Pluto and the rise of MarleyThursday, April 15, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk presents the 11th in a series titled Bob Marley — The Last 40 Days to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.
WHEN Bob Marley left the slums of Trench Town and moved to upper St Andrew in the early 1970s, one of his neighbours was singer Pluto Shervington.
Shervington – who has called Florida home for the past 44 years – has fond memories of the reggae king. He sold Marley his first BMW, saw him woo thousands at the Hammersmith Odeon in England, and watched his meteoric global rise. Among his recollections is their last conversation.
“I heard he was admitted to the hospital. So I called him to check up on him, as I heard he wasn't in a good way. He sounded weak, weak, weak, weak. It wasn't a long conversation as to how weak he sounded... I said, 'Bob, hang in there.' He said: 'You wouldn't know how I feel right now.' I said, 'You hang in there!' “ Shervington, 70, told the Jamaica Observer.
Days later, Marley died of cancer in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (now University of Miami Hospital) on May 11, 1981. He was 36.
Shervington said he used to see Marley on his Florida visits.
“I was working at the Ramada Inn in Kendal and every time Bob come off of tour, Bob would come and sit down in there for the whole night and nah move. The whole night he would hang out in there, so I would see him all the while,” he said.
Marley had fallen ill while on the American leg of his Uprising Tour in September, 1980; he was trying to break into the black American market.
The tour was cancelled after Marley was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He left for West Germany for radical treatment at the Bavaria clinic of Dr Josef Issels, where he was a patient for seven months before leaving for Florida.
Shervington, who never attended any of the US concerts, said it would have been only a matter of time for Marley to conquer North America.
“I had a number one song, Dat, in 1976 in England. I was in England on a tour and I saw a sign at the Hammersmith Odeon that Bob was going to perform. It's a huge hall. I went and paid at the door and when I walked inside, I was so high because a pure weed [smoke] in the place; and it was white people. I said to myself: 'Bob, yuh gone now!' “ recalled Shervington.
“Bob never had a hit yet in England or in the world. And right after that, Bob 'bruk out' in a way that, Lord have mercy, I jus' watch him and say: 'Gwaan, Bob!' Because everywhere he was number one.”
Dat is a humorous ditty about a Rastafarian buying pork. Shervington, who has done more than 50 years in the music business, is also known for hit songs such as Ram Goat Liver, and I Man Born Ya.
He said Marley's legacy is enduring.
“He was larger than life then, and he never had broken out then all the way. When him 'bruk out', the whole world knows about Bob,” he added.
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