Bob Marley’s Music Still Relevant to Baltimore: ‘Nothing Change, Nothing Strange’

Bob Marley brought some peace to Baltimore on May 2nd. The cast of the musical, Marley, wanted to help heal the city after its recent experience of rioting in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death.

They offered a free performance of Marley to the city, including Marley actor Mitchell Brunings’ version of “Redemption Song.”

Weary Baltimore citizens loved the gesture!

Kwame Kwei-Armah is the director of Center Stage, the producers of Marley, and he spoke to the Baltimore Sun about the musical.

“It could never have been predicted, but I feel the play is here in Baltimore at exactly the right time. The irony is sitting right on me, that we are doing a play about a hero calling for peace as his country [Jamaica] is falling apart, a man asking how do the oppressed raise their voices, how do the oppressed be heard. The seams are so aligned it’s incredible.”

Kwei-Armah went on to describe Bob Marley as one of the artists who “didn’t just use their art for riches, but to contribute in some way,” He said that though people tend to associate Bob mostly with “smoking a lot of weed,” there was a lot more to Marley.

“I think about the quality of the man and his music and his mission.”

Besides Marley, other musicians and musical organizations joined in the offerings, in what City Paper dubbed “The songs that soundtracked the Baltimore Uprising.” The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra played a free concert outside the Meyerhoff, and Baltimore band Future Islands sang on David Letterman’s show, with a dedication from theatrical frontman Sam Herring.

“This song is going to go out to the people of Baltimore, let us not discount their voices or all the voices in the cities that we live in and love.”

Prince got into the act and wrote a song that “addresses the unrest in Baltimore and the socio/political issues around the country in the wake of a slew of killings of young black men.”

But the real sound track came from the people of Baltimore themselves, just as Bob Marley would have wanted.

People brought their battery-operated speakers, car stereos, and their own voices to the people-powered soundtrack. Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry,” Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us,” Lil Boosie’s song “I Feel Ya,” East Baltimore street-rap hero Young Moose’s “True Bill,” along with Bob Marley’s music, filled the air as Baltimore rallied.

Like Bob Marley’s friend and art director Neville Garrick told the Baltimore Sun, “If you looked at the footage on CNN of what was happening here, you could say ‘nothing change, nothing strange’ [quoting from Marley’s song “Survival”]. Bob’s music is as relevant as it was 30 years ago.”

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