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Meeting Bob:

One Love, One Life

By Geoffrey Philp Published 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 7 min read
From the cover of my e-book "Bob Marley and Bradford's iPod"

The first time I met Bob was in 1976, after the release of Natty Dread. By this time, Bob had risen from the streets of Trenchtown to become an international superstar, bringing his messages of Rastafari, spirituality, freedom, and revolution to the global stage. Yet, despite his fame, Bob remained a “grounds bredrin,” who I'd often spot driving his Volkswagon van or his BMW through the streets of Mona.

Danny Morrison and Jah Mick of JahLove Musik (I've written about him in my short story, “I Want to Disturb my Neighbor") had arranged a Bob Marley celebration. The event was held at the Mona Heights Community Center in Jamaica.

I had arrived late for the celebrations, and when I got there, Bob was sitting under an almond tree. I walked up to him, introduced myself, and he told me to sit down. This was the first time I had experienced Bob’s psychic ability because he began telling me things about my life that no one else knew about me--not even my mother. I still don’t remember the details because I was in a state of shock. I just couldn’t believe that Bob, meeting me within five minutes, could have told me so much about my life.

I continued to meet Bob over the years as he would drop into JahMick’s home on Geranium or sometimes when members of his entourage would come to the park on Aralia Avenue in Mona Heights to play football. There, I met Gilly Dread, Neville Garrick, and Seeco, who always called me “Brown Man.”

There were many nights we would play football late into the night by the light of the moon or sometimes when we couldn’t see each other but could only scream at the glimmer of the ball going between a defender’s legs, and we’d shout, "Salad!"

For the non-Jamaicans, a “salad” is when you pass the ball through the open legs of your opponent and probably has a derivation from a song with the refrain, “Please, mister, don’t touch me tomato. “Salad” took on a sexual connotation and referred to a woman’s vulva. So if you pushed the football between another man’s legs--it was a big insult. And in “macho” Jamaica, as the saying went, “A guy would kill you for less than that!”

Soon, the games expanded, and with some Real Mona members, we began playing games against teams from August Town. Our team once played a pickup match against some “old men” like Allan “Skill” Cole and Lindy Delapena. The only days we didn’t play football (and it wasn’t for want of trying) were New Year’s Day, Easter weekend, and Christmas. And we always played way into the night.

Then, one week, everyone disappeared. Bob had been shot. We figured it had something to do with the “Smile Jamaica” Concert. Still, I went to National Heroes Park on the concert night. It was a long wait.

I was afraid because of the threats that had been made against Bob's life. In those days, it seemed like danger lurked around the corner. People said the CIA wanted Bob dead. Others said the politicians couldn't stand the idea of a Rasta man speaking truth to the downpressors. There were always whispers, rumors, and suspicions. We didn't know who to trust.

That night, people were looking over their shoulders, jumping at shadows. No one said it outright, but I could see it on their faces and body language. We were all worried that something terrible was about to happen.

So when we got word that Bob was running late, a feeling of dread crept up my spine. The wait seemed endless. Every minute that ticked by put my nerves more on edge. I caught myself straining to hear signs of an ambush from the streets outside, glancing around to size up strangers in the crowd. I started to imagine the worst things that could happen. And from the hushed voices and darting eyes around me, I could tell everyone around me felt the same way.

We all wondered: Would there even be a concert tonight? Or were we gathering for disaster? The wait stretched on forever, and my fear swelled. But still, we waited anxiously for Bob – the man some people wanted dead at any cost.

After waiting for three hours, I got fed up after one young musician said, “Me can sing like Bob, you know.” He was booed off the stage. I told my friends from the Jamaica School of Drama that I was tired. I left at around 11:30 that night because I didn’t think Bob was going to show up.

Was I wrong! Bob showed up, and the next day, my friends teased me and said that I had missed the best concert that Bob had ever played. I was determined I would never miss another Bob Marley concert. I would have to wait a long time because Bob went into a self-imposed exile in London after the concert.

So, when Bob returned to Jamaica to do the “One Love Concert” in Kingston, Jamaica, I had to go despite the tension and my friends' warnings that something bad would happen. Nothing did. It was a great concert with Peter Tosh and Jacob “Killer” Miller almost stealing the show.

But when Bob got on stage, his dreadlocks flowing, and sang, ‘The Lion of Judah Shall Break Every Chain,” he brought us together. Then, in a remarkable twist, he invited Michael Manley and Edward Seaga on the stage, where he clasped their hands and gave us a blessing of peace, love, and prosperity.

Now that was a concert!

I thought I would see many more concerts. But things got even more dread in Jamaica. In 1979, Jamaica’s population was approximately 2.2 million, and we had over 900 murders, according to the official records, which no one believes.* My mother sold our house in Mona and sent an airplane ticket for me. She gave me a month to get everything ready and leave. I left Jamaica for Miami on April 30, 1979.

In December 1979, after starting college in Miami, I returned to Jamaica for the Christmas holidays. While I was standing outside Sangster’s Bookstore—where else would I be on vacation?--I met up with Seeco while I was standing at the bus stop. Seeco was on his way to his home, but when he saw me, he invited me to Island House to“kick some ball.” I was always in sneakers and always ready for a ball game.

When we got to Island House, “One Drop” was playing in the background on the loudspeakers. The minute Bob saw Seeco, he wanted to play a game against the old dread. We divided ourselves into two teams: Bob, Gilly, and, if I remember correctly, Leghorn on one side, Seeco, myself, and another dread--I can’t remember his name—on the other side.

We played the first game and beat Bob and Gilly 6 -3. Seeco told Bob that he should give someone else a try, and Bob said that it was his house and he wasn’t coming off, so we played a second game. All the while, Survival was playing over and over.

During the second game, I saw Bob’s temper flare up. During the game, I slipped the ball through his legs--a salad--and Bob tripped me. Of course, I wasn’t going to take it like that. I jumped up and squared off with Bob. It wasn’t until we were chest to chest that it suddenly dawned on me that Bob could kick my ass without even trying. They didn’t call him “Tuff Gong” in Trench Town for nothing. I was trembling, but I wasn’t going to back down.

Luckily, Seeco intervened. Bob got angry with him, picked up a cinder block to hit him, and then came to his senses. When Bob realized how angry he had gotten over nothing, he calmed down, and we played the rest of the game. This time, they beat us 6-2. Bob said we had to come off the field. We told him we weren’t going to come off because we’d won the first game. We decided to play a third game.

It was getting dark during the third game, and I realized I had to catch my plane back to Miami. The score was 3-2, our 3. I told Seeco and Bob that I‘d be seeing them soon.

Seeco said, “All right, Brown man.”

Bob nodded and gave me a look that, even then, struck me as meaningful and that I’ve never forgotten. Was he trying to tell me something? I’d never know.

I went home, showered, and caught the plane back to Miami. That was the last time I saw Bob.

One Love.


*My novel, Benjamin, My Son, which was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, is set in this time.

Bob Marley and Bradford’s iPod:

Where in the World is Mona Heights, Jamaica:

Bob's psychic ability:

“I Want to Disturb My Neighbor” from Who’s Your Daddy, published by Peepal Tree Press:

If you liked this post, please subscribe to have my next post, "The Day the One-Drop Ended," the story about the day Bob died, delivered to your inbox. I appreciate your readership

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About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing through personal reflection & societal engagement.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Phil Flannery2 months ago

    This was an amazing story. To be so close to such an amazing person. I'm glad Mariann Carroll shared this.

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Awesome tribute and personal reflection!!! ♥️♥️💕

  • Mariann Carroll2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this story with us. I did not even know Bob have psychic gift. Maybe he was angry because he knew his life was coming to an end soon. Some people when they have a gift, they hide it. He did not. There will only be one Bob.

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