Both were at the Marley Museum (site of the incident) last Saturday. The 40th anniversary of the shooting was marked by the Smile Jamaica show, a commemoration of the peace concert that took place just two days after Marley, his wife Rita, manager Don Taylor and friend Lewis Griffiths were shot and injured while rehearsing for the show.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the Smile Jamaica concert at National Heroes Park in Central Kingston.
Sitting just yards from the site of the actual shooting (known as ‘The Shot Room’), Leslie is aware that not many young Jamaicans know details of the incident and origins of the concert.
“I think they (organisers) started late but at least they acknowledged it and did something. Forty years is a good stretch…A lot of the people who were around then are gone,” he told the OBSERVER ONLINE.What 20-odd-year-old Beckford knows about the shooting/concert, she “heard from my father, watching documentaries and the tour (of the Marley Museum).”
Standing with friends near to the back of the museum, she has a good sense of what caused the government of prime minister Michael Manley to promote the show just days before a general election.
“There was a lot of political tension an’ people didn’t want Bob to do the show, but he said no, ‘its for peace’ and did it,” she said.
Manley called the election for December 15 at the height of a State of Emergency. Supporters of his People’s National Party and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party were gripped in a bloody civil war.
At the time, Leslie was working for Marley’s Tuff Gong organisation as well as Island Records, the company that distributed his music. He said after the singer was treated for a wound to his arm at the University Hospital of the West Indies, he was taken to Strawberry Hills, the St Andrew retreat of Island owner Chris Blackwell.
On the evening of the show, Marley called the venue by radio before leaving his hideout to perform.
“A lot of people were saying he shouldn’t do it but in a split second he decided he would. He left in a convoy with a police escort at breakneck speed off the hill and went straight to the park,” Leslie recalled.
Marley performed, mainly backed by the Third World band. Most members of his band, The Wailers, fearing more violence, stayed away.
Following the show, Marley left for The Bahamas then England where he recorded what would be the epic Exodus album, released in 1977. He returned to Jamaica in April 1978 for the One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium in Kingston.