Jamaica Magazine

The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century – Book Review

Written by Staff Writer

About the Book

Follow the Sacred Journey to Create One of the Lasting Musical Masterpieces of Our Time. Bob Marley is one of our most important and influential artists. Recorded in London after an assassination attempt on his life sent Marley into exile from Jamaica, Exodus is the most lasting testament to his social conscience. Named by Time magazine as “Album of the Century,” Exodus is reggae superstar Bob Marley’s masterpiece of spiritual exploration.

Vivien Goldman was the first journalist to introduce mass white audiences to the Rasta sounds of Bob Marley. Throughout the late 1970s, Goldman was a fly on the wall as she watched reggae grow and evolve, and charted the careers of many of its superstars, especially Bob Marley. So close was Vivien to Bob and the Wailers that she was a guest at his Kingston home just days before gunmen came in a rush to kill “The Skip.” Now, in The Book of Exodus, Goldman chronicles the making of this album, from its conception in Jamaica to the raucous but intense all-night studio sessions in London.

But The Book of Exodus is so much more than a making-of-a-record story. This remarkable book takes us through the history of Jamaican music, Marley’s own personal journey from the Trench Town ghetto to his status as global superstar, as well as Marley’s deep spiritual practice of Rastafari and the roots of this religion. Goldman also traces the biblical themes of the Exodus story, and its practical relevance to us today, through various other art forms, leading up to and culminating with Exodus.

Never before has there been such an intimate, first-hand portrait of Marley’s spirituality, his political involvement, and his life in exile in London, leading up to histriumphant return to the stage in Jamaica at the Peace Concert of 1978.

Here is an unforgettable portrait of Bob Marley and an acutely perceptive appreciation of his musical and spiritual legacy.

 
Reviews

It is convincingly argued that the pop album has become an effectively arcane form. But even in a digital age, certain albums continue to both define and transcend their creators. Sgt. Pepper, What’s Going On, Astral Weeks, Blood On the Tracks… the list invites nerdish debate. But one title can never be excluded; Bob Marley and The Wailers’ Exodus was the product of a specific time and place and remains the most extraordinary single work of the Third World’s most extraordinary musical voice.

Vivien Goldman was one of the key writers during the Golden Age of British music journalism when the punk explosion inspired the intense gut-intellectual talents of the first post-sixties generation. Unlike many of her colleagues her love and understanding of black music has continually defined her work and The Book Of Exodus is perhaps the best thing she has done.

This is at once memoir, critical analysis and history. Vivien Goldman takes the reader into the studio as Exodus was created. A palpable sense of the immediacy of that process, the atmosphere (well fumigated with the herbsman’s wares) and personalities involved come vividly to life through the eyes of the young fan-reporter. Most movingly, Goldman’s own ability to connect her life as the North London-raised daughter of German-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust with the Trench Town experience that formed Bob Marley is at the heart of the book. This is no falsely crafted analogy. It is above all a spiritual link, the “Flash Of The Spirit” which has made the core African musical experience one of the world’s most unifying cultural forces.

For anyone who wants to understand something of Marley’s greatness and gentle charisma, Vivien Goldman shares her privileged experience of hanging with the man and his colleagues in both Jamaica and London. This was an artist whose words and music have inspired more people worldwide than maybe any other pop musician and yet the man who emerges here is a very real person living in a very real time. Goldman gives us a vivid sense of both.

Everyone with more than a passing interest in Marley and The Wailers should read this book. It will send you back to the music, reggae’s shining hour, with renewed love and understanding. – Pete Shelton

Where to buy the book:
The book can be bought on Amazon.com

About the Author
Vivien Goldman is a writer, educator, broadcaster, and post-punk musician. A Londoner, she has lived in Paris and now resides in New York. As a pioneering female emerging from the ferment of Britain’s 1970s punky reggae party, she has taken her can-do attitude and outernational insights to journalism, books, radio, television, university teaching, multi-media lecturing, museum panel moderating, the recording studio, even (very occasionally!) the stage – and her beat goes on.

Right now, Goldman is teaching courses at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, Tisch School of the Arts, where she’s earned the nom d’academe, The Punk Professor, for initiating studies like the Punk course, established 2005; and courses on culture-changers like Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. She is a columnist for NPR.org and dubspot.com, and appears regularly on BBC Radio 5’s “Up All Night with Dotun Adebayo,” covering New York life and the U.S. charts. Currently, Goldman is scripting and hosting two documentaries for BBC Radio: a two hour Special of Punk US/UK, for Radio 6, and a show on Rona Jaffe, the influential but under-appreciated author of “The Best of Everything,” for Radio 4.

About the author

Staff Writer