Reggae legend Bob Marley was on the verge of international stardom in late 1975 when he began recording his second solo studio album.
He gathered his Wailers band for sessions at Harry J and Joe Gibbs studios in Kingston and that resulted in ‘Rastaman Vibration.’
Released in April 1976, this year marks the 40th anniversary of that landmark set.
In an interview in June that year, Marley, who died in 1981 at age 36, spoke about the album.
He said it transcended music.
“It’s not music right now, we’re dealing with a message. Right now the music not important, we’re dealing with a message. Rastaman Vibration is more like a dub kinda album and it’s come without tampering y’know. Like War or Rat Race, the music don’t take you away, it’s more to listen to,” Marley said.
“War” (an interpretation of an Haile Selassie speech) and “Rat Race” were two of the songs from ‘Rastaman Vibration,’ which, like Marley’s previous albums, ‘Natty Dread’ and ‘Live!,’ was distributed by Island Records. Those albums helped solidify Marley’s international profile.
A spiritual album that resonated with fans. It is Marley’s only set to make Billboard Magazine’s 200 Album Chart, peaking at number eight. The stomping Roots, Rock, Reggae went as far as 51 on the publication’s Top 100 Singles Chart. Marley and the Wailers went on a three-month tour to promote ‘Rastaman Vibration,’ starting in May at the Diplomat Club in South Florida.
Several musicians who played on Rastaman Vibration, who were not credited, were saxophonist Tommy McCook on Roots, Rock, Reggae and American guitarist Donald Kinsey worked on the album, overdubbing his parts on Johnny Was and Roots, Rock, Reggae at Criteria Studio in Miami. Also, American soul group Little Anthony and The Imperials opened for Marley on the Toronto leg of the tour.
When Marley and the Wailers performed at Ninian Park in Cardiff, Wales, in June 1976, watching the show was Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin.
1976 was a busy year for Marley. He and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry co-produced American singer Martha Velez’s album, Escape From Babylon, at Perry’s Black Ark studio in Kingston.
The tour and album made Bob Marley a bona fide star. He rubbed shoulders with Stevie Wonder and George Harrison of The Beatles; major magazines like Rolling Stone and Time did feature stories on him.
Marley returned to a Jamaica under a state of emergency, called by the government to quell political and gang warfare. It seemed inevitable he would be caught up in the hostilities.
In December, it was announced that Marley would headline Smile Jamaica, a peace concert at National Heroes Park in Kingston.
On December 3, two days before the event, he was shot in the chest and left arm by gunmen while rehearsing at his home in St Andrew. His wife, Rita, manager Don Taylor and friend Lewis Griffiths, were also shot and injured.
Marley still performed at Smile Jamaica, but concerned about his safety he left for the Bahamas and Britain shortly after. His next studio album would be an epic that ensured him pop music immortality.