With the sad news of David Crosby’s passing on Jan. 18, 2023, I was drawn to discover more about his intriguing life. I remembered when I first met David, aka Croz. I recalled the captivating love story with his wife, Jan Dance, a dear friend from our Miami days. I flashed back on why I chose to leave my life in Germany, my business, and my friends to move to California. David was indeed the impetus for that drastic decision.
Was it naïve? Yes. Rash? Definitely. Life-changing? Absolutely.
It was at the close of 1978 when Jan invited me to stay with her during my first visit to San Francisco. Five days in Mill Valley with Jan and Croz ended with an unexpected opportunity.
Almost everyone has a Croz story. I enjoyed reading a plethora of impressive ones. His interviews and astute opinions are insightful, entertaining and enlightening. Check the links at the end of this story for his comprehensive books and in-depth documentary.
Even so, my story ties directly to the Crosbys, to a radical life change and the resulting outcome.
For context, let me say I’ve been asked a bazillion times how I got into Reggae; the the music and industry I pioneered and participated in for more than 40 years. The odyssey began in early-70s Coconut Grove, the music-hippie-artsy area of Miami. Jan Dance and her sister “Peppermint Pati” Dance were good fun Grove pals. Side note for astrology buffs: Jan is a Virgo (like me), born same year. If my memory serves me correctly, we may share the same chart … except for our rising sign, maybe. OK, moving on…
Greetings friends, fans, fam and foes! Since I began this note some years ago, information continues to “come to light” about May 11, 1981, and the days, weeks, months, and years that followed. I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with my former colleagues at D.T.A.M., sharing what we saw, said, and did as we remember what transpired that fateful day in Miami, Florida. Even though 42 years have passed, time does not change the truth or what we know took place in our office “that day.” The double-dealing events we witnessed and inadvertently participated in remain with us. However, the lasting effect it has on the Marley family and legacy remains to be seen. This is one day. There is a longer tale, one that’s never been told in any Marley book, still waiting to be revealed. ~MPQ
May 11, 1981, is another beautiful Miami Monday morning. The excitement and anxiety of starting my new position made for some tense nerves, not uncommon when facing the unknown. As a huge Reggae and Bob Marley fan, I landed this job I wanted so badly. I feel my excitement grow as I drive to the Datran Center in southwest Miami. Don Taylor Artist Management (D.T.A.M.) is a well-established and well-connected management company, which happens to manage my favorite Reggae artists — Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory Isaacs. I’ve loved these three singers/writers/performers since the mid-70’s, when I lived in Nürnberg, Germany. Eager to begin my new chapter as Don Taylor’s assistant manager, I arrive shortly before my 10 a.m. start time. Because I am aware that these are the final days for Reggae king Bob Marley on this earthly plane, I have feelings of sadness and dread as well. Tense nerves, indeed.
Before I share the events of this fateful first day, let me start at the job’s beginning. In early May 1981, there is a listing in the Miami Herald (I’m paraphrasing here): “Music Manager Seeks Assistant. Fun, Adventure, Travel.” Perfect! I think, and immediately call and speak to Betsy Berg, the young lady I would soon be replacing. She is genuinely surprised that I know who these Reggae greats are and promptly invites me in for an interview that day. When I passed the first round with Betsy, she highly recommended me to Don Taylor.
During that week leading up to my first day, I speak with Taylor a few times on the phone. Our first interview is conducted from his fancy hotel room in LA, where he travels often on business (and pleasure.) “Why do you want this job?” is his first question. “Because I love Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff,” I answer. “I love the message, the music, the calling for the underdog to ‘get up, stand up.’” Seriously … it is the truth. It is authentic. It is me … and it worked.
Later in the week Taylor, the street-smart, self-made millionaire who grew up in a waterfront East Kingston ghetto, plays hardball over salary negotiations with Quattro, the experienced Italian businesswoman from Steel Town, Ohio. After finally saying, “Ahhh…thanks, but no thanks,” we (thankfully!) come to an agreement. He then fills me in on Bob Marley’s current health situation, and lets me know Jimmy Cliff will be flying into Miami that following week. He mentions returning to his Miami base the next morning and asks that I come in on Friday for a face-to-face meeting.
As I enter the not-so-spacious Kendall office, I’m met by Herman Plasencia — Don’s loyal, affable, right-hand-guy. He greets me with a welcoming handshake and relief-like smile. I’m led to Taylor’s office, where I spot the smiling smooth-talker casually lounging on a lush leather couch in a silk shirt and leather sandals. Quite the first impression. The cool, music business pro did not hesitate to question how and why “a nice Italian girl from Ohio” would want to be in “this crazy business”… punctuating with a wry smile, “… and working with Jamaicans.” Not missing a beat, I simply explain that because I am Italian, crazy is easy. I mention growing up in a large family of musicians, singers and performers, so no problem there. “The main reason I want to be here is my passion for this music … period.”
Following with my business background, i.e., I’m good with numbers, know my way around an office, detailed and organized, I end with the fact that I really really want this job. After a brief pause, he looks me straight in the eye and says: “They’re not going to make it easy for you.” Noticing my puzzled expression, he adds point-blank, “You’re white, American and female.” Not one to yield that easily, I respond with a smile and a shrug: “Sounds like a challenge.”
Tyrone Downie is a familiar name and talent to avid followers of Bob Marley and the Wailers. I had always been interested in meeting this renown keyboardist who first played with the Wailers at the ripe “old age” of 13, so I was pleased to hear that he was looking forward to this interview with Reggae Report.
The Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers tour had just finished and Tyrone was in Miami chilling for a while. As a member of Ziggy’s all-star band, memories of Tyrone’s magical keyboards were once again revisited. For the veteran keyboardist, performing with the son of his good friend and mentor was like a page turning in musical history.
His obvious energy and passion for performing was manifested in a warm, engaging smile and the unmistakable twinkle in his eyes that greeted me when he opened the door. Our meeting place was at the home of a friend, complete with a studio where Tyrone could lodge part of his cumbersome collection of keyboards and other musical “toys.” Surrounded by equipment and a big screen television that was tuned to “Video Jukebox,” Tyrone Downie felt comfortable and in the mood to talk.
I went right to the big questions: What was it like being a member of the Wailers during his impressionable teen years? What was it like working with Bob? These answers and more were revealed throughout our two-hour conversation that was as amusing and informative as it was intuitive and insightful.
When Tyrone Downie “officially became a Wailer” in 1975, he already felt like one because he had done studio work with Bob Marley since 1969. It was during this session time, under the tutelage of Aston “Familyman” Barrett, that Tyrone first realized that he was frightened of these Wailers. “They were real tough guys,” he describes, “they were scary.”
GANJA REGGAE of the 70s, 80s & 90s 20 of the Best for 4/20
Okay, let’s be blunt. The celebration of 4/20 has a long and storied history. It apparently took 20+ years for the original “4:20 dudes” to be given credit for their undeniable contribution to the “day of marijuana” title and tale.
A northern California group of friends—known as the Waldos—would gather at 4:20 p.m. to smoke a “doobie” next to a wall on their high school campus. They’d whisper 420 to each other as the Waldo’s secret code for marijuana. That catchy number was picked up years later by the Grateful Dead and High Times magazine and 4/20 was soon catapulted into the stratosphere, thus becoming the global code for “let’s smoke a doobie” day.
Jamaican artists were always on board with smoking a doobie, or, as they called it, a spliff. There have been hundreds ‘pon hundreds of “ganja” tunes recorded since the 60s. The Rastas, in particular, have been growing and smoking ganja before those Cali teens were out of diapers.
Rastas have long preached of “herb” being “the healing of the nation.” And now, with medical marijuana stores, cafés, and products sprouting up around the world, it seems that, hell yeah, they are right. Big up, our number one cannabis crusader Peter “Legalize It” Tosh! Boom!
Maybe you “want to have Kaya now”? And you’re here to listen to some of the best-of-the-best Ganja Reggae songs. So, in honor of 4/20, we’re offering 20 of the best Ganja Reggae songs for your smoking pleasure. This hand-selected roster of your favorite singers, groups & DJs covers the 70s, 80s & 90s eras of Reggae music. So, “light up your spliff…light up your chalice” and enjoy the ride!
LEGENDARY Jamaican bass player Robbie Shakespeare was yesterday described as “one of a kind” by keyboardist Robbie Lyn, one of the many artistes and musicians who rode Sly and Robbie’s Taxi label and had a front-row seat to Shakespeare’s genius.
Shakespeare died at age 68 yesterday at his home in Florida, United States.
According to Lyn, Shakespeare’s story transcended music. “He came from a challenged background and made a name for himself. Robbie worked himself into a position as someone to respect,” Lyn told the Jamaica Observer.
No official cause of death was given at press time, but Shakespeare had been ill for an extended period.
He and Lyn had a musical connection that went back to the late 1970s when they were members of Peter Tosh’s Word, Sound and Power band. Along with drummer Sly Dunbar, they played on numerous hit songs, including Walk and Don’t Look Back by Tosh and Mick Jagger, Revolution (Dennis Brown), Love and Devotion (Jimmy Riley), and Baltimore (The Tamlins). Continue reading →
The Recording Academy’s 2022 GRAMMY Award nominations are selected from 22,000 entries and awarded by its approximate 12,000 voting membership. Now, and going forward, GRAMMY nominations will be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of Recording Academy voting members. So, if you want to have a voice, contribute, and vote, *Become a Recording Academy member here*
I recently had the pleasure of speaking on-air with Deon Mattis, host of “Home Run” on Jamaica’s The Edge 105.3 FM radio program. The topic centered on the 2022 Best Reggae Album nominations. In my view, 2021 was the year of collaborations and indie labels. To be clear on why, here’s my overview of the six nominated albums, artists, and labels.
The Six Nominees are:
PAMOJA – Etana– on U.S.-based Freemind Music
Etana is a gifted singer, songwriter, and 2018 Reggae Grammy nominee.
She has earned her fanbase through consistent quality recordings and performances since 2008.
On this album, Etana displays how progressive and in-touch she is with today’s market.
In addition to old school Reggae and new school Trap/Dancehall, there’s a notable Afrobeat influence, as heard in her collabs with several African and international artists.
Not to mention, her collabs with such Reggae greats as Damian Marley and Albarosie.
POSITIVE VIBRATION – Gramps Morgan – on U.S.- & Canada-based Halo Entertainment Group
I was there in ’94, when the unknown Morgan Heritage made their debut Sunsplash performance on a small stage. They blew everyone away and were invited to perform on the big stage on international night. The tight, pop-sounding group was immediately signed by MCA Records as they departed the stage.
Over the next 20 years, Morgan Heritage received two (2) Reggae Grammy Awards.
Gramps lives in Nashville these days, and the influence of the acclaimed-music city is unmistakable on this album. The songs are fun, romantic, country, and Reggae.
The collabs with Shaggy, India.Arie, his father Denroy, and son Jemere are awesome additions.
On this album, Gramps reminds me of a Reggae Jimmy Buffet.
LIVE N LIVIN’ – Sean Paul – on JA-based Dutty Rock Productions (his own label)
Inarguably, this Dancehall pioneer is the most well-known, recognizable, award-winning artist in this category.
A Reggae Grammy winner in 2004, Sean Paul has been nominated many, many times.
He is the performer, songwriter, and producer on this album…but he’s not alone on it. There are nearly 20 artists jammin’ with him… from Buju and Movado, to Damian and Mutabaruka.
You know it’s Sean Paul when you hear the first track…his distinct Dancehall style is unmistakable.
With the generous smattering of new and legendary DJs, this album is a sure-fire party hit!
By M. Peggy Quattro, Contributor ◊ Jamaica Observer, May 11, 2021
BOB Marley’s dead. Wow. It’s May 11, 1981. Around 11:45 a.m. on my first day of my dream job, the phone rings. Freshly hired as Don Taylor’s assistant, I merrily answered, “Good morning, Don Taylor Artiste Management.” Rita Marley uttered one word…“Don.” With slight trepidation, I handed the phone to my new boss standing next to me. By the look of dread on Don’s face, it was obvious that our world was about to change.
Don Taylor’s Miami-based company, D.T.A.M., represented Reggae’s ‘Big Three’ – Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory Isaacs. Prior to my first day, I had dreams of one day meeting Bob Marley. Even though I knew he was very sick and en route to his home in Jamaica, I had hope. Going in as a huge Marley fan, I never dreamed that this day, this one event, would inexplicably link us for life.
“Why today, Bob?”, I asked myself again and again. There had to be some reason I was chosen to be in this office, on this morning. Within hours, I was witness to – nay, a participant in – Reggae music history. A day that began with excitement, anticipation, and promise ended with sadness, bewilderment, and deception.
The King had gone home to Zion… Long live the King.