Pato Banton and I are sitting atop the roof of the club where he is scheduled to perform in a few hours. Rather than conduct our interview in a stuffy tour bus or shout over the sound check taking place below, he obliges as I lead him through a cluttered storage room and up a make-shift ladder better suited for an acrobat than one of the most recognized names in Reggae. Below us, the seven members of his band, The Reggae Revolution, are tuning up and, one by one, joining in on a smoldering Dub of “Satta Amassagana.” We are watching a beautiful, and especially long, Santa Barbara sunset as the moon climbs high over the Pacific Ocean a few blocks away. He is nearing the end of an extensive three-month tour and looks forward to spending some time at home with his wife and two children, who are back in England. A few weeks away from his 33rd birthday, he seems as energetic and upful as ever.
Energetic and upful seem to define Pato Banton. He is like a constant whirlwind of touring and recording. As we sat down to talk, he is finishing up yet another North America tour, promoting a greatest hits package called Collections for long-time label, I.R.S. Records, and anticipating the worldwide release of the video for the album’s first song, “Baby Come Back” (a duet with bredren Robin and Ali Campbell of UB40).
May 11, 1981 was another beautiful Miami Monday morning. The excitement and anxiousness of starting a new job made for some tense nerves, not uncommon with the unknown. I drove to the Datran Center in South Dade to begin my new chapter as Don Taylor’s Assistant Manager. I arrived shortly before my 10 a.m. start time. Don Taylor Artist Management (D.T.A.M.) managed Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory Isaacs, and this was all a bit much for me to believe. I knew of and loved all three singers since my days living in Nürnberg, Germany in the 1970s; sadlyI also knew these were the final days for Bob Marley on this earthly plane. Tense nerves, indeed.
My initial meeting was with Betsy Berg, the young lady I would be replacing. I passed the first round of interviews with her and she highly recommended me to Don Taylor. That week leading up to my first day had me meeting a few times with Taylor, always on the phone. “Why do you want this job?” was the first question. “Because I love Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff… I love the message, the music, the call for the underdog to “get up, stand up.” S eriously. It was the truth. It worked.
From his fancy hotel room in LA, the street-smart Taylor, a self-made millionaire who grew up in a waterfront East Kingston ghetto, played hardball over salary negotiations with Quattro, the little Italian from Steel Town Ohio. Following a moment of me saying, “Ahhh…no thanks,” we finally (thankfully!) came to an agreement. He filled me in on Bob Marley’s current condition and let me know Jimmy Cliff was flying in that week. He mentioned returning to Miami the next morning and asked that I come in for a meeting. Continue reading →
Since the departure of maestro Bob Marley in May 1981, Reggae industry personnel continue to grope for stability in a rocky music business world.
As the positiveness and righteousness of the prophet’s message become universally accepted, Brother Bob’s own personal estate and the effects have recently come under serious discrepancy.
The sordid details begin as far back as that day, May 11th, when Bob Marley’s earthly career climaxed at Miami’s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. It was approximately 11am when manager Don Taylor received a call from Rita Marley instructing him to report to Cedars Hospital immediately. It was there he met Bob’s mother, Cedella Booker, who had devotedly been with her son to the very end. Continue reading →