The Don in Marley's courtTuesday, May 04, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk presents the 27th in a series titled Bob Marley — The Last 40 Days to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.
JAMAICANS were not used to tell-all books in the summer of 1994 when Don Taylor's sensational Marley And Me was released. It was written by Bob Marley's former manager, a flamboyant character who helped chart the singer's rise to superstardom.
Taylor died in November, 1999 at age 57, just days after undergoing bypass surgery in Miami. His book documented Marley's legendary womanising, his indifferent relationship with wife Rita, and the messy legal fight that ensued after Marley died in May, 1981 at age 36.
In an interview with this writer in 1994, Taylor insisted he told the truth and consistently challenged his critics to prove otherwise.
Even P J Patterson, Jamaica's prime minister at the time, paid tribute to Taylor after learning of his death.
“He was an aggressive entrepreneur whose manoeuvres in the music industry resulted in the successful careers of many well known musicians,” said Patterson.
Taylor's early years were a mystery. He claimed to be born in St Elizabeth to a white father from England and a black Jamaican mother; he stowed away to the United States in the 1960s and served in the military.
By the early 1970s Taylor was moving in rhythm and blues circles with acts such as Chuck Jackson and Little Anthony And The Imperials. He first met Marley and The Wailers in May, 1974 when he returned to Jamaica for a show they were doing with Marvin Gaye in Kingston.
Taylor officially became Marley's manager in 1974 when Island Records was preparing to release Natty Dread, his first album for the company without Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer.
He became a key member of the singer's camp and was one of four persons (Marley and Rita included) shot when gunmen invaded the star's Hope Road home in December, 1976. Taylor was shot in the abdomen and had to be flown to Miami for emergency surgery.
Marley fired Taylor in 1980 after it was allegedly discovered he overcharged a promoter for a show in Gabon and pocketed the extra funds. Taylor went on to manage Jimmy Cliff and worked as a consultant with SOLAR Records, a company owned by his friend, Dick Griffey.
Marley And Me was a revelation, but though it gave insight into the reggae king's inner circle, Taylor's critics pointed to his record of dishonesty and long-standing cocaine habit.
Once the fuss over his book settled, Don Taylor got back into the music business. He managed Gregory Isaacs and is credited with helping launch the career of singer Jazzy B of Soul II Soul fame.
M Peggy Quattro, founder of Reggae Report magazine, was Taylor's personal assistant when Marley passed away. In an interview with the Inter Press Service when her former boss died, she said: “Don was difficult to work with but he was really good at what he did.”
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