Recollections of the One Love Peace Concert

BY HOWARD MOO YOUNG

Monday, April 22, 2013

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THIRTY-FIVE years ago today, history was created in Jamaica when reggae icon Bob Marley headlined the star-studded One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium in Kingston at the height of a bitter and deadly political conflict that divided the country.


Rated among the top 10 rock concerts in the world by the BBC, the concert was attended by Mick Jagger and other world-famous artistes and was dubbed by the media as the "Third World Woodstock".


To mark this momentous occasion, renowned photographer Howard Moo-Young is launching a limited edition commemorative box set with patented, copy-written and never-before-seen photographs of Marley, each signed by Moo-Young. The set also includes exclusive photographs of Michael Manley and Edward Seaga on stage with Marley, as well as a descriptive short story of the entire event with Moo-Young's recollections of this historic concert written by Moo-Young himself.


Only 5,000 box sets will available for global sale, and each will bear a unique number.


Here is an edited version of Moo-Young's story on the concert.


ON the night of April 22, 1978, the most famous reggae concert in the world took place right here in Jamaica. The One Love Peace Concert remains the most important and vivid memory of any set of images that I have ever photographed in my entire life.


With a crowd of over 32,000 people from every strata of society taking every available seat and overflowing onto the football field at the National Stadium, there I stood at the foot of that giant stage in total anticipation of what was about to unfold.


There was heavy presence of both police and soldiers armed with guns from the front and sides of the stage extending to the perimeter of the stadium. Jamaica was experiencing the most deadly period of political violence and bloodshed in its history and the nation longed for a breakthrough that would bring some form of sanity to its people.


In an attempt to bring peace, rival members of both political parties formed a 'Peace Committee' chaired by the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica.


It was out of this committee that the idea of the Peace Concert emerged with an attempt to lure Bob Marley out of self-exile in Britain to return to Jamaica to headline the show. Only a few months before, word was out that an attempt to reunite the original Wailers — Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer — had started.


There was a failed assassination attempt on the life of Bob Marley in Kingston, only 14 months before which saw him quickly leaving for England. The Peace Committee met and the lot fell on Claudius Massop, the then Tivoli Gardens don, to fly to the UK, meet with Bob and persuade him to return to his homeland to headline the One Love Peace Concert.


Bob agreed, the date was set for the concert and the big announcement was made. Many other local artistes eagerly signed up to perform free for peace alongside the 'King of Reggae'.


The gates of the stadium were opened at 2:00 pm with the start of the show set for 5:00 pm. Entrance to the 'Togetherness Section' (Bleachers) was $2.00, tickets for the 'Love Section' (Grandstand) were $5.00 each and the 'Peace Section' (VIP) was $8.00.


At 5:00 pm, with the stadium a third full, the Meditations kicked off the show, followed by Althea and Donna belting out their number one hit Uptown Top Ranking. Dub poet Oku Onoura took to the stage and with the audience growing, the anticipation of what was to take place that night could be felt resonating throughout the stadium.


It was time for little Junior Tucker, Jamaica's own Michael Jackson, who performed to the delight of the audience, followed by Culture and the young Dennis Brown. Then came Trinity, the Mighty Diamonds, Leroy Smart, followed by Inner Circle and the energetic Jacob Miller, who woke up the audience with Delilah.


It was now time for Big Youth to perform his string of hits, followed by the aspiring young vocalist of Zappow, Beres Hammond.


By this time, both leaders of the People's National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party, and their wives, along with the members of parliament, the diplomatic corps, the police commissioner, Jamaica Defence Force chief of staff, visiting international and local journalists, photographers and other members of the press were seated only a few feet away with all eyes and cameras glued to the stage.


Then came the moment for the militant Wailer, Peter Tosh, who had now embarked on a solo career, to make his entrance. He literally exploded on stage to deliver, in song, some potent, social and political messages.


With his powerful voice echoing throughout the stadium and across Beverley Hills, one could now feel the very ground vibrating to Buckingham Palace and Glass House.


But more was to come as Tosh pulled off his black tam, flashed his locks furiously, placed a six-inch spliff between his lips and lit up the stage with smoke and the familiar scent of cannabis. Were we about to witness the evolution of 'Sting'? As expletive after expletive rolled off his lips over the microphone, the audience stood mesmerised.


I watched intently as the commissioner of police and members of the security forces stood their ground. Was any member bold enough to make a move and uphold the law? Not a man moved, but one could hear the constant hum of voices getting louder from the audience. Was Peter inciting the crowd to action? He appeared angry that night as he denounced what he felt was a political system of colonialism.


After this scenario, it took Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus to calm things down with a lengthy rendition of Rastafarian drumming and chanting, setting the stage for the one everybody was waiting to see.


The Wailers Band took to the stage and sounded the alarm. Then, under a lone spotlight and to tremendous applause, Bob Marley took to the stage pleasing his home crowd.


Backed by the I-Threes (Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths) and set against the huge burlap backdrop of the Lion of Judah designed and painted by Neville Garrick, Bob Marley's creative director, it was clear that we were about to witness a concert with a difference. History was about to be made that night.


Marley reeled off Natural Mystic, Trench Town Rock, Natty Dread, Positive Vibration and War. The entire stadium was now 'jammin' with the King of Reggae, even as lightning flashed in the distance with the sound of thunder.


Suddenly, Marley summoned Prime Minister Michael Manley and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga to join him on stage. I was ready with my camera as the crowd was now on their feet anticipating the next move. Both leaders had to respond to Bob's request as they were put on the spot without notice. Seaga was the first to be pulled to the platform, followed quickly by Manley.


Positioned between the leaders with hands on both their shoulders, Marley literally pulled them together as they shook hands. Bob then placed his hands on the hands of both leaders and raised them in a show of Peace and One Love to the applause of the audience.


After 35 years, I can vividly recall every moment of this sequence of events, because I was viewing and recording history through the lens of my camera, knowing that God allowed me this opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime.


I was aware of the reluctance, the emotions on the faces, and every second, as I captured those iconic images on only one roll of film using one lens without flash. I used my entire body as a human tripod, holding my breath while shooting with an exposure of 1/120 second hand held. Today, the original colour negatives of this entire collection are still in perfect condition, and these photographs are a part of this limited collection.


Robert Nesta Marley passed away in 1981 and, for the second time around, brought together Manley and Seaga, who met and shook hands in the National Arena at the funeral service as Jamaica celebrated the life of the man who, in his own way, tried in his short lifetime to bring peace to his people.


One Love, Bob! One Love, Jamaica! One Love to the world!


--— For further information contact Alyssa Moo-Young, marketing manager, Faithworks Ltd. E-mail: faithworks1978@gmail.com


   


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