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Monday 3 September 2012

Jive, Bunny

I have just finished reading "I & I: The Natural Mystics", a book by Colin Grant about the original Wailers - Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer.

While it is very good in parts - in particular when describing live in Trenchtown in the 1950s and 1960s - I found it a bit unsatisfying. It veers between being a history of recent Jamaica and a biography of the Wailers, and in my opinion does not quite manage to be either. If it is an insight into modern Jamaica you want, I would recommend Ian Thomson's "The Dead Yard" instead.

One thing that irritated me in Grant's book was his portayal of Bunny Wailer (or at least of his music since splitting from the Wailers). He opens the book by recounting the occasion in 1990 when Bunny was bottled off-stage by over-exuberant Shabba Ranks' fans. He seems to see this as a highly symbolic rejection of the old values, and in order to fit his thesis portrays Bunny as a po-faced puritanical Rasta who scorns pleasure in all its forms other than smoking the chalice.

That characterisation only works if you are unfamiliar with his work. For as any fan knows, Bunny has been putting out dancehall tunes alongside his more righteous releases for over thirty years. Here are a couple of examples from 1981's "Rock 'n Groove".

"Rock 'n Groove" - Bunny Wailer

"Ball Room Floor" - Bunny Wailer

And my guess would be that his biggest ever pay-packet came from writing this irate condemnation of the iniquities of Babylon, which was a Billboard smash at the end of the 1980s.

"Electric Boogie" - Marcia Griffiths

I'm pleased to note that Bunny was awarded the Order of Jamaica last month for his contribution to the cultural life of the island. It's hard to think of anyone who deserves it more. Unless Eek-A-Mouse gets his long-overdue O.B.E.

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