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.”
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.
Excerpt from new oral history ‘So Much Things to Say’ tells the story of harrowing 1976 ambush at Tuff Gong By Roger Steffens (What follows is an excerpt from a Rolling Stone, July 7, 2017, article, edited for size)
Roger Steffens:Friday, December 3, dawned hot and humid. Members of the Wailers Band gathered at Tuff Gong late that afternoon to rehearse for the upcoming concert.
Judy Mowatt: I had a vision a few days before the shooting. Marcia left; she didn’t feel too good about that concert. Like she had a premonition that something could happen, or she heard something and she left the island. Rita and myself had been going to rehearsals. So one night I went to my bed and I dreamt that this rooster, it was a rooster with three chickens, and the rooster got shot, and the shot ricocheted and damaged two of the chickens. I even saw like one of the chicken’s tripe inside, the intestines come out. And I didn’t like it, and I told it to Rita and Rita knew about it. But we were looking out for something. Because usually, how the Africa woman understands, a lot of times we depend on our dreams. We know that when you dream, if it’s not so, it’s close to what it is. So we were expecting something to happen. And then again, I went to my bed. I never mentioned this – but I went to my bed again and I saw in the newspaper where Bob sang that song “Smile Jamaica” and that was the song that created a controversy because of certain lyrics that he had in it that was like a then political slogan: Regardless, you control your state of being, so smile, because the power’s ours. The victory’s ours.
Roger Steffens: The forebodings came true in the midst of rehearsals around 8:30 in the evening. Two white Datsun compacts drove through the gates of Tuff Gong, from which the longtime guards had mysteriously disappeared. The exact number of gunmen who came leaping out, guns blazing, is a subject of controversy. There could have been as many as seven or eight, armed with machine guns and pistols, some reportedly containing homemade bullets. They went room to room, often firing wildly. Continue reading →