This day 37 years ago, history was created by reggae icon Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley when he headlined the star-studded One Love Peace concert. The mega concert was held in Kingston, Jamaica at the National Stadium during the height of a bitter political conflict that had divided the country. Dubbed the most famous reggae concert in the world, the One Love Peace concert remains a highlight in the life of Marley and his country. The nation came together in hopes of a breakthrough that would bring back the unity, love and peace it had once known.
On April 22, 1978 in front of a crowd of more than 32,000 people from every branch of society Marley took the crowd on the musical experience of a lifetime. The crowd filled every seat and overflowed to the football field of the stadium. Those in attendance of the momentous event were surrounded by a heavy presence of armed soldiers and police. Jamaica was in the midst of the most deadly period of political bloodshed and violence the country had ever witnessed.
A Peace Committee had been formed including rival members of both political parties in an attempt to bring solace. Music has always been a powerful force in the land and the committee thought the “Peace Concert” could help return the nation to a place of sanity and love. The only problem was they wanted the iconic Marley to head the concert.
Just 14 months prior, there had been a failed assassination attempt on Marley’s life which caused him to flee to England. The committee had one of the members fly to the United Kingdom to meet with Marley and persuade him to return home and headline the concert. Marley agreed, the concert date was set and he returned to Jamaica.
Stadium gates opened at 2:00 p.m. and the show began at 5:00 p.m. to thunderous applause. There were three main sections of the stadium appropriately named to accompany the theme; the Togetherness Section which were the bleachers, the Love Section which was the grandstand and the Peace Section for VIPs. There were many musical talents which took the stage before Marley’s grand entrance.
Marley’s band, The Wailers, took the stage and then a single spotlight was fixed as Marley took the stage. The crowd went crazy. He was backed by the I-Threes; singers Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt. It quickly became clear to those in attendance that they were in the midst of a historical occasion. Marley sang many of his popular songs and the entire stadium was overtaken as they jammed with the King of Reggae.
Without warning, Marley summoned for the Prime Minister, Michael Manley, along with Edward Seaga, the Opposing Leader, to join him on the stage. Both leaders, in a state of surprise and obliged by his public request, joined him on the platform. Marley stood between both leaders and placed his hands on their shoulders; he literally pulled them towards each other and persuaded them to shake hands. Before they could refuse, Marley put his hand on top of their connected hands and raised them high in the air to demonstrate One Love Peace; and the crowd went wild.
The nation’s hero had returned home to institute peace to a nation which had quickly become frayed at the seams. A few years later, in 1981, Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley died. The nation was in mourning, but they continued to witness his life through the legacy he left behind. One of the highlights of his memorial service was the rejoining of Seaga and Manley. Once again the men shook hands in honor of the man who in his own way sought to bring peace to his homeland. History was made 37 years ago today, as the beginning of One Love Peace was witnessed at the National Stadium.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Top Image Courtesy of Monosnaps – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Astronauta Viajero – Flickr License