Remembering the Love

Observer senior writer

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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This month marks the 40th anniversary of the One Love Peace Concert. The Jamaica Observer presents the final in a series of stories on the event.

FORTY years ago today, thousands of Jamaicans gathered at the National Stadium in Kingston for the One Love Peace Concert, an epic show organised by Jamaica's most influential community leaders, including Claudius “Claudie” Massop, Aston “Bucky” Marshall and Tony Welsh.

The scene in which reggae superstar Bob Marley called Prime Minister Michael Manley and Opposition leader Edward Seaga onstage for a show of unity has become an iconic snapshot. It was Marley's first show in Jamaica after 14 months in exile in the United Kingdom.

He left for the UK after being shot at his Kingston home on December 3, 1976, just two days before the Smile Jamaica show, another initiative aimed at bringing peace between supporters of the governing People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Peter Tosh, Inner Circle featuring Jacob Miller, Dennis Brown, The Meditations, Althea and Donna, Dillinger, Trinity, Big Youth, Leroy Smart, U Roy, Zap Pow (with Beres Hammond), Junior Tucker, Culture, The Mighty Diamonds, and Ras Michael and The Sons of Negus were also on the One Love Peace Concert.

The One Love Peace Concert is widely known for Marley's symbolic gesture with bitter rivals Manley and Seaga, but many who were there believe Tosh's fiery set was its high point. He railed against Jamaica's ruling and political classes, blaming them for social decay in the country.

Today, the Jamaica Observer looks back at that historic show through the eyes of people who were there.

Tommy Cowan (producer of the One Love Peace Concert)

“We actually started the concert at 5:00 am on the dot and we ended at around 11:00 pm.”

“Peter Tosh was a little scary. He started to hit out against the system and used some colourful words, yuh know, like the various 'cloths'.”

“I was concerned with Bob backstage. I told him he was talking too much and he would get hoarse before he went on. The response (when Marley took the stage) was subdued, there wasn't any great excitement; more sober, very solemn. Even the performance wasn't any big 'Ray!' The people weren't jamming, they were more focused on the lyrics of the songs.”

“It was never planned (Marley calling Manley and Seaga onstage). If you look at the footage, he went into a spiritual dance. He had definitely left the flesh realm into a spiritual realm.”

Roger and Ian Lewis (of Inner Circle)

“We were busy the whole day; we never left the stadium. Most of the backline, most of the production, setting up the stage; we did it. Chris Blackwell bring down a sound system from Miami name Cameron Sounds. Is the first time a show of that magnitude (in Jamaica) get proper sound reinforcement,” said Ian Lewis

“The atmosphere was electric. When Jakes (Jacob Miller) do Peace Treaty him bring up the real soldiers, Bucky and Claudie, an' the place go wild,” (Ian Lewis)

“We weren't really in the political part of expectations. We were so caught up in playing the music; that was our focus.” (Roger Lewis)

“I remember Bob stomping hard, is like the whole stage shake. Bob did a feel it.” (Roger Lewis)

“A lotta things happen for us after the show. Chris Blackwell sign us (to Island Records) and Touter (keyboardist Bernard Harvey) got to play with the Rolling Stones 'cause Mick Jagger was at the show.” (Roger Lewis)

Howard Moo Young (of Moo Young/Butler advertising agency; covered the show as photographer)

“I got there a little before 5:00. People really started to come in after 7:30.”

“The crowd was decent. VIP was around the bandstand…the diplomatic corps, the Members of Parliament, uptown people, the commissioner (of police), the brigadier (head of the army). On the field was a lotta Rastaman, ordinary Jamaicans.”

“I had 30 frames in my camera, so I had to make every one count. I had one lens, not a zoom, so I had to walk to the stage each time I thought something big was going to happen.”

“Bob Marley brought them (Manley and Seaga) together. He was the only one in the world who could.”

“After I shot everything I put the canister in my bobby socks and walked out. I went to Stanley Motta the next day and gave it to Phillip Chang to develop and told him, 'Phillip, this is the most important piece of film in my life'.”

Peter Simon (photographer, covered event for Rolling Stone Magazine)

“The soundboard was built on a rectangular table about 50 feet off the ground. There was a rickety ladder that allowed for the few people who dared to climb it. Near the beginning of the concert, I somehow persuaded the sound engineer to let me plug in and record the whole eight hours. I told him I wanted to play it for my fans back home. He had heard of Reggae Bloodlines (the book Simon co-authored), so he just said 'ya mon!'

Each cassette was 45 minutes. So up and down I went from photographing around the stage to the soundboard. I started running out of cassettes, so I had to parse out which artistes I felt I just had to get.

I had no idea that Tosh was going to launch into one of the most memorable monologues I have ever heard. I thus obtained the only bona fide master copy! I was so mesmerised that I failed to take any photos while Tosh performed.

Once Bob took the stage, I switched the cassette and recorded most of his set as well. But I got right up front of the stage to take some of my more memorable live shots of Marley's set, which included his attempt to create peace in the valley between the two political rivals.

By the end I was physically and emotionally exhausted and my back was killing me. But I came away with a treasure trove of crucial reggae content.”

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