Gordon Lightfoot Book, Music and More!

The home of music journalist Nicholas Jennings, author of Lightfoot, the definitive new Gordon Lightfoot biography from Penguin Random House.

Bob Marley: One Love review - Natural Mystic on the Screen

Despite approaching it with some trepidation, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Bob Marley: One Love in the end. Kingsley Ben-Adir, who looks nothing like Marley, seemed awkward in the role at first and his dreadlock wig was not at all convincing. But the English actor seemed to grow into the part as the film progressed, even his dreads became more natural, and he wound up capturing well the spirit, struggle and message of the man.  The filmmakers chose to frame the story between Marley getting shot 1976 and 1978’s One Love Peace Concert, when he brought political enemies Michael Manley and Edward Seaga together onstage. And there are some wonderful flashbacks, including the youn...

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Dennis Brown - Reggae crooner extraordinaire

Reggae artists seem to have a knack for taking well-known pop songs, transforming them with reggae’s distinctive, loping rhythm—what Bob Marley called “the one drop”—and creating new, sure-fire hits for themselves. Think of Toots and the Maytals’ reggae-fied remake of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Peter Tosh’s Rasta variation on Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” or UB40’s version of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” Reggae crooner Dennis Brown is no exception. Brown’s two current albums, Victory is Mine (on RAS Records) and Over Proof (Shanachie), each takes a North American hit and puts an unmistakable Jamaican spin on it. The former features a bubbly versi...

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Ronnie ‘Bop’ Williams - Unheralded reggae pioneer helped define the genre

He was one of the early architects of Jamaican music – a guitarist, bass player, songwriter, arranger and producer whose contributions to hundreds of recordings helped to shape reggae and popularize it around the world. He played with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash and Toots and the Maytals, and worked for such famous studio owners as Duke Reid, Bunny Lee and Lee (Scratch) Perry, and the Trojan, Treasure Isle and Upsetter record labels. Yet the name Ronnie (Bop) Williams is barely known outside of reggae circles. Part of the reason for the near anonymity was Mr. Williams’s own modesty. A soft-spoken man, he came from extremely humble roots in rural Jamaica, teaching himself to play on ...

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Music Feature: The hypnotic pull of the reggae beat

Bunny Wailer - Photo by David Corio

When Bob Marley died of cancer at 36 in 1981, he received a burial more befitting a king than a musician. His funeral drew the largest crowds in Caribbean history. The Jamaican parliament recessed for 10 days of national mourning, having just awarded him an Order of Merit. As millions mourned the passing of reggae music’s first major star, music industry insiders predicted that reggae— with its bass-heavy beat and its lyrical links to the island’s mystical Rastafarian religion— would soon fade away. But the forecast was wrong. Despite the death of its leading practitioner and reggae’s continuing struggle for airplay on North American radio stations, its appeal keeps spreading. This summer, r...

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Music Review: Jackie Mittoo - Wishbone

Mittoo was a founding member of The Skatalites and a legendary Studio One keyboardist who backed Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and others. His music played a crucial role in reggae’s foundation and he left a rich recorded legacy of his work in both Jamaica and Canada, where he lived through the 1970s and ’80s. This reissue of a rare album, recorded in Toronto in 1971, captures Mittoo at his best on gems like the majestic instrumental “Grand Funk” and the soaring, gospel-tinged reggae workout “Soul Bird.”

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