How the Diaspora covered MarleyMonday, April 12, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk presents the eighth in a series titled Bob Marley — The Last 40 Days to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.
BEING entertainment editor of the New York Institute of Technology's newspaper, Jamaican Clinton Lindsay covered several major events in New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He attended the September 19-20 Bob Marley/The Commodores concerts at Madison Square Garden.
On September 21, Marley collapsed while preparing for a friendly football match in Central Park. Doctors diagnosed him with terminal cancer.
“As the entertainment editor of my school newspaper Scope, I got the news by the next day. Additionally, one of my schoolmates had an aunt who was a nurse at Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan...he told me it was all excitement for staff and management to know Bob Marley checked in there. The news was treated with great concern in the community. It made headlines on all media, local and mainstream,” Lindsay told the Jamaica Observer.
Marley was a champion in New York City's massive West Indian community which had a growing media network in the 1970s.
Jamaican disc jockeys like Jeff Barnes, Gil Bailey and Ken Williams played Marley's music at a time when it was shown little love on mainstream airwaves.
Community newspapers also followed his exploits. Mystery around Marley's illness was the biggest news to date.
“My schoolmate kept me posted on Bob's situation...I remember the Monday morning when he came into the lounge with his head hang down. 'Bad news', he said, 'The doctors have given Bob nine months to live, the cancer had spread too far'. We were all in shock, I did not write about it until it became public knowledge, I guess I was in denial, didn't want to believe such a thing,” Lindsay recalled.
The doctors actually gave the reggae star less than one month to live. By September 23, the United States leg of his tour promoting the Uprising album was cancelled as Marley sought treatment.
His previous shows in the Big Apple drew large crowds, including six dates at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater in October 1979.
Opening for Lionel Richie and The Commodores, who were massive at the time, was supposed to be a game-changer.
“The Commodores concert was such a big deal for both West Indians and African-Americans, two of their top acts were on the bill. And even though The Commodores were loved by Caribbean nationals, it was just the fact that Bob Marley was the opening act that Caribbean people came out in droves,” said Lindsay. “In the Jamaican community we just talked about 'Bob Marley at Madison Square Garden with The Commodores'. We did not say he was opening for The Commodores...knowing that two years earlier we all packed the same venue to see Kurtis Blow and Stanley Clarke open for him...at both concerts.”
He added that, “The who-is-who of local media was in attendance, top TV news anchors from WCBS, WABC, WNBC, The New York Post, New York Times, New York Daily News, the Village Voice, and from radio stations, big and small.”
Bob Marley spent six months at the West Germany clinic of Dr Josef Issels, but by April 1981 his health had deteriorated. He decided to leave for Jamaica, but died in a Miami hospital on May 11 at age 36.
In 1982, Clinton Lindsay made his debut as a broadcaster on WHBI (later WNWK 105.9 FM). He became a force in New York radio and remains one of the best-known disc jockeys in Diaspora broadcasting.
Based in South Florida, he operates the Foundation Radio Network.
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