The TVD Interview: Junior Marvin of Bob Marley’s Wailers

Junior Marvin is guru-like. He read auras like the Sunday paper, but he has an aura himself that draws appeal. And he’s got talent, to boot. In between rehearsals, the legendary guitarist talked to me about his early days with British soul artist Steve Winwood. Marvin also talked about the time he had to make the pressured decision to choose between Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder. That’s rough!

Tonight, Junior Marvin will perform at IOTA Club and Cafe in Arlington, VA. He’ll be joined by special guests Trevor Young and Kenny Bongos (of SOJA). Spread love.

Now, before you were jammin’ with Bob Marley you played with Steve Winwood.

I grew up in England, and I was very good friends with the guys of the group Traffic: Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and hung out with those three guys at Chris Wood’s house. All night. We played flute, sax typically. We wrote a lot of songs. [Later] Steve and I worked together on his first solo album, Arc of a Diver.

When were you first considered for The Wailers?

[In late] 1976, there was a shooting incident in Jamaica; Bob Marley and his band were shot at. Luckily no one died. Bob and Don Taylor, The Wailers’ manager, were injured and recovered. However, Donald Kinsey, an American blues guitar player with The Wailers, was so freaked out by the whole scene that he left the band. Blackwell and Bob were desperate to find a guitarist, someone as good as Kinsey and Al Anderson, who also disbanded from the group.

Chris Blackwell, the owner of Island Records, heard me playing on Steve Winwood’s album and thought I would be perfect for The Wailers. It all began [for me] Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 1977.

Funny thing happened that on the same day that Chris came to pick me up [for a meeting], I got a phone call from Stevie Wonder. He wanted me to come and sign for his record label, which was called Black Bull Music, and sign a ten-year contract, and I was like blown away because Stevie Wonder is like one of my favorite artists on the planet.

And how did you first connect with Bob Marley?

I told Stevie I had an appointment. I jumped in the Rolls Royce with Chris Blackwell, went to a very fashionable pub to talk business. Then we went to another building like an apartment, and I entered the ground floor, and there were his dreadlocks and his back at me with a big aura around him. I didn’t know who he was, and I looked at his aura, and I thought, “This must be Bob Marley.” He turned around with a big smile on his face, and of course it was Bob Marley.

Bob came up to me and slapped me five and said, “Welcome to The Wailers!”

Obviously you didn’t take up Stevie’s offer. How did you choose Bob?

I can’t play with both of them. So, anyway I went back into my apartment. I called Stevie Wonder, I said, “Stevie, funny thing happened today. I got an offer from Bob Marley to play with his band, and I have to think about this real hard because I’d rather play with both of you.” Stevie said, “Okay. Call me back in half an hour.” Half an hour? That’s a bit too short. “Well, call me back in half an hour.” So I called all my family and my friends, they listened, what am I going to do. The only way that you can figure this out is Bob Marley is Jamaican, and you are Jamaican. You got to support your countrymen.

And that’s how I made the decision. I decided to support my countrymen. Even though I don’t believe in countrymen, I believe that we’re all one people.

And the rest is history, right?

So, the rest I guess they call it history. I went into rehearsals, we recorded two albums over a period of three months, and eventually Exodus was already the album of the 20th century. So, I’m very proud of that album. Very proud that I was able to work with somebody like Bob Marley who is very motivated, very spiritual, very hardworking, and I was very proud that somebody like Stevie Wonder invited me to play with him.

Do you feel that it important for social messages and/or spirituality to play a part in your music?

I think music [represents] the people and, at certain times, love. Bob wrote a song called (sings like Marley) “could you be loved and be loved.”

Love is never jealous. Love is never blind. Love is not selfish. When you love, you have no inhibitions, you have no hang ups, you have no ego. And spiritual vibration is passed through you. You don’t own anything. It just passes through you, and you enjoy the vibrations that pass through you. And it’s a gift; it’s a gift from God, just like life. We keep people alive, we keep you happy, we keep you balanced, we keep you safe, we give you sanity, we give you music.

We play one note that can change your old vibration to make you happy. We can play one note to make you dance. We can play one note to make you love your brother because that’s what music and lyrics [do] as the vehicle to bring people together. Bob Marley’s father was [mixed, black and white], and his mother was black African-Jamaican. And his job was to bring black people and white people together under the banner of one love, (sings like Marley again) “let’s get together and feel alright.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=519937510 Julian Junior Marvin

    ONE LOVE TO YOU ALL MY BROTHERS & SISTERS. MANY THANKS FOR THE ” POSITIVE VIBRATIONS ” & ” SUPPORT “…. YES KEEP ON READING & LEARNING. BLESSINGS. JJM.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=519937510 Julian Junior Marvin

    GIVE THANKS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshuac333 Joshua Cummings

    J.J.M. moves the crowd with powerful emotion, his sound was pure, his feeling was raw, and it was all from the heart.  

    I will be keeping  an open schedule to feel it again next year, fo’ sho’!

    Jah blessed those with ears to hear…

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshuac333 Joshua Cummings

    J.J.M. moves the crowd with powerful emotion, his sound was pure, his feeling was raw, and it was all from the heart.  

    I will be keeping  an open schedule to feel it again next year, fo’ sho’!

    Jah blessed those with ears to hear…

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