One Love Peace Concert comes of age

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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The Jamaica Observer continues its reflection on the year in entertainment. This daily column looks on the achievers, trendsetters, those who died, and the controversies.

IT was the all-star event that marked Bob Marley's triumphant homecoming; a show that ended with a symbolic gesture that has become part of pop music lore.

The One Love Peace Concert turned 40 this year.

Organised by some of Jamaica's most notorious enforcers, the show took place on April 22 1978, at the National Stadium in Kingston. Its objective was to bring peace to Kingston's politically divided communities which were aligned to then governing People's National Party (PNP) and Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Marley was the headliner, just as he was for Smile Jamaica, a similar initiative that took place in December 1976. He was shot by gunmen two days before that gig and fled to the United Kingdom where he lived until being coaxed by JLP 'gorgon' Claudius Massop and the PNP's Aston “Bucky” Marshall to return to Jamaica for the 'Mother of all Shows'.

With Prime Minister Michael Manley and his bitter rival Edward Seaga present, the scene was rife with expectancy. Peter Tosh gave a blistering set, punctuated by biting commentary aimed at the Jamaican ruling class.

Dennis Brown, Ras Michael and The Sons of Negus, Culture, The Mighty Diamonds, Jacob Miller and Inner Circle also performed on the One Love Peace Concert, which was attended by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and international media.

The highlight of the night was Marley inviting Manley and Seaga onstage then clasping their hands aloft in a display of reluctant unity. In 18 months, Manley would call general election which the JLP won resoundingly, ending eight years of democratic socialism.

There was no celebration or acknowledgement of the One Love Peace Concert's 40th anniversary. Many of the leading players including Massop, Miller, Marley, Tosh, Manley and Marshall have died, their notoriety and accomplishments largely unknown to Jamaica's current generation.

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