David Burnett - Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley

Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley

A Book by David Burnett

(Insight Editions)

First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2009, Volume 16, #10

Written by Douglas Heselgrave

Wed October 14, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT


In 1976, veteran Vietnam War photographer David Burnett visited Jamaica as part of an assignment for Time Magazine. He didn’t realize then what he knows now — that he was a first-hand witness to a culture that was undergoing immense changes. Burnett spent several hours with Bob Marley, just prior to the assassination attempt that would drive the young singer into exile. The photographs that Burnett took chronicle Marley’s transition from a regional performer to someone who became both a global superstar and a cultural phenomenon.

In fact, Soul Rebel contains some of the most evocative images ever taken of Marley. Throughout the book, Burnett treats readers to portraits of an iconic figure who is at ease. The worry and fatigue that often characterize later shots of Marley are nowhere in evidence. Burnett is not a reggae fan with a camera. Instead, he is a sensitive, professional photographer with an unfailingly innovative eye for form and composition. This places his work in Soul Rebel far above most of the other photographs of Marley that are in circulation. Some of the best photos include close-ups of Marley’s hands as well as casual, impromptu depictions of him leaning on an acoustic guitar.

In 1977, Burnett joined Marley during the European leg of his Exodus tour. Soul Rebel contains a series of backstage and soundcheck photos that previously were unreleased, and these will delight reggae’s hardcore fans. Marley looks tired but enthusiastic as he lounges in the bus, looking out his window at the countryside rolling by. The scenes that Burnett depicts are as touching as they are revealing.

While in Jamaica, Burnett also had the opportunity to visit Trenchtown, the worst of Kingston’s notorious slums. His photos eloquently capture the grim realities of life there. Along with images of Marley and Trenchtown, Burnett provides stunning pictures of Burning Spear at one of his early recording sessions, glimpses of Lee Scratch Perry in his Black Ark Studio, and shots of Peter Tosh in all of his rebel glory.

Soul Rebel is a magnificently produced, oversized, coffee table book that is indispensable for fans of reggae’s golden age. With its pristine reproductions, dazzling colors, high-quality paper stock, and attention to detail, it surely is the most beautiful book about reggae ever to be published. starstarstarstarstar


Of Further Interest...

Lee Scratch Perry - Scratch Came, Scratch Saw, Scratch Conquered

Chris Salewicz - Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer (Book)

Roger Steffens & Peter Simon - Reggae Scrapbook (Book)


Soul Rebel: An Intimate Portrait of Bob Marley is
available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!



1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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