Oct 28, 2006

Bob Marley lived at 34 Ridgmount Gardens in Camden

When you wander around the streets of London, you notice little blue plaques fixed on the walls of certain houses. They inform passers-by that some big name lived or worked there, a writer or painter, scientist or engineer, or some pillar of the establishment. On Thursday,Ken Livingstone's officials unveiled the capital's first cultural heritage plaque on the flats, a recognition of the role London played in helping Marley become the first reggae superstar. The mayor's office helped stage the capital's first reggae summit to promote a scholarly debate about the extent to which Bob Marley, other reggae stars and the "sound system" enthusiasts who played ear-splittingly loud at live events in cities around Britain, altered the social fabric. Marley lived at Ridgmount Gardens during 1972. As an artist yet to establish himself outside his native Jamaica, he had a nomadic existence. He moved to another acquaintance's home in Old Church Street, Chelsea, where he was joined by members of his band The Wailers. They hoped to secure some gigs supporting US soul singer Johnny Nash and while waiting for that breakthrough, Marley and his band played a number of gigs in London and moved base again, this time to Queensborough Terrace in Bayswater, west London. When the support slot failed to materialise and the band encountered difficulties with police over their use of marijuana Marley returned to Jamaica, but not before being introduced to Chris Blackwell, the old Etonian owner of independent Island Records, with whom the superstar would enjoy his greatest Jeffrey Lennon of the Urban Enterprise Network, said: "Reggae played its part in shaping the cities in the way we see them today. There were reggae artists on the Windrush and for communities facing social and financial problems the music was both a voice and an outlet. In the 1980s it was the music able to express the concerns of young people across communities. Reggae has never really been accorded the significance it deserves." Rita Marley said: "My husband had a special affinity with London. We truly look forward to seeing [the plaque] the next time we are in London. Jah bless you all. One love."

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