Daily Inspiration: Bob Marley, Sugar Minott, & Trouble In The City
Revisiting a Bob Marley classic, and the cover it inspired, on his 70th birthday.
I randomly watched this documentary "Bullwackie In New York" last weekend while getting some work done. Filmed in the early 1980s in the Bronx, it's about dancehall producer Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes and the New York studio where he set up shop. Bullwackie accounted for many of the few dancehall records that originated in NYC in that era (as opposed to the genre's primary hubs, Jamaica and London), and the doc was stuffed with incredible archive footage of New York, as well as rare performance footage from the time period's buzziest names. I ended up buying Sugar Minott's Wicked Ago Feel It while the credits rolled, and his cover of Bob Marley's "So Much Trouble" has been with me all week.
The whole album is exemplary of the analog/digital experimentation producers were toying with at the time: wet guitar and fuzzy bass sprinkled with dub samples, wailing sirens, and sine-graph reverb. But it was most rewarding to hear how Minott took Marley's original anthem, a lamentation on the world's humanitarian problems, and shrunk it down to the struggles he was seeing in the five boroughs. He twists the hook into So much trouble in the city and sings I can't find a place to live my best... And with this cost of living, only the rich men can ever feast, while the poor man have to steal to eat. On what would be Bob Marley's 70th birthday, I would imagine this cover is the kind of inspiration he hoped to spark at his peak, leaving the generations that followed with the tools to recast his suffering—and strength—in their own image.
Photo Credit: Sigfrid Casals/Getty Images