The following interview originally appeared in the September 1976 issue of HIGH TIMES Magazine
Bob Marley is the fastest-rising, highest-flying star in music today. Like most members of Jamaica’s Rastafarian religion Bob smokes about a pound of marijuana, or “herb,” a week. HIGH TIMES Visited with Bob on his most recent American tour, and we found a lot of things to talk about.
HIGH TIMES: Have you seen HIGH TIMES magazine?
Bob Marley: Hard Times? Ooo-eee! Ooo-eee! HIGH TIMES! Dis supposed to ‘ave de bes’ high in de worl’. HIGH TIMES only de bes’.
HT: Some Thai weed? [Pause] Do you think herb will be legalized?
BM: I don’ know if dis government will, but I know Christ’s government will.
HT: What about the Jamaican government? Mr. Manley, the Prime Minister?
BM: Him? Legalize herb? Boy, I jus’ don’ know. It’s kinda legalized already. Me don’t t’ink is really him, y’know. The realization of de truth. I don’t know if Michael Manley will be de one, or who, but y’know, everyt’ing will reveal right out to de flat truth.
HT: Now when you go back to Jamaica as a big star, are you able to talk to different people and get some things done that you’d like to happen?
BM: Down dere? See, Jamaica jus’ run outa politics today … ya can’t have anything happening. But ya have people who will do t’ings for ya, like ya brethren, y’know. But when ya talk about de people in power, ya haffa be a politics man. Me don’t deal wit’ no politics – me deal wit’ de truth.
HT: Your audience here is mostly white. What do you think about that?
BM: Well, I hear dat we not getting’ through to black people. Well, me tell de R&B guy now, he must play dis record because I wan’ get to de people. We’re not talkin’ about no make me no superstar. Don’ ever make me no star. Me no wan’ be no star. But in de meantime, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Dat mean, de guy dat make de record, play for de people. Don’ put me in no bracket, y’know what I mean? So dat is wit’ de D.J. Him mus’ realize dis is reggae music. I mean, it’s music.
HT: Do you consider yourself an outlaw?
BM: Outlaw? No, no outlaw. Right in time.
HT: You talk about dancing a lot in your songs. Do you see dancing as a form of communion with Jah?
BM: When ya dance, ya just are Jah. Ya mus’ dance.
HT: When was the first time you got high on herb?
BM: As a yout’. Was in de Sixties.
HT: What was the best weed you ever smoked?
BM: One time in was in Jamaica, was doin’ a show, an’ a man come up to me, and he gave me a spliff. Now, das de bes’ herb I ever smoke. Yeah, man! Neva get an extra herb like dat again! No, no, no. Just like one tree in de earth, y’know?
BM: Jus’ one tree. Sometimes ya just find a tree. It lamb’s bread.
BM: De ability what de herb ‘ave ya call lamb’s bread. Some a dem ya call Bethlehem’s bread. Dat is when ya really get good herb, y’know what I mean?
HT: Well, the Jamaican that’s coming into the States now is not as good as it was.
BM: Ya don’ get no good herb because too much sell in Jamaica. And ya find alla people who plant herb fertilize it, so nobody really take care of de herb like first time. Ya use fertilizer, it come quick. Dem fertilize it an’ cut it before time.
HT: Do you guys find it hard to get good herb?
BM: Me fin’ it hard to get in England.
HT: In England they always mix it with tobacco. It’s really foul.
BM: Yeah, man. It’s time to let de people get good herbs an’ smoke. Government’s a joke. All dey wan’ is ya smoke cigarettes and cigar. Some cigar wickeder den herb. Yeah, man, ya can’t smoke cigar. Smoke herb. Some big cigar me see man wit’, God bless! Me tell him must smoke herb. Ya see, de people come together because is not de buildin’, is not de buildin’ me wanna see, me wanna see a nice level piece of green grass. Don’ wanna haffa go in no elevator, gwan upstairs and talk wit’ some people in a square place. Me wanna go out in a earth, man. Righteousness cover de earth like water cover de sea. Where I gwan is, me don’ have time to be in building all de while, when de miracles happening all de while outside. For some time miracles happen outa de sky. Is good for ya to see it, y’know. Among some green trees, yes man! I mean, ya ‘ave green trees in America.
HT: Have you ever tried acid?
BM: Me hear ‘bout people who do it. No, me meet people who do it, an’ dem tell me. And when dem tell me, I travel to de same place. I mean, when a guy explain it an’ ya listen, ya can go all de way up to de same place as him.
HT: Who told you about it?
BM: Well, one mustn’t call people names, y’know. What keepeth its mouth, keepeth its life.
HT: Do you think herb takes you to the same place?
BM: I feel like ya ‘ave thousands of different types of herb. If when ya plant it, if ya meditation not high, it don’t come like de right type of herb.
HT: It’s very hard to find the right type of herb.
HT: One of the reasons we’re into this is to try to find it.
BM: Well, ya see, dat herb, ya can’t find dat herb.
BM: Y’know what happen to dat herb? I tell ya where dat herb go now. Just like ya ‘ave some apple trees, an’ dis year something happen to dat apple tree dere, an’ dis year dat tree taste better den dat tree. Ya find dat a seed planted de right day, de right minute, den dere’s tree, ya find it, nobody plant it. A seed show, an’ it grow, an’ ya start nurse it, an’ it become the best tree. Well, ya can get plenty a dat – de best herb dere. Jus’ one tree, sometime a guy have. Ya might pass bye an’ get a spliff. Ya say, “Where ya get dis?” Him say, “Dis come from St. Ann.” So ya go down to St. Ann’s an ya don’t find it again.
HT: Your new album cover and the promotional sacks are burlap. Why?
BM: We call dis a crocus bag. It has roots material, sackcloth. Ya associate wit’ de poor man. If ya see a man walkin’ down de street wit’ dis, y’know ‘es really poor, ‘es a sufferer.
HT: Like sackcloth and ashes?
BM: Yeah, but ya see, de t’ing is, de first shall be de las’ and de las’ frist. Is jus’ like de Rastaman. Like Christ. Why did de whole worl’ crucify? Him find, say in dis time de Rastaman is de only truth. So even de crocus bag stand out!
HT: So this is how you educate Americans?
HT: Who in Jamaica wants the American DEA down there?
HT: The Drug Enforcement Administration, the top narcs in the U.S. They’re the ones that donate the helicopters and defoliants and things to countries like Jamaica. They try to squash the grass-smuggling trade. They send field agents to Mexico, Colombia, and Jamaica. We’ve been told that there are quite a few agents down there going around with the Jamaican police. Do you have any opinion as to why they’re doing it, or who in Jamaica wants them down there?
BM: Jamaica and America ‘ave a deal. Ya mean, why would Jamaica invite a t’ing like dat? I tell ya, man, is in Jamaica interest. Same system, same people who control America. I don’t know if is President Ford or whoever de president is. But what I know – de same force what control de system look de same in my eye. I t’ink de same force control Jamaica dat control all dem types a t’ings, y’know. I t’ink dem devil. For de devil ‘ave a fight against de rights, y’know.
HT: Manley is a socialist. Isn’t he changing things?
BM: Manley supposed to be a socialist. See, I don’t have nuttin’ ta say ‘bout Manley. Manley personal self, man to man. But me no unnerstan’, me no educated to know about big words like democratic socialism. Do it, let me see it, don’t tell me ‘bout it. Live de life.
HT: What about Seaga, the capitalist who’s running against Manley?
BM: Ya ‘ave two powers in Jamaica. One name Labor Party, an’ one named PNP [People’s National Party, Manley’s ruling party]. An’ every year now dis one [the PNP] win. Well now, I like to give de guy a chance, de one who win. I find it look like before him can get papers together, is votin’ time again! So somebody set de trap fa dem, for before him can really check out Jamaica, an’ find out how much Jamaica owe America or Jamaica owe Canada. I mean, what is de backside doin’?
HT: Didn’t Manley use a reggae song for his campaign?
BM: Yeah, “Better Must Come.” One t’ing is, ya can’t blame Michael Manley, ya can’t blame dem guys. Da t’ing is, de system set dat dey maintain de power.
HT: Who sets the system?
BM: De system been set! Manley come, comes ta someone. Dat someone, dere was someone before dat, someone comin’ from where it was comin’ from in England. It comin’ down from England now. I don’t’ know how financial dem set up, how much money Jamaica borrow from England, or what kinda plan Jamaica an’ England ‘ave, but I know Jamaica owe money to certain people. And if de politician run for politics an jus’ wanna run for politics and don’t unnerstand de runnings a all de t’ings a’ gonna face him, den he gonna run away from de system, an’ if ya run from de system, de people kill you! Y’unnerstan’?
Dat is when ya dare to go up ‘gainst God, fight ‘gainst God. If ya come to do somet’ing, ya do it. But if ya come to do something an’ ya don’t do it, ya fighting ‘gainst God. An’ all de people ya trick all de while. So where’s de system settin’ from? I don’t know de business deal dem have, but dey can’t just look upon Jamaica an’ say, “All right Jamaica, we give ya some a dis an’ some a dat. All right Jamaica, we’re withdrawin’ from ya,” or whatever. Because either you swing wit’ capitalism, or ya go wit de other “ism” – socialism. Tell ‘em ‘bout some more “isms.” See, ya govern by dis “ism” or dat “ism.” We gotta trim it in right dere; no middle way. Even if ya go upon dis “ism,” him don’ wanna lose friendship wit’ America. Let me tell ya something – de same situation dat put de people in gonna catch ‘em. Devil trick devil. I find now people want Africa. But if America help Africa, I don’t even want dat either. But what de people want is Africa.
HT: They want to go back?
BM: Forward. Yea, man. I mean, we love Jamaica, an’ we love de earth. But dere’s a part a de eart’ where it need plenty help – Africa.
HT: Would you be willing to get a big boat and take people back and forth?
BM: No, dat is not de t’ing. Dat is not de t’ing. Y’see, when Marcus Garvey come, he have de Black Star Liner. Dat is not de problem. De problem is, ya gotta get de people’s heads together. Why ya go to Africa? No sinner shall enter dere. Dat’s why Africa become a place dat ya don’ want to be like ‘ere. Me don’ wanna talk ‘bout Africa too much, but I love to talk ‘bout Africa. Yeah, because Africa is my land. Just like de Englishmen ‘ave England an’ de Indians ‘ave India. Africa! [Bob points too himself] It should be a t’ing where everybody help me go home, because dem supposed to be my brother. “But until date day when de African continent will know peace …” I don’ unnerstan’ why when people talk about Africa dey wanna push Africa to one side. Now we know dat as de children of God, not as de children of America or as de children of Jamaica, but as de children of God, we know dat Africa need help. Poverty, y’know, it’s not dat. De type a help Africa need is unity. Any time ya say Africa, is unity. If ya can’t cite Africa, ya still in Babylon. Don’ car who – anytime ya cite Africa, ya in unity. Until dat day, no have no peace Rasta! Yeah. But y’know when people talk ‘bout Africa, dey talk like ya can’t go dere, is a jungle, y’know what I mean? Yeah.
HT: Have you been to Africa?
BM: I’m going dere, yeah.
BM: Yeah, man. Africa teach all over de earth. Civilization, everywhere, every corner of de earth is African civilization. Now, a man hafta know himself. Ya can’t tell me he’s American or he’s Jamaican or wherever he is. We know Noah had three sons. De las’ destruction t’ing, three son him have: Ham, Shem and Japhet. De three brothers, three colors. Dat mean, I don’t know if I can tell a white man him come, say, live in Africa. My duty is to talk to de people who want to hear, who listen. If dey ask me a question, dey want to learn an’ I ‘av somet’ing I can tell, den Jah will give me de inspiration to answer it. De whole earth start in Africa, de whole creation. But yet de people today come say, “Boy, de people dem starve in Africa.” Money control whole lotta t’ings. But y’know, dem t’ings jus’ reveal demselves out to de youth. Because if I don’ unnerstand, my son will because de truth is always dere. Den ya realize dere’s somet’ing going on about de place. Go up in a White House, go check it out an’ find out de president don’ even know. Go check it again. Maybe it end up inna other room. Maybe some big Catholic guy control. Ya don’ know where it end up, y’know.
BM: Ya don’t know. [He laughs] It might end up here, y’unnerstan? Yeah? So, ya have to be careful – de whole t’ing is truth.
BM: Be careful, y’know?
HT: Be careful? Yeah.
BM: Whole t’ing is truth.