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Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius Format Kindle
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Around 80% of this book is dedicated to the lyrics, and the result is an often repetitive and worshipful over-analysis, as Dawes believes that Bob can do absolutely no wrong. On average, songs receive at least four or five pages of line-by-line analysis that is often overkill, maxing out with a very unnecessary sixteen pages for "Concrete Jungle." Dawes often digs deeper into word-by-word coverage, and even syllable-by-syllable in "No Woman No Cry." The problem is that his analyses rely on the unproven assumption that Marley actually put the utmost care into every single word as if he were a straight-ahead poet, rather than a songwriter who also had to worry about rhythms and melodies. Dawes' contention that every single aspect of a song's lyrics had the utmost deep meaning really starts to weigh this book down. He even assumes total meaningfulness in the pop/rock clichés of lighter-weight songs like "Waiting in Vain."
There is also regular conjecture and opinionating on the biblical or cultural references that inspired Marley, and as usual, their weighty significance. This backfires with at least a few noteworthy songs, like the strangely short analysis (just three paragraphs) for "Three Little Birds." In the booklet for the Songs of Freedom box set, Marley is quoted as saying that this song really was inspired by three little birds on his doorstep, but here Dawes unconvincingly makes references to the Trinity with no evidence. Dawes is clearly qualified to tackle this analysis of Marley's art, but his lofty conceptions of constant significance in the lyrics often threaten to collapse under their own weight. Imagine if someone did an in-depth word-by-word analysis of Dawes' poetic works. He would surely appreciate the student's efforts, but would he necessarily agree with that person's opinions on every single word? [~doomsdayer520~]
Kwame Dawes is an excellent writer and he strikes me as someone I'd enjoy sitting down to talk with. This is dense subject matter and it easily could have turned into an encyclopedia. He condenses a lot of background and tangential relationships into this examination of Marley's poetry, and he does so skillfully. I did feel that the book was a bit rushed near the end, and the last chapter seems to lack some of the polish of previous chapters, but other than that, I have no complaints.
I consider myself a fairly good student of The Wailers, and I feel capable of exploring the references and cross-references with others, but I have to submit to Mr. Dawes' superior insight. There were cases where I disagreed with his lyrical interpretation on minor points, or his overlooking of "Bend Down Low" and "Bad Card" (one of my favorite Wailers songs) but for the most part I found myself paying closer attention to ostensibly small nuances of the lyrics and the delivery. I even found myself digging back into my long-forgotten copy of Kaya to re-evaluate my relationship with that album.
The most valuable aspect of this book, for me, is it's ability to extract even more mileage from Marley's considerable legacy. The arrangement of the book into Marley's musical "periods" while associated with Island Records is quite interesting. I didn't buy it at first, but the author presents a strong case. His analysis of Confrontation was equally compelling. His ability to reposition 'posthumous' releases into earlier periods gave me a lot to think about and reconsider.
We need more books like this, for example, the poetry of both Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer deserve equal treatment.
If you are a Marley fan, do yourself a favor and buy this book, read it cover to cover. Write in it. Mark it up. Disagree with it. Keep it for reference. Then read it again. The only thing that would have improved this book would be an accompanying website for public discussion of the material.
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