Who Doesn't Like Bob Marley?

J. Freedom's got a story in today's paper about a Bob Marley photo exhibition at Govinda Gallery. It's a good read -- particularly entertaining because the photographer, David Burnett, had no idea who Bob Marley was when he was given the assignment from Time magazine in 1976.

More than 30 years later -- and nearly 30 years after his death -- it would be hard to find anyone with even the most casual passing knowledge of music who doesn't know who Marley is. He's an international icon, perhaps most identified with his genre than any other artist in any other genre. His 1984 greatest-hits compilation "Legend" is the best-selling reggae album of all-time, and you can be pretty sure that will be the case forever. Unless you're really, really a believer in Matisyahu.

J. Freedom and I also decided that Marley holds a unique superlative: Most Agreeable Music to Put On at a Party. (I guess we were talking about a college party and not grandma and grandpa's silver anniversary soiree at the country club, but even Nana would probably get down to "Jammin,'" right?) But think about it: You put on "Legend," who's going to argue with that? Its appeal is universal. You can be a fan of rock, hip-hop, electronic, metal, jazz, whatever -- you aren't going to have a problem with Marley. What other artist can you say that about? Dave Matthews will annoy plenty of people. (Duh.) There will always be some people who don't like hip-hop. Even the stars of the classic rock canon -- Beatles, Stones, etc. -- might not connect with younger kids.

Or maybe we're just wrong.

Is Bob Marley the perfect party music or not?

And if he is, then who would be second choice? I've always thought the Beastie Boys as general crowd-pleasers, but feel free to leave your nominations in the comments.

By David Malitz |  February 10, 2009; 10:56 AM ET Old Favorite Thing
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If I hear Legend at another party I may go nuts. I went to school with a pile of Deadheads in the 80's and that and Van Morrison's greatest hits were the permanent party cds. I am lukewarm on both of the guys to begin with (my reggae tends more towards The Ethiopians, Augustus Pablo or Lee Perry) and thanks to that exposure, I now can't stand either of em and wouldn't have em in the house. How about The Skatalites or a Trojan comp of some sort? Please? Not Legend again!

Posted by: tarquam | February 10, 2009 11:54 AM

i assume this post excludes rock nerds who reference obscure reggae bands that few people have heard of? lol...

Anyways, this is a post about an artist who appeals to the most people at any given time. Bob Marley (however oft-repeated his music is played) simply fits that bill.

Even if i'm tired of hearing "Jammin" for the 568,954 time, it would still be preferable to hearing polka or bachata or reggaeton or some other annoying music that makes my ears bleed.

Its simple and basic music. And sometimes simple is the most appealing.

Posted by: around | February 10, 2009 12:08 PM

Jay Z's Unplugged album with the Roots. He keeps it pretty clean (since it was on MTV), people can dance to it, and it's not too long.
Perfect combination.

Posted by: BradfordPearson | February 10, 2009 2:12 PM

Geez, sorry. I guess my opinion doesn't count. My bad. The article asked "Who would argue with that?" and the answer was me, and frankly most of my friends, none of us are "rock nerds", whatever that may be.

I'm tired of hearing Jammin and would rather hear dancehall, reggaeton or ANYTHING new compared to something tired and overplayed. MY preferred party discs are Bollywood, instrumental rock from the late 50's early 60's (surf, Link Wray etc, not too obscure, I hope) garage rock and hip hop instrumental stuff. Nobody listens anyway, it's just sound to keep the party moving.

Posted by: tarquam | February 10, 2009 3:02 PM

You're right about Bob Marley being a constant crowd pleaser. No matter how many times the songs are played, people still jam away. Another album that seems to have relative mass appeal these days (I hear it at parties and bars eveywhere on a regular basis) is Sublime's self-titled cd. "Santaria" and "Wrong Way" seem to be constantly in the mix.

Posted by: EKruse | February 10, 2009 7:47 PM

I saw Bob's last concert performance in Pittsburgh in 1980. I really didn't know about him or his music until then either. I just jammed at a hundred concerts back in the day including Frank Zappa three times. But that Marley show was memorable not just for a the smoke and dancing - everyone stood for the whole show, but because I remember Bob playing with his back to the crowd most of the night. the band carried him for the most part, though he did a stirring rendition of Redemption Song. Only found out much later that he was sick - diagnosed with cancer just the day before and urged by many not to perform that night Sept. 23, 1980.

Posted by: jodo201 | February 10, 2009 10:24 PM

There is no perfect party music - every party is different. Legend is perfect for some types of parties, but not the kind that I throw.

Even if I had to play Bob Marley at a party, I would choose an anthology of his collaborations with Lee Scratch Perry (Soul Rebel, Duppy Conqueror, Small Axe, Corner Stone, etc). I like many of the songs on Legend, but the album has been overplayed around the world for 20-plus years, and that alone is reason enough not to play it at a party.

Posted by: SSMD1 | February 11, 2009 9:38 AM

I think that some of the prior commentors could stand to cool out about the simple prospect of an album being played for a hypothetical party.

That said, I think The Avalanches "Since I Left You" can take most any party forward for another hour.

Posted by: cmockeghem | February 13, 2009 10:49 AM

there is one who is more pleasing at a party than any other:


you can take any song, any one at all. and they go on and on.

Hot Pants, smokin'

Posted by: johannesrolf | February 13, 2009 10:30 PM

No way is Bob Marley the best party music these days. That title obviously belongs to Daft Punk--just put on Alive 2007 and watch the place explode.

Posted by: agl132 | February 16, 2009 5:56 PM

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