Griffiths remembers a legend

The Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment Desk presents the second in a series titled 40 Days of Marley to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.

ON the morning of May 11, 1981, Marcia Griffiths decided to visit friend and fellow member of the I Three, Judy Mowatt, at her St Andrew home. What she did not know was that Bob Marley had lost his battle to cancer at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (now University of Miami Hospital) at the age of 36.

“As I was driving into Sister Judy’s driveway, I saw an expression on her face that I will never forget. She said she heard [of his passing] but wasn’t sure. Both of us just felt lost for a while. Later that day, the news was confirmed, and I felt like my entire body was falling to my ankles. I can’t even find the adjectives to describe how I felt,” Griffiths told the Jamaica Observer.

In September the previous year, Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park. Following tests, it was confirmed that cancer, originally found in one of his toes, had spread throughout his body and he was forced to end his most ambitious United States tour.

Marley sought treatment at the Bavarian clinic of Dr Josef Issels in West Germany, where he received an alternative diet based on avoidance of certain foods, drinks, and substances. After eight months there, an ailing Marley boarded a plane for Jamaica, but did not make it home.

Even after four decades, Griffiths noted that the I Three, which also included Marley’s wife Rita Marley, has not recovered from the tragedy.

“It wasn’t easy. We were a group that performed with Bob, yes, but we also got bookings on our own as the I Three. We looked forward to moments with Bob on the road or in the studio. We were his three little birds. We have not overcome [his passing] and I don’t think we ever will. I too had a solo career and sometimes I’d be on the road but being with Bob was special,” she lamented.

Formed in 1974, the I Three appeared on several of Marley’s ground-breaking albums including Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, and Exodus.

They also scored a handful of hit songs including Neighbour, Jealousy, and Many Are Called. Griffiths had a solo hit with He’s A Legend, a song she wrote.

Griffiths added that the king of reggae was not a normal man. She recalls dedication to his fans as one of his most outstanding qualities.

“I remember when we were performing in Zimbabwe [in 1980] and there was a stampede and lots of teargas; Bob proved himself not just to me, but to everybody, as an extraordinary person. Everybody was running, including the three of us. Everybody was fearful of their own lives in that moment, and I remember we ran until we got back to the house where we were staying. It was not until we got there that we remembered about Bob and we felt so embarrassed. When he finally came, he said, ‘Now we know who the true revolutionaries are.’ After everything calmed down Bob went back on stage and finished his set. That man was ready to stand up and literally die with his people,” she shared.

To Griffiths, Bob Marley and his legacy are eternal.

“Everything about him makes him relevant to this day. The messages in most of his songs can be applied to society. It’s almost like when you read your Bible and you see the prophesy being fulfilled. I really believe Bob was sent by the Almighty to do His work,” she said. “He was so special. Everybody wanted to see and hear this man. The way he spoke and did things were just different. Bob and his life are far beyond what anybody can ever comprehend.”

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