Bob is ours.
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an artist – an artist of color, a woman artist, a Black woman artist – right now. Now.1 I’m trying to reconcile my joy! with my rage, my desire to play with my instinct to preserve my self, unadulterated thrill with haunting dread. Resistance takes focus; living takes living. And a very important part of living, at least for me, is aesthetic.
We’re here having a proper Jamaican breakfast, my mother, my stepfather, and I: yellow salt fish (with curry but sans ackee because Randy doesn’t like it, alas…), deep-green callaloo, toasted bammy, and fried dumplings. These things taste good and look good. I enjoy them even as existential angst hangs over me. And we’re listing to Bob. And I feel like I can go on because, in his music he tells me, he tells us, that we have a right to live joyfully, playfully, thrillingly even as we look steely-eyed at nefarious forces.
Marlon James has this wonderful write-up about Bob’s style at GQ.2 I do not believe that bad times make for great art. That’s just stupid. Bad times call for determined minds, tough minds, and living through bad times take takes living:
Living in Trench Town, then one of the worst slums in the world, didn’t mean you couldn’t have style. But it did mean money was so tight that you usually had only one chance to make it work—because those extra six pounds sterling weren’t coming around again for weeks, and the reason you were fashion-model thin was because you hadn’t had dinner in a month. If you were just one of the many singers, musicians, and hustlers hanging around Studio One, downtown, desperate for your big break, money would sometimes not come at all, even with hits on the radio. So that shirt had to count. That jacket had to roll just as hard at a 10 p.m. party as it did at 10 a.m. church. There had to be 99 ways to rock that one pair of jeans—and those Clarks shoes were yours only until somebody stole them. Style meant making unmatchable things match, because what you’d got was all you were going to have for a while.
The entire article is instructive, but do read it to rejoice, and, yes, mourn.