|It’s not every day that you come across an unpublished collection of photographs of a legend. It is even more amazing when those photographs were taken by an accomplished, award winning photojournalist. That is indeed the case with the photographs in this book by David Burnett. Taken on assignment in Jamaica for Time in 1976, only two of Burnett’s photographs were
published to accompany the story by reporter David DeVoss, and only one of them was of Bob
Marley. A year later, Burnett photographed Marley again, this time on the Exodus Tour in Europe
for Rolling Stone. Those two assignments led Burnett to making some of the finest photographic
portraits ever taken of the charismatic international superstar.
Burnett and DeVoss began their trip in Ocho Rios with Burnett photographing various “North Shore” reggae groups, including Burning Spear, Foundation, and Ras Michael. After a few days in Ocho Rios, they went to Kingston, where Burnett was able to photograph Peter Tosh, a recording session with Burning Spear, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Bob Marley. It wasn’t very long after Burnett sat and “reasoned” with Marley in his home in Kingston that Bob Marley was shot in a failed assassination attempt. Marley’s personal manager, Don Taylor, was hit by a number of bullets. Marley’s wife, Rita, was shot in the head. Marley was hit by a bullet in the arm. Miraculously, no one was killed. It was only a few months later, during the summer of 1977, that Burnett joined Bob Marley and The Wailers on their bus in Europe during the Exodus Tour. Burnett photographed Marley and the band on the bus, during sound check, playing soccer, and in concert. Taken only a year after his first sessions with Marley, this time Burnett was well aware that he was documenting an international superstar—a unique artist at the height of his abilities.
I asked David Burnett one day what his first-hand impression of Bob Marley was after having the opportunity to photograph him in a number of different circumstances. Burnett thought quietly to himself for a minute and then told me this: “Some things you’re born with, and some things you can acquire. But with someone like Bob Marley, he was definitely born with it ... and it is something that grew from within.”
Bob Marley will always remain one of the most beloved and respected musical artists of our time. His is the music of liberation and love. It speaks of redemption. It is sung from the heart and is driven by a mesmerizing rhythm and a universal beat. Marley’s performances were legendary. He danced as if possessed by a higher calling. His artistry evokes the magic and mysteries of the ancients ... the dreadlocked rasta. David Burnett’s photographs take us to the soul of Bob Marley, Jamaica, and its people. His photographs will long be remembered for honoring that soul.
— Chris Murray
Copyright © 2009 David Burnett