Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Obama's Bob Marley effect

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
November 09, 2008

Barack Obama
Barack Obama
One of the hidden, unnoticed and unsung variables in the recently concluded United States Presidential elections was the Bob Marley effect in Senator Barack Obama's run for the United States presidency and his awesome victory.

Robert "Bob" Nestor Marley and Senator Barack Obama both have one thing in common: a white parent. Bob Marley's father was British and white; Senator Barack Obama's mother was American and white.

Bob Marley was the "first superstar from the Third World" to gain international fame, fans, fortune and acclaim.

In fact, his 1979 LP entitled "Exodus" has been acclaimed as the "album of the century" and both Time Magazine and the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) have designated his song "One Love" as the "Song of the Century".

Time had this to say about Bob Marley's "Exodus "LP: "every song is a class, from the messages of love to the anthems of revolution. But more than that, the album is a nexus, drawing inspiration from the Third World and then giving voice to it the world over".

Bob Marley is indeed the "entertainer of the century". Bob Marley not only took reggae music and its message to Europe, America, Asia and Africa but more importantly, Marley, the man, transcended race and class.

Bob Marley had the charisma and racial hue to draw thousand of young white Americans and Europeans, mainly women, to his countless sell-out concerts. This writer hypothesizes that Bob Marley's white-looking , youthful, physical appearance served as the magnetic force to attrack the multitudes of young white female patrons to his shows --- his slow, rhythmic inspiring reggae music notwithstanding.

Put another way, it might have been in the subconscious payche of these White-European patrons that they were in musical- cultural communion with one of their own. They internalized that they were in-tuned with a white artiste. They felt one with Bob Marley on stage during his concerts.

A white-looking Bob Marley was their musical- cultural comfort zone. And this comfort zone was further ossified by Bob Marley's international lyrics. The white-European audiences totally identified with Bob Marley's lyrics. They understood and felt his "positive vibration" up close and personal because they knew what "Babylon" meant; they knew of a "Trench Town" ghetto in America and Europe; they all yearned for "One Love" among humanity; and they expressed these sentiments outwardly by growing dreadlocks themselves.

Senator Barack Obama's run for the United States presidency mirrored Bob Marley's iconic musical – cultured legacy. Like Bob Marley, Senator Barack Obama was also able to woe thousands of young white Americans, mainly females, to work for his election. Like Bob Marley, these young American females saw Barack Obama as one of them. Obama's campaign experience was their political comfort zone a la Bob Marley's concerts.

Like Bob Marley, young white Americans totally identified with Obama's message about their future. They felt Obama's "positive vibration." Like Bob Marley, Obama's youthful, white –looking, physical appearance was the magnetic force to draw young white Americans to his side. They not only saw themselves in his political mirror but also clothed themselves in his rock star persona a la Bob Marley.

In addition, Bob Marley's lyrics spoke to revolutionary change in society between the "Haves" and "Have nots" and exhorted the oppressed/ marginalized to "get up, stand up; stand up for your rights".

Similarly, Senator Barack Obama's campaign lyrics/ rhetoric spoke to " change " in America after eight years of President George Bush's failed domestic economic and foreign policies.

Bob Marley and Senator Barack Obama were extremely successful and on target in this endeavor – "Change We Need".

In the final analysis, the common denominator between Bob Marley and President- elect Barack Obama is that they both give " the poor a voice the world over". Only " Time will tell" whether or not as the 44th President Barack Obama will emerge as United States President of the century.

If he were to achieve this unique goal/milestone, then, President Barack Obama will not only usher in "a new dawn of American leadership" at home, but, more importantly, he would have also sown the seeds of a new image of love, hope, respect and admiration for America around the world.

Dr. Kwame Namtambu is Professor Ementus, Kent State University.

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