'Bundes' by busWednesday, April 07, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk presents the fourth in a series titled Bob Marley — The Last 40 Days to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.
The West Germany to which Bob Marley travelled in September 1980 for cancer treatment was one of the world's economic powerhouses. Along with Japan and South Korea, it benefited from progressive leadership that sparked a manufacturing and scientific boom.
Marley visited the Federal Republic of Germany (the country's official name) several times that year. He did five shows to promote his Uprising album, which was released in June by Island Records. The tour's second date took place on June 1 in Munich at the Reitstadion. He also performed in Cologne, Kaiserslautern, Hamburg and Kassel.
After doctors diagnosed him with terminal cancer on September 21, early on the United States leg of the tour, Marley returned to Munich for treatment at the Ringberg Clinic of Dr Josef Issels in the state of Bavaria. At the time, Munich was one of the most diverse cities in West Germany, with immigrants from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.
In early 1980, West Germany announced it would not compete in the Summer Olympics in Moscow, because of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republic's invasion of Afghanistan. That October, the Socialist Democratic Party and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt easily retained power in the country.
West Germany came into being four years after World War II ended in 1945. Bob Marley was born in Jamaica in February that year, during the Allied occupation of Germany.
Considerably more liberal than its neighbour, the Communist-run German Democratic Republic (East Germany), West Germany was open to different genres of pop music. British Invasion leaders The Beatles and Rolling Stones did shows in the country during the 1960s, so did major American stars Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
By the 1970s, reggae music was a feature in clubs in major cities like Munich, Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg. Commercial songs by Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and Toots and The Maytals were given token play on mainstream radio, paving the way for hard-hitting artistes like Marley who was a major force in 1976.
That year, he and The Wailers first toured West Germany in June to promote the Rastaman Vibration album. They played three dates – Offenburg, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. The Uprising gigs were the band's first in West Germany since 1977 when the reggae star promoted his epic Exodus album.
With growing international acceptance of reggae, other Jamaican acts were booked by West German promoters. Peter Tosh and Burning Spear were some of the popular artistes who developed fan bases in the country by the late 1970s.
Marley died in Miami on May 11, 1981 at age 36. Eight years later, the Berlin Wall that divided West and East Germany, was demolished, and within a year Germany was once again unified.
That helped the expansion of reggae's popularity in the country. Cologne, for example, hosts Summerjam, the biggest annual reggae festival in the world.
That city also has a vibrant reggae scene which has produced homegrown acts like Gentleman.
Bob Marley's name lives on in Germany, not just through his music. His children, notably Ziggy, Stephen and Damian, are established solo acts there.
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