Kingston was the famed musician’s home.
By Renée S. Gordon
The most famous Jamaican and Rastafarian is Robert Nesta Marley, OM. He was born in 1945 in Nine Mile, Jamaica, but his life is well interpreted in Kingston, the country’s capital, where he spent the majority of his life.
Jamaica’s Central Housing Authority erected government housing on 200 acres in the 1940s called Trench Town. For a nominal fee, renters were provided water, electricity, and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. Apartments consisted of one or two 10-ft. by 10-ft. rooms. The Trench Town Culture Yard (TTCY) area was part of the “U” block of homes, 16 rooms with 16 families, around a communal courtyard. It was here that 11 year old Bob Marley and his mother moved in 1956, and it was here that his legend began.
Bob Marley was taught to play the guitar by one of the residents, Vincent Ford. The Wailers were formed here, Marley and Ford composed “No Woman No Cry,” and he recorded his first album, “Catch a Fire.” In 2007 TTCY was granted protected National Heritage status.
Guided tours are regularly scheduled and are a wonderful experience. Several of the rooms form a museum that exhibit photographs, artifacts and make clear that a number of noted musicians, activists and artists lived here, Marley was merely the most famous. On exhibit is Marley’s first guitar. Two rooms of particular note are Ford’s room, outfitted with a bed, walls covered with Biblical scripture, his personal Bible turned to Psalm 68, and the kitchen that was used by Bob Marley as a bedroom featuring his original bed. Marley’s father, Captain Norval Marley, was a white Englishman in his 50s and his mother was 16. He never met his father and, as an adult, sought out his English family but they refused to acknowledge him. Captain Marley’s photograph is also on display.
In the courtyard, you can take pictures with a statue of Marley and see the remains of his first car. Marley’s early recording studio still functions and if you visit on a recording day you are welcome to enter the studio to watch and listen.
The Bob Marley Museum is part of a complex that includes a theater, recording studios, café, exterior art exhibits and Marley’s home from 1975 until his death from cancer at the age of 36 in 1981. The house was purchased from his manager and retains original bricks, marble steps and sashes.
Guided tours are 1.5-hours and showcase Marley’s awards, honors, career, personal items and lifestyle. Tours begin with the biographical murals on the exterior and the statue in front of the residence that includes portraits of Garvey and Selassie. Other highlights include his favorite spot to compose music, the place on the porch where he held interviews, a room wallpapered with articles that relate his career from 1973 to 1981, a stage backdrop, bedroom in which he died, his kitchen, and the studio in which he recorded three albums. The last stop on the tour is a visit to the rehearsal room where the assassination attempt was made on his life in December 3, 1970.
Bob Marley founded Tuff Gong International in 1965 and gave the enterprise his nickname. It is a full-service, state-of-the-art recording studio and tours can be arranged.
Several airlines are offering sale fares to Jamaica and this is the time to go. Meteorologists predict that this coming winter in the U.S. will be extremely cold. I predict that you will find a warm welcome in Jamaica.
– Photos by Renée S. Gordon
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