Peter, Bob and ExodusSunday, April 18, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk presents the 13th in a series titled Bob Marley — The Last 40 Days to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.
As members of the 12 Tribes of Israel, Bob Marley and Peter Phillips's paths crossed many times during the 1970s. Their wives, Rita and Minnie, were close friends.
Phillips was a student at The University of the West Indies early that decade when he first met the charismatic Marley who was on the verge of international stardom.
Minnie Phillips was not only a confidant of Rita Marley, but as nutritionist, she on occasion prepared meals for the Marley family and the singer's inner circle.
Phillips, who lived in a Rasta commune in August Town for much of the 1970s, spoke about his ties with Marley last week in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
“Bob was a very complex person. I think he did most of his talking through his music, but otherwise was a regular, thoughtful, deep youth,” he said. “In the encounters that we had he was generally very quiet among people.”
Born in Kingston, Phillips was among the many middle-class Jamaican youth who embraced Rasta in the late 1960s. He attended Jamaica College, a gentrified institution far removed from the hardcore ghetto of Trench Town where Marley once lived, and which inspired many of his songs.
While noting that “it's tough to pick a favourite”, Phillips said his top Marley album is Exodus, released by Island Records in 1977.
“ Exodus came out just about when I was going to study in the United States for my PhD. It was a constant companion, making me aware who I was and what I was living for,” he recalled.
During his studies at State University of New York at Binghamton, Phillips kept in touch with Marley's rise to superstardom. He remembers going with his wife to Washington DC where the singer was performing, and hanging out backstage with him.
Phillips had just completed his PhD in Political Economy when he got news that Marley died on May 11, 1981 from cancer in Miami at age 36.
“I was in New York preparing to return to Jamaica when I heard. It was a jolt from the blue to know that he had passed,” he said.
Peter Phillips became a lecturer at The University of the West Indies, then a senior Cabinet minister in, and leader of, the People's National Party.
He stepped down from leadership of the party last year after it lost the general election to the governing Jamaica Labour Party.
Minnie Phillips, from whom he was divorced, died in 2018. In 1999, Exodus, the epic set that inspired his scholastic journey abroad, was named Best Album of the 20th Century by Time Magazine.
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