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Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley Paperback – September 15, 1998
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Bob Marley, reggae superstar and pop culture icon, left an indelible mark on modern music. Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley delves deep into the life of the lionized leader of a musical, spiritual, and political explosion that still reverberates more than a decade after his death. Almost nothing pertaining to the life of Bob Marley is left out; the origins of Rastafarianism (the Ethiopian religion that was the keystone of his life), the roots of the reggae sound, the Jamaican political and social debacle that informed his lyrics--this is a comprehensive account of the life of the artist and the times that produced him.
Catch a Fire is assiduously researched; the details writer Timothy White presents of the King of Reggae's life are cinematic in scope and, at times, cumbersome. White includes much of his primary source material, ranging from full interviews with band members to unearthed CIA documents, and devotes a whole section to describing his exhaustive research process. The final product is rich with elements of spiritual tome, rock biography, and history text; it is a hagiographic epic--the story of a man and his legend. --Brendan J. LaSalle
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Everyone loves Bob Marley. And surely a 500-page book on Marley is going to be nothing but an amazing experience to learn every nook and cranny related to his life. But you realize the author must've done so much research and had no many notes and interviews and tidbits and facts that he just figured he'd cram them into the book and no one would notice that Bob Marley wouldn't really appear until about page 100 and die a little past page 300.
The rest is dense and plodding and felt like homework to get through all the aspects of religion and politics and the economy and... (you get the point, I think)
The book is fascinating and you can't help but learn a lot about Bob Marley (who knew he lived in the United States and had a series of menial jobs before making it big?!) but I think the Marley doc from 2012 does just as good a job at a fraction of the time.
"Faith in Jah got Marley in touch with his conscience, and faith in himself set him on a course so unlikely and so edifying that no soul around the main remained unmoved by the dimensions and lessons of Bob's self-realization."
This is a very detailed book that explains a great deal about Bob Marley's background and career. Now I can tell you what a "goverment yard in Trenchtown" (from the lyrics of No Woman, No Cry) means and I know what Duppy Conqueror means. I did not know these things before.
This is certainly not a fan biography, or even a hagiography. In fact Marley does not even come across as a particularly likeable or admirable person. Perhaps there is a reason for this. I have a couple of CDs that have interviews with Bob Marley. It seems to me that Marley was not particularly articulate in person, and that what he had to say was all said in his songs. The author had many interviews with Marley in his lifetime, but none of them seem to have been very profound.
There is something about the style of the author that I don't particularly like, a certain like of directness or reference points, if you like. In a way he admits this in appendixes in which he says that he really has no way of telling what parts of much of the material he was told in interviews is true--so he just quotes it all, and lets you decide for yourself.
In the end it seems to me that White piles up lots and lots of data, but we don't learn much about Bob Marley the man. Maybe in the end the Natural Mystic eludes all attemps to pin him down. But the book does give tons of background information that helps to understand his music, and even the particular events in Marley's life that inspired the lyrics of certain songs.
The book is definitely worth having, but the true essence of Bob Marley lies in his music, which, fortunately we can all still enjoy today.