a national heritage site. Visitors will see dozens of artifacts, from treasured personal items of the musician to photos, gold and platinum records, a Grammy lifetime achievement award, paintings, and the rooms he lived in (bedroom, kitchen, washroom). There are two small recording studios and, uniquely, a room dedicated solely to an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Marley’s life (and its significant aftermath) in 1976 in which he and four others in the house were shot.

A new building beside the famous 56 Hope Rd. residence has a theatre that shows 30-minute videos about the artist, along with a gift shop.

But as interested as visitors may be in the artifacts – like a denim bedspread (Marley loved denim) and an Ethiopian bible (relating to his Rastafarian faith) – it is the storytelling by passionate guides about Marley’s life, history and success that takes the visit to another level, not unlike the way his music transcends simple melody to embrace, promote and preach personal and political freedom, unity amongst all peoples, and “One Love.”

And while Marley is credited with essentially introducing reggae to the world beyond Jamaica, he is perhaps even more renowned and revered, along with John Lennon, as one of music’s greatest ambassadors for world peace. (Ironically, both were targets of assassination, Lennon not as fortunate as Marley).

“Bob isn’t confined to the physical world,” tour guide Morgan opined of the musician, who has sold 75 million records and counting worldwide with such classics as “Stir It Up,” “No Woman No Cry,” “Buffalo Soldier,” “Redemption Song,” “Exodus,” and, of course, the anthem, “One Love,” which was named “song of the millennium” by the BBC in 2004 and which is still a touchstone of Jamaica’s tourism industry with its underlying sentiment: “Let’s get together and feel all right.”

After finally visiting the museum I felt a mix of emotions: a little angry that in life Marley was subjected to racism, politicized and ultimately nearly assassinated; sad that he was taken by his Jah before his time; but glad that his music and legacy of peace, love and unity is clearly living on in museum visitors, many ordinary Jamaicans (who consider Nesta Robert Marley a national hero), and millions of others – like my son.

Ultimately, Brendan never did get the T-shirt; he did, however, receive so much more.

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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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