Words and Photos by Lee Jaffe
At first glance, One Love appears to be a rather suspect photo book. While the oversized (10 by 11.5 inches) tome collects many notably rare photos, including several truly priceless shots of Peter ToAt first glance, One Love appears to be a rather suspect photo book. While the oversized (10 by 11.5 inches) tome collects many notably rare photos, including several truly priceless shots of Peter Tosh, dozens of the images are grainy, pixelated video stills.
Yet that first impression is quickly erased. As one becomes engrossed by the anecdotes accompanying the images, it's clear that One Love is much more than a photo book.
However remarkable Jaffe's mostly color images are, his recollections hold twice the worth for fans of roots reggae icons Tosh, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Robbie Shakespeare, and Sly
Jaffe's story is truly astonishing—especially considering he's a white American. An aspiring filmmaker at the time, Jaffe randomly met Marley in New York in 1973, prior to the release of his landmark Island bow Catch a Fire.
Spending the next week together, they quickly struck up a friendship. Jaffe not only became one of Marley's best friends but also the Wailers' de facto manager and booking agent and even its harmonica player. He would also become associate producer of Tosh's solo debut, 1976's Legalize It.
Through a long Q&A with noted reggae writer/lecturer Roger Steffens, he shares—in sharp detail—memories of Marley and Tosh.
Also included are stories about the many musicians (Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen), businessmen (Chris Blackwell, Bill Graham), women, and gangsters, who came in and out of the band members' lives in the early to mid-'70s.
For those spellbound by Marley, Jaffe's stories read like fantasy.
Of his first meeting with Marley, Jaffe writes, "I had just seen The Harder They Come [Jimmy Cliff's revered reggae film] in England the week before. It was like the movie had just walked off the screen.
"And I was now face to face with the voice of a group whose music was the most revolutionary I had ever heard, who was both black and white and transcended race, whose music was both spiritually and socially conscious.
"He had this look about him, a certain aura, a certain calmness, a certain stoicism amid all the rock and roll hubris. In it but not of it. But certainly not of this place."
And to his credit, Jaffe's anecdotes are that much more illuminating for their honesty.
While he certainly glorifies Marley and Tosh, he also further personalizes the former by including occasional criticisms of certain musical and professional decisions.
So compelling are the stories in One Love, one is left wondering why it's taken this long for the book to surface.
Photo-wise, particularly pleasing are the black and white shots of Marley reading the Bible and Tosh soundchecking for a University of Miami gig.
But Jaffe's many portraits of lesser-known—but nonetheless key—figures add invaluable detail to the story behind reggae's greatest music.
Among those featured are reggae godfather/Marley mentor Joe Higgs and Tosh's late girlfriend, Yvonne. She would die from injuries sustained in a car wreck, a loss that proved pivotal in Tosh's relationship with fellow original Wailers Marley and Bunny Wailer.
An absolute inspiration.—WO