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The Wailers

For marketing purposes, Bob Marley, the Wailers, and Bob Marley & the Wailers have become interchangeable names, used indiscriminately to refer to recordings actually made by separate entities. So, it is worth recalling the distinctions that existed at the times these entities performed and recorded. The Wailers, formed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1963, was a vocal group consisting of Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, Bunny Livingston, Bob Marley, Peter McIntosh, and Cherry Smith; they were called variously the Teenagers, the Wailing Rudeboys, the Wailing Wailers, and finally the Wailers. Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith had departed by 1966, leaving the trio of Livingston, Marley, and McIntosh. By the early '70s, they had begun playing musical instruments and added a rhythm section consisting of brothers Aston "Family Man" Barrett (bass) and Carlton "Carlie" Barrett (drums). After recording extensively in Jamaica, this unit was signed to Great Britain's Island Records, which issued its label debut, Catch a Fire, in April 1973, followed by Burnin' in November. These albums attracted critical attention but did not chart at first.

By the time of Natty Dread (1974), the original group had split, with McIntosh (later billed as Peter Tosh) and Livingston (later billed as Bunny Wailer) leaving. The album was credited to Bob Marley & the Wailers, the group consisting of Marley, the Barretts, keyboard player Bernard "Touter" Harvey, and lead guitarist Al Anderson, with backing vocals by the I-Threes (Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley, and Judy Mowatt). The breakthrough for this group was their appearance at the Lyceum in London on July 18, 1975. The show was recorded and quickly released on LP as Live!, and Marley and his reggae music became an international sensation. The success of Eric Clapton's cover of "I Shot the Sheriff," a Marley song from Burnin', in the summer of 1974, had done much to popularize reggae (the original version made the U.S. R&B charts that fall), but Marley himself now achieved stardom as a performer. "No Woman, No Cry," a song originally heard on Natty Dread, reached the U.K. charts in its live rendition in September 1975, becoming a Top 40 hit. With that, both Natty Dread and Live! reached the British charts. In the U.S., Natty Dread had charted in May; it was followed by Burnin' and Catch a Fire in the fall. (Live! was held back from U.S. release for a year; when it appeared, it charted in the Top 100.)

Bob Marley & the Wailers reached their commercial apex in the U.S. with the April 1976 release of their next studio album, Rastaman Vibration, which hit the Top Ten as "Roots, Rock, Reggae" became a minor pop chart entry and a Top 40 R&B hit. At this point, the group consisted of Marley, the Barretts, the I-Threes, keyboard player Tyrone Downie, percussionist Alvin "Seeco" Patterson, rhythm guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, and lead guitarist Donald Kinsey. Exodus, released in May 1977, found Marley & the Wailers taking a slightly more uptempo (and disco-influenced) direction; it produced three Top 40 chart hits in the U.K. ("Exodus," "Waiting in Vain," and the Top Ten "Jamming," backed by the non-LP "Punky Reggae Party") and became their first Top Ten album in Great Britain. In the U.S., it sold about as well as Rastaman Vibration, but the band began meeting resistance from category-conscious radio programmers who couldn't figure out whether to slot it as rock or R&B. "Exodus" became a Top 20 R&B hit and "Waiting in Vain" made the R&B Top 40, but neither single charted pop. Once again, Marley had tinkered with the band's personnel, which for Exodus consisted of himself, the Barretts, the I-Threes, Downie, Patterson, and lead guitarist Julian (Junior) Marvin.

Kaya, the fourth studio album by Bob Marley & the Wailers, appeared in March 1978. In the U.K., it was the band's biggest success yet, reaching the Top Five, powered by the advance single "Is This Love," which was a Top Ten hit, and by the follow-up single "Satisfy My Soul," which reached the Top 40. But the story was far different in the U.S., where the album struggled. Black radio seemed to have decided that the band did not fit formats dominated by disco, while pop radio was increasingly attracted to new wave sounds and treated reggae as a fad that had passed. The double live album Babylon by Bus, released in November, which marked the return of Al Anderson and the addition of keyboard player Earl "Wire" or "Wya" Lindo, was a modest seller, again doing better in England than in America.

The fifth Bob Marley & the Wailers studio album, Survival, was released in October 1979. It reached the Top 20 in the U.K., with the single "So Much Trouble in the World" reaching the charts, but in the U.S. it sold only moderately well, though "Wake Up and Live" became a minor R&B chart entry. Uprising, released in June 1980 and prefaced by the propulsive single "Could You Be Loved," gave Marley a commercial rebound. The single and album were Top Ten hits in the U.K. The U.S. was more resistant, but "Could You Be Loved" reached the R&B charts and the album charted higher than any of the band's albums since Exodus. Uprising might have done better domestically if Marley had not become ill shortly after its release and been forced to cancel his tour promoting it after only a few dates. His death in May 1981 of course brought an end to the band known as Bob Marley & the Wailers, but it did not end his and the band's success. Even before his death, the back catalog began to sell, with a British single release of "Three Little Birds" from Exodus reaching the Top 20 in the fall of 1980. Shortly after Marley's death, "No Woman, No Cry" was reissued and reached the U.K. Top Ten, with Live! (retitled Live at the Lyceum) returning to the album chart. The posthumous album Confrontation was issued two years after Marley's death, in May 1983. Both its single, "Buffalo Soldier," and the LP made their way up the U.K. Top Five. In the U.S., the single made the R&B charts, and the album was another moderate seller.

But the album that really established the defunct band as an across-the-board sales success was the hits collection Legend -- The Best of Bob Marley & the Wailers, released in the U.K. three years after Marley's death, in May 1984, and in August in the U.S. The album topped the British charts with "One Love/People Get Ready," originally released on Exodus, becoming a Top Five single, "Waiting in Vain" returning to the Top 40, and "Could You Be Loved" returning to the charts. American chart statistics were not as spectacular, but the album became a perennial seller; before the end of the century, it had been certified for sales of ten million copies. Its success, in turn, stimulated sales of the Marley catalog in the U.S., and in the '90s Burnin', Live!, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Kaya, Uprising, and Confrontation all went gold, while Island continued to scale the charts with compilations such as Rebel Music (1986), Talkin' Blues (1991), and Natural Mystic (1995). Often, the focus was on Marley alone. For example, the 1992 four-CD box set Songs of Freedom, which included recordings dating back to the early '60s, was billed to Marley, not Marley & the Wailers, as was the 1999 chart album of newly created duets Chant Down Babylon. On the other hand, the many repackagers of '60s Wailers recordings have long tended to credit their wares to Bob Marley & the Wailers even though the material was cut by the Livingston/McIntosh/Marley group, and Island has long credited reissues of Catch a Fire to Bob Marley & the Wailers (indeed, the initial U.S. release carried that credit). Thus, in practice, recordings by Bob Marley & the Wailers can refer to any music featuring Marley and made in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, though careful listeners will insist that the credit should apply only to the recordings and performances of Marley and his regular backup group from the breakup of the original Wailers trio in 1974 to Marley's death in 1981. ~ William Ruhlmann
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Golden Rockers

1. Love And Devotion

2. This Whole Heart Of Mine

3. Russians Are Coming

4. Bum Ball

5. Don't Try To Use Me

6. Stick By Me

7. Sad Mood

8. Room Full Of Tears

9. Girl Of Dreams

10. 12th Of Never

11. Chatter Box

12. Queen Of The Misntrel

x

Track List: Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era

Disc 1

1. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)

2. Dirty Water

3. Night Time

4. Lies

5. Respect

7. No Time Like The Right Time

8. Oh Yeah

10. Moulty

11. Don't Look Back

12. An Invitation To Cry

13. Liar, Liar

14. You're Gonna Miss Me

15. Psychotic Reaction

17. Romeo And Juliet

18. Sugar And Spice

19. Baby Please Don't Go

20. Tobacco Road

21. Let's Talk About Girls

22. Sit Down I Think I Love You

24. My World Fell Down

25. Open My Eyes

26. Farmer John

Disc 2

1. Talk Talk

2. Last Time Around

3. Nobody But Me

4. Journey To Tyme

5. No Friend Of Mine

6. Outside Chance

7. Action Woman

9. Sweet Young Thing

10. Incense And Peppermints

11. I Ain't No Miracle Worker

12. 7 & 7 Is

14. Going All The Way

15. I'm Gonna Make You Mine

16. The Trip

18. Why Do I Cry

19. Laugh, Laugh

21. I Wonder

22. I See The Light

23. Who Do You Love

24. Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)

25. Live

26. Steppin' Out

28. Strychnine

29. Little Girl

30. (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet

31. Shape Of Things To Come

Disc 3

1. Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)

3. At The River's Edge

5. Follow Me

8. She's About A Mover

9. Little Bit O' Soul

10. Put The Clock Back On The Wall

12. Run, Run, Run

13. I Need You

14. Knock, Knock

15. Primitive

16. Psycho

17. So What!!

18. You Must Be A Witch

19. A Question Of Temperature

20. Maid Of Sugar - Maid Of Spice

21. You Ain't Tuff

22. Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White

23. She's My Baby

24. Story Of My Life

25. I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time

27. Bad Little Woman

28. Double Yellow Line

29. Optical Sound

30. Journey To The Center Of The Mind

Disc 4

1. Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In)?

4. Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl

5. Wooly Bully

6. I Want Candy

8. One Track Mind

9. Out Of Our Tree

10. I Think I'm Down

13. Johnny Was A Good Boy

14. Stop - Get A Ticket

16. The Witch

17. Get Me To The World On Time

20. Just Like Me

22. I Live In The Springtime

25. Love's Gone Bad

26. Why Pick On Me

27. Bad Girl

30. Blue's Theme

x

Track List: Studio One Ska Fever!

1. Mad World

2. Skavling Johnny

4. Rudie Bam Bam

5. Old Rocking Chair

6. Climb The Ladder

7. Jump For Joy

8. Gumma

9. Freedom Sounds

10. You Won't See Me

11. Cleopatra

12. Don't Try To Reach Me

14. There's A Reward

15. Timothy

16. Live Good

17. Green Island

18. Mr Talkative

Comments

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Went to the show last night at the University Of Maine in Orono. Totally awesome show. Loved every minute of it and would go again in a heartbeat. Much love. Shawn Myers
Report as inappropriate
Mh
Z
Report as inappropriate
Several years ago the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gave the E. Street Band the Award for Musical Excellence, essentially inducting them. They should do the same for the Wailers.
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altetly
Just hit like.
Report as inappropriate
The similar artists links only make it more confusing...
Report as inappropriate
unfortunatel y they've mixed up the reggae legends and the Pacific Northwest instrumental rock legends...

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